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The Abotech Affair: The second of a 2-part CBC Radio special report

The report started with a nod to the contribution this blogger has made to the story. Evan Dyer called it "a first" that a story has been researched and progressed so far by the Canadian blogosphere prior to entering into the main stream media.

To be fair, the story originally broke on the Globe and Mail, and the report established that point. I simply moved forward a few steps from there.

The report described Abotech as a computer consultancy firm, but when host Anthony Germain asked what the firm actually does, Evan Dyer admitted that the question was more difficult to answer than one would expect.

He quoted this blogger from taped interview where I stated that my research suggested that Abotech existed only to service federal contracts. From there the report discussed Frank Brazeau, who besides being suspended for reasons unclear related to the Abotech scandal, was also the secretary for the Liberal Party riding association in Pontiac.

Evan Dyer then pointed out that the relationship between David Smith and Frank Brazeau goes much deeper, and played an excerpt of an interview with campaign manager Dan Smith, David Smith's brother, in which Dan Smith admitted, on the record, that Frank Brazeau is David Smith's cousin, a relationship first revealed on this blog.

Having established the very close relationship between Abotech, a firm run by a Liberal MP, and the ministry within the government that awards government contracts, the discussion turned to what Abotech does.

The CBC had no better luck than me in finding details about Abotech's work. The only contract they could find was the same one I discovered. Abotech was awarded work to oversee Morneau Sobeco's management of the RCMP Pension Fund. Morneau Sobeco's management was subject to a criminal investigation when it was revealed millions in bad expenses were charged to the fund.

After describing the Morneau Sobeco work, the report moved to the management of Abotech. This is when the report starts to look very bad for David Smith. Evan Dyer described how David Smith transferred control of Abotech to his wife, a nurse, and his two children, still minors.

The question was posed about how these people could successfully run a computer consultancy firm without David Smith's involvement. Common sense suggests that despite David Smith's statements to the contrary, he must be working on Abotech in secret.

The solution to this riddle was provided by campaign manager Dan Smith, who described the work of Abotech as moving contracts around -- Dan Smith then said he would be answering no more questions concerning Abotech.

David Smith was not available to answer questions on the air, but Evan Dyer read a quote from another local paper, the Low Down (a source first quoted on this blog):

We pick up five per cent commission on what you do as work. It’s not very hard. How much work is there to do in that? What management is there to do in that? Once a month we send a bill. How much time does it take to send a bill? My wife does that.

Dyer and Germain compared the role of Abotech to that of Lafleur Communications, one of the firms at the centre of the Sponsorship Program which earned lucrative commissions for no work.

This is the first time I have heard a major media outlet directly compare the Abotech affair with Adscam.

Evan Dyer then returned to Minister Scott Brison's statement on the floor of the House of Commons:

Mr. Speaker, first of all, we decided to cancel these contracts as part of an overall review as we strengthen governance and improve competition and value for tax dollars. It is important to note that there was no issue with the services being provided, and in fact, that value was received for tax dollars.

[Note that the CBC report did not quote Minister Brison directly; I have included it for clarity.]

Evan Dyer then posed the obvious question: How is it that value was received for tax dollars spent, to the tune of over a million dollars over the last few years, when David Smith describes that work done at Abotech as mere paper shuffling, taking virtually no time and no effort, capable of being performed by a nurse and two children?

Like the song says: "Get your money for nothin'..."

Will the people of Pontiac be satisified to be represented by a Liberal MP who admits to accepting taxpayers' money for little or no work, in what seems to be a replay of the Sponsorship Scandal?

Presumably that question will be pondered by the voters in adjoining Pontiac, who would have heard this broadcast.

The report then moved on to the Ethics Commissioner's report, expected soon. Evan Dyer expects that the report will exonerate David Smith, and explained why.

When David Smith transferred ownership of Abotech to his wife and children, he did it as per the instructions provided by the Ethics Commissioner. As long as he did what the Ethics Commissioner told him to do, it is extremely unlikely that the Ethics Commissioner will bring negative attention upon himself or his office by releasing a report that criticizes David Smith.

Finally, the political impact of this affair was discussed.

Journalist Julie Murray was quoted on the air. The story is moving through the riding and people are talking about it, concerned about these revelations.

Evan Dyer then reported on Dan Smith's concern that the interest journalists like Murray and Dyer have shown in the Abotech affair will deliver the riding to the Bloc Quebecois. Dan Smith, claiming that by hurting his candidate's campaign, the potential exists that David Smith will lose enough federalist voters, who will either abstain or switch their vote to the Conservative or NDP candidate, that the Bloc Quebecois to capture the riding.

Isn't this the standard Liberal Party refrain? Holding Canada hostage by repeating the position that even if the Liberal Party is populated by crooks and thieves, without them, Canada will fall apart. If you don't want to see that happen, you have to put up with the shoddy ethics.

Evan Dyer points out that without all the Abotech baggage, David Smith beat the Bloc candidate by 3,000 votes, but the Bloc candidate got 11,000 votes vs 14,000 for David Smith without actually actively campaigning. This time around, David Smith has serious problems, and the Bloc has been energized across the province.

But the situation in the riding is different also in that the Conservatives are running a strong candidate, Lawrence Cannon.

The CBC has stepped up to broadcast a no-punches-pulled report on a Liberal candidate in a key riding. Both parts of the report echo the same basic concern: Has the Liberal Party become the party of entitlement, enriching themselves at the taxpayer's expense?

The voters in Pontiac have a lot to think about.

Thanks to Evan Dyer at the CBC and to Julie Murray at the West Quebec Post for taking my research seriously, and for taking the time and effort to put out such a potentially important story.

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