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Category: Abotech

"We never actually got warrants on bank accounts"

The Public Accounts Committee continues to investigate the RCMP Pension Scandal. During this remarkable exchange, we get to the heart of the matter. Just why would anyone have tried so hard to get around the bidding process?




Is Casey Computing another Abotech?

As the investigation into how contracts to manage the RCMP pension fund continues, we learn more about questionable contracts. Casey Computing is raising some red flags.




Abotech's key role in the rigging of RCMP pension contracts

We are finally learning the details of the way David Smith and his cousin Frank Brazeau gamed the bidding system to make sure pre-selected contractors won competitive bids to manage the RCMP pension system.




David Smith's attendance was an amendment to the PACP meeting notice

David Smith is appearing today in the televised meeting of the Public Accounts Committee investigation into the RCMP Pension Scandal. David Smith's former company, Abotech, has been implicated in the scandal. The firm once run by the former Liberal Party member of parliament for Pontiac is alleged to have been given directed contracts by Frank Brazeau, David Smith's cousin, who worked at Consulting and Audit Canada. The Auditor General has reported that these contracts bypassed the competition guidelines, and the work amounted to little more than passing cheques around, hardly worth the hundreds of thousands charge by Abotech.

What is interesting is that David Smith's appearance was amended to today's schedule.

The notice of the meeting indicates the David Smith was added to the meeting notice as an amendment. It probably doesn't mean anything, but it would be interesting to know just when David Smith was originally expected to testify, if at all, and what prompted this change. Really, just curious.




David Smith and Frank Brazeau to testify today about the role of Abotech in the RCMP Pension Scandal

David Smith and Frank Brazeau are testifying today on the role of Abotech in the RCMP Pension Scandal. I'm looking forward to some very interesting testimony.




What would motivate a person to cheat the RCMP more than once?

Testimony at the Purblic Accounts Committee alleged that Dominic Crupi continued arrange for sham contracts relating to the RCMP Pension Fund to be directed to a select group of contractors. This after Crupi had been caughting cooking the contracts already. You have to ask yourself why Crupi would take on such a risk. The most obvious answer is startlingly clear.




RCMP Pension Scandal and Adscam

Enjoy these quotes leading from the RCMP Scandal to Adscam.




The Must-Hear CBC Radio One report on Abotech and RCMP Pension Scandal

In December of 2005, CBC Radio One aired a two-part report on Abotech and Liberal MP David Smith. All the pieces linking Abotech to the RCMP Pension Scandal were mentioned, but at the time, the scope of the scandal had yet to be fully recognized. Now that it has, it's time to listen to that report again.




RCMP Pension Scandal widens; Abotech on the radar

David Smith's firm Abotech will be the subject of questioning aimed at former Liberal Party cabinet ministers as the investigation into the RCMP Pension Scandal moves forward at the Public Accounts Committee.




In defence of our media

A lot of comments over the weekend made mention about our lazy main stream media. I'm taking issue with that point of view.




Did the RCMP raid the home of one of the people caught up in the pension scandal?

While I was working on the Abotech story, I got word of an RCMP raid on the home of Frank Brazeau. At the time, there was no obvious connection to the pension scandal that is now top news in Canada. Now looking back on it, the raid takes on a different complexion.




The RCMP Pension Scandal, David Smith, Abotech, Morneau Sobeco and the ties that bind them

As we wait for an inquiry to begin into the RCMP pension scandal, there are few specific details into just how the RCMP mismanaged the pension. On one specific aspect of the Auditor General's report, I happen to have quite a bit of information, all stemming from my investigation of Abotech, the firm run by former Liberal MP David Smith.




Stephane Dion rebuilds the Liberal Party...the old Liberal Party

Stephane Dion is quoted as saying he thought key figures in the Sponsorship Scandal were unfairly punished when they were banned forever from the Liberal Party. It is not the only example of Stephen Dion rebuilding the Liberal Party to look like the old Liberal Party. What has not been reported is that a scandal-tainted figure from the Paul Martin government and an early supporter of Dion's leadership bid, David Smith of Pontiac, has a position in Dion's office.




Abotech: A major law firm shows interest

I spotted an interesting search while reviewing my traffic log. Someone at the law firm of Heenan Blaikie has been researching elements of the Abotech story.




David Smith and Stephane Dion

I've found confirmation that David Smith, the former Liberal MP at the centre of the Abotech scandal, is definitely a delegate for Stephane Dion.




Stephane Dion endorsed by the bad old Liberal Party

A familiar name appears on Stephane Dion's list of endorsements, a name I thought would not be seen again on a list of Liberal Party members for a long, long time. I guess it was hoped we would forget about David Smith and Abotech.




Michael Fortier ought to be asking some detailed questions of David Marshall

A major embarrassment at Public Works has Minister Michael Fortier demanding answers of this deputy minister, David Marshall. I'm amused, because I've been hoping someone would start asking Marshall some harsh questions since last summer.




What happened to Abotech?

Speaking of Abotech, what ever happened to it? I've been told by my friends in the media that David Smith and his family have effectively disappeared. They've sold the house in Gatineau, and no one is certain where they are (or they aren't saying). According to the Yellow Pages, someone named Corriveau lives there now. When I went to the Strategis database, I noticed that Abotech is no longer listed as an aboriginal business.

The main entry in the database still exists, listing the Gatineau house as the corporate address, and David Smith's wife and two teenage children as directors. But it looks like Abotech has disappeared as far as Corporations Canada is concerned as well. According to the entry, the Annual Return/Annual Summary has not been submitted for 2005, and a default notice was issued in April of this year. No intent to dissolve the corporation is listed as having been received.

Looks like David Smith shredded the files and headed for the woods.




Pots and Kettles and Contracts

One aboriginal organization is calling a rival corrupt and illegitimate, while at the same time fighting allegations of corruption and illegitimacy.




Abotech story continues

Thanks to a reader for the heads up on this story in the Ottawa Citizen:

Ex-MP's firm was a conduit for federal hiring report

An audit report shows how a company founded by former Liberal MP David Smith was paid to serve as a middleman in 13 government contracts, even though the company had "no relationship" with the government departments issuing the contracts and "little knowledge" of the consultants hired to do the work.

The December 2005 report by the international auditing firm KPMG found evidence that Mr. Smith's company, Abotech, was used as a conduit through which government departments hired the consultants they wanted for contracts, effectively circumventing the competitive bidding process.

David Smith represented the Quebec riding of Pontiac for the Liberal Party until January 23 (on election night, he finished third behind following the Conservative candidate Lawrence Cannon, now Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, and the Bloc candidate Christine emond Lapointe).

Followers of this blog know that I spent a great deal of time researching the Abotech affair. It was here where it was first revealed that the two ends of this conduit, David Smith of Abotech and Frank Brazeau of Public Works, were first cousins, a fact since confirmed and now part of the story:

All 13 contracts -- as well as two more discussed in the report -- were awarded to Abotech by a single government contracting officer. The officer's name is blanked out in the KPMG document, released through Access to Information, but Mr. Smith has previously confirmed the contracts were awarded to him through his cousin, Frank Brazeau. Mr. Brazeau and Smith grew up together in Maniwaki.

So what does David Smith have to say about this? David Smith seems to have disappeared, but Kate Jaimet got this quote back in December during the election:

Mr. Smith could not be reached for comment yesterday, but has previously said he did nothing wrong.

"I respected the procedures. If there was some things which were done in non-conformity, me, I don't know," he said in December.

The KPMG Report suggests that David Smith knew much more than he has admitted. In the National Post, there is an extended version of the story in which we learn that Abotech was a favoured firm:

Two of the the 31 contracts were awarded to Abotech, but the KPMG auditors questioned the scoring method that allowed Abotech to win over its competitors, stating that nothing in Abotech's file "suggests procurement or contracting experience."

What actually happens is that a Consulting and Audit Canada (CAC) officer would enter search terms into a database to pull up firms likely to be able to do the work. In some of the cases checked by KPMG, Abotech beat out better firms, or worse, appeared on the list despite not matching the search terms.

The KPMG report describes how the government agency Mr. Brazeau worked for, Consulting and Audit Canada (CAC), would manipulate the bidding process to "facilitate contracts to a desired resource."

The KPMG audit began as a review of 31 contracts, all handled by the same CAC employee and all involving work for the RCMP pension plan. The employee's name is blanked out in the document, but Frank Koziol, a consultant who won some of the contracts and was interviewed by KPMG for the audit, confirmed yesterday that Mr. Brazeau was the person who handled the contracts.

There is that RCMP Pension Plan again.

Now this favoured treatment of Abotech doesn't prove David Smith knew anything. You could argue that he was blissfully ignorant of why his firm was doing so well. But then there's this:

The report describes how consultants, "typically former public servants," would be referred to Abotech by CAC. "The consultant would indicate they wished to contract through Abotech and that a contract would be forthcoming." Abotech, agreeing to the arrangement, would add the consultant's resume to its entry in the CAC database. Soon, CAC would send Abotech a request for proposal and Abotech would bid on the contract, offering the services of the original consultant.

So David Smith and Abotech would work the scam in both directions. Abotech would act as a referral service for former public servants (connected Liberals, I would not be surprised to learn). Remember, these people already have work lined up from their friends in government. They just need a means by which to bypass the checks built into the CAC process. Abotech was part of that means. David Smith is contacted by a contractor telling him the work is ready to be awarded. David Smith would use Abotech to enter the contractor into the database. David Smith's cousin Frank Brazeau, working on behalf of the government department trying to direct work to their favoured contractor, would fake a search and award process knowing full well that the work would go to that contractor. The contract would be structured so as to require the services of Abotech to manage it, so David Smith would get his cut. The contractor gets the work, the paper trail looks legitimate (at first glance, anyway), and all the palms are greased.

What did Frank Brazeau get out of this? That's still an unanswered question. One possibility is a kickback from David Smith and Abotech, but to find out would require examination of bank records, and for that you need a warrant. Another possibility is favoured treatment and promotions inside of CAC, but that would would implicate his supervisors. In that scenario, how far up would the trail go? To David Marshall, the Deputy Minister? To his former boss and Liberal leadership hopeful, Scott Brison? Would they involved in the scam, or if not, a subsequent coverup? We might never know.




The Abotech Affair: It was a smokescreen!

From my post on November 18:

As you recall, Liberal MP David Smith, who sits in Parliament for the riding of Pontiac and claims to be an aboriginal, ran a company called Abotech, a computer consultancy firm, out of his home. Now the company is run by his wife, a nurse. Smith insists he has no idea what is going in Abotech.

Abotech has been caught up in a KPMG audit at PWGSC. Several contracts between Abotech and the federal government have been terminated. Why? No one is saying. Also, a bureaucrat named Frank Brazeau has been suspended without pay in connection with the audit. Frank Brazeau is also David Smith's cousin. Why was he suspended? No one is saying.

The reports we have from the media state the problem has to do with sole-sourcing contracts. In other words, this is a problem of process, not of quality of work. Abotech itself is innocent, or so it is implied. In fact, it is the victim in this drama. It is being punished because it accepted contracts from an incompetent or corrupt government official, a certain Frank Brazeau, who did not follow the rules.

Is the sole-sourcing problem for which Abotech is being punished, and that was so breezily dismissed by Minister Brison as really an opportunity to improve on the quality work provided by Abotech, just a smokescreen? Is it a way to deal with a potentially embarrassing problem in a quiet way, especially with a minority government in the balance? Is Frank Brazeau guilty of being a convenient scapegoat? Does he even know what is really going on, or has he been simultaneously promised a reward for his silence and threatened with retribution if he talks?

Is this about protecting David Smith and one extra Liberal seat so crucial for the survival of the minority government? Is this about trying to avoid one more multi-million dollar scandal, a scandal that might prove fatal to the scandal-ridden Liberal Party if it becomes public just prior to an election? Is my theory about aboriginal set-asides being diverted by Frank Brazeau to David Smith just plain wrong, or at best, a side show?

Apparently, my nagging suspicions were right on the money.




Another useless ethics investigation

Stephen Harper has told the Ethics Commissioner that his interest in the case of David Emerson crossing the floor is misplaced, and frankly inappropriate:

There's a possibility Stephen Harper's first act as prime minister may have breached the parliamentary ethical code for MPs, the federal ethics commissioner indicated Friday.

But Bernard Shapiro's decision to launch a "preliminary inquiry" into Harper's controversial appointment of former Liberal David Emerson to the Conservative cabinet met with a furious rebuttal from the Prime Minister's Office.

"The prime minister is loath to co-operate with an individual whose decision-making ability has been questioned and who has been found in contempt of the House," Harper's communications director, Sandra Buckler, said late Friday.

In a release, the PMO added, "this Liberal appointee's actions have strengthened the prime minister's resolve to create a truly non-partisan ethics commissioner, who is accountable to Parliament."

The Ethics Commissioner, Bernard Shapiro, has repeatedly been ridiculed for his work.

In this case, the Ethics Commissioner is investigating the fact that David Emerson crossed the floor, which is a long-standing parliamentary tradition, but refused to investigate the case of Liberal MP Tony Valeri's extremely profitable land-swap deal, citing the fact that Parliament was not sitting at the time.

Of course, Parliament is not sitting now, but apparently that rule is flexible.

The fact is, Bernard Shapiro is essentially useless. The rules under which he works were written up by Jean Chretien and Paul Martin. The Liberals are hardly the poster boys for ethical behaviour. But more than that, I've been shocked at his sloppy work.

With his "investigation" into the Abotech affair, Shapiro only questioned the two people in the story, David Smith and Frank Brazeau, who had reasons to lie in order to save each other. He did not ask questions of David Smith's wife, for example. He allowed the two men to define the nature of their relationship, and they conveniently ignored to mention that they were first cousins. Did Bernard Shapiro challenge them on this? Of course not. Did he know about the familial relationship? Well, I told him via email at least twice.

But Shapiro wanted the Smith investigation to go away, and it did.

On the other hand, sticking it to Stephen Harper seems to be in his game plan, and suddenly the comments of ordinary citizens matter:

But the ethics czar said "numerous requests from the public" helped convince him to investigate Emerson's behaviour as well.

I'm willing to bet, though, that Shapiro will clear Emerson. The fact is, Shapiro seems to have real problems finding unethical behaviour anywhere he looks. In the Abotech case, Smith continued to sign contracts even after leaving Abotech, a clear ethical violation. But Smith told Shapiro that the signatures were "inadvertant", and so he got a pass. As noted, Shapiro never asked Smith's wife, who was supposed to be running the company, why she did not react to signatures appearing inadvertantly on contracts that would have had her name on them.

If Shapiro couldn't spot unethical behaviour that appeared written on a piece of paper, what chance is he going to have of finding something unethical where, frankly, nothing unethical happened?

But then again, who knows what's going on inside his head?




The Aboriginal vote does matter

In one of the most revealing moments of the Abotech affair, the campaign manager for Liberal MP David Smith, his brother Dan Smith, attempted to dismiss the criticism leveled against David Smith by the Kitigan Zibi First Nations people, whose band lands are in Smith's riding. The criticism was of the legitimacy of David Smith's Metis status, which is predicated on a great grandmother being aboriginal, and that's all.

Dan Smith's retort? "They don't vote, these people."

I got in touch with the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, and they provided me with this helpful chart based on the June 2004 general election, the one that saw the Liberal Party under Paul Martin elected to a very slim majority:

click to enlarge

In that election, CAP endorsed the Liberals, so the top chart focuses on those ridings that could have gone Liberal by a margin smaller than the number of eligible aboriginal voters who neglected to cast a ballot.

The bottom chart shows the remainder of the ridings where the balance could have been tipped in any other direction had the aboriginal turn-out been stronger.

Notice that David Smith's riding of Pontiac is there.

I would urge any candidate in Pontiac, and for that matter, in any riding anywhere, to not ignore the aboriginal vote. CAP has decided to endorse Stephen Harper and the Conservatives. That newsworthy endorsement itself is likely to generate interest, and hopefully, more participation.

I would be very careful before assuming that their concerns could be dismissed by assuming that 'they don't vote, these people". Patterns change, and that sort of attitude is likely to fuel that change, especially if "these people" realize how much they could influence the results.




The Abotech Affair: More references to Pontiac

As we watch the clock run out in this election, my attention continues to shift to the riding of Pontiac, where Liberal MP David Smith is attempting to win despite the baggage of the Abotech affair, and the serious Tory contender in the person of Lawrence Cannon.

The Abotech affair was researched in large part by this blogger.

So here is small update, almost an afterthought, from Michael Harris' column in the Ottawa Sun:

Meanwhile, on the other side of the river, events in the Pontiac this week registered a legitimate seismic disturbance in our national politics. With a day off and in the company of my friend Mike Duffy, I took in Stephen Harper's appearance at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Buckingham. It wasn't Trudeaumania, but it wasn't a paid political announcement either.

Tory candidate Lawrence Cannon lit the first match and then Stephen Harper burnt the barn down with a speech that featured impressive French and even more impressive confidence. This guy is no longer the geek trying to paste on a cheesy smile to look warm and fuzzy to the national media.

My friend Julie Murray, reporter for the West Quebec Post, was there as well, and she described it in similar terms in an email to me.

Stephen Taylor reports that the fight in Pontiac is between the Conservatives and the Bloc Quebecois.

Who would have thought the Pontiac would be the sight of a political seismic event?




The Abotech Affair: The CBC Radio One two-part investigation

On December 20 and 21, Evan Dyer of CBC Radio One in Ottawa presented a two-part investigation into the issue of Liberal MP David Smith, member of parliament for the riding of Pontiac.

David Smith's home-based business Abotech was in the news when several government contracts were terminated after a KPMG audit for reasons that have never been clearly explained by the government. An investigation by this blogger raised all sorts of interesting questions, and those questions have piqued the interest of the main stream media.

You can now listen to those reports here. These broadcasts are recreated here with the permission of the CBC.

December 20: David Smith and his aboriginal roots


December 21: The business of Abotech and the politics of Pontiac




The Abotech Affair: Don't get distracted by the fear thing in Pontiac

From the Globe and Mail via Bourque:

Ben's Motel, a mundane watering hole with a neon-lit bar, Formica tables and a couple of slot machines facing the main street of this now-faded historic town, may seem an odd place to search for a potential wellspring of Conservative Party renewal in Quebec.

What is remarkable are the dozen or so people sitting around a group of tables pushed together in the bar, a mixture of anglophones and francophones, a sprinkling of municipal politicians and a recently retired activist from the pulp and paper union. They are all former long-time federal Liberals; until recently, one was still a member of the Pontiac Liberal Riding Association executive.

They are all there to endorse Lawrence Cannon, the Conservative candidate for this riding that stretches more than 200 kilometres along the Quebec side of the Ottawa River and up into rocks-and-logs hinterland. He is potentially the Conservatives' ace up their sleeve in Quebec.

What happens here on Jan. 23 could have implications far beyond this riding, which has previously been taken for granted as a federalist, mostly Liberal, duchy because of its proximity to Ottawa and Ontario. The riding could launch a credible Conservative presence in Quebec where there is only a lacuna now. If Stephen Harper wins a minority government and Mr. Cannon wins his seat, he will be a major player in Quebec and in the country.

I certainly had no idea how important this would be when I first started investigating the problems with the incumbent Liberal MP David Smith, and his firm Abotech:

But can he win Pontiac? Liberal MP David Smith got 48 per cent of the vote in 2004, compared with 33 per cent for the Bloc Quebecois and 28 per cent for the Conservatives.

Mr. Cannon's chances are improved by the whiff of scandal enveloping the incumbent Mr. Smith. Claiming aboriginal status because his maternal great-grandmother was native, Mr. Smith incorporated Abotech, a computer services consulting company that has received about $1-million in contracts through a program intended to encourage aboriginal entrepreneurs.

Read the whole column, and then be ready to follow this particular riding on January 23.

One of the concerns, of course, is that the Bloc Quebecois could win if Daivd Smith and Lawrence Cannon split the federalist vote. Well, guess what? Some people think it'll make little difference for local constituents:

After Mr. Cannon moved on, some of the mill workers talked about their concern that if they vote Conservative, it could reduce the Liberal plurality to the point where the Bloc goes up the middle to win.

"What if they do?" asked Ron Stafford, one of the recent Conservative converts.

"It will be just one more guy sitting on his ass [a reference to Mr. Smith's low profile in Parliament and in the region]. Let's not get distracted by this fear thing."

Don't get distracted by the fear thing. Good advice for life, I think.




A request for technical assistance

I have a standard audio cassette tape sent to me by Evan Dyer of CBC Radio One, with the two part David Smith investigation he presented December 20 and 21.

Together, the piece runs twenty minutes, maybe less.

Is there anyone in the Toronto area, preferably Durham region, with the ability to create one or more MP3 files suitable for posting on the Internet?

Please contact me by email. Sorry, but I can't pay for the work, but I'd be happy to put a plug for your business or your blog, if appropriate, on AGWN.




The Abotech Affair: Reports and more questions

News of the Ethics Commissioner's decision to clear David Smith continues to be reported, but along with the criticism, the fact that Smith signed contracts, and the revelation of his family ties with Frank Brazeau which came after the Ethics Commissioner issued his report.




The Abotech Affair: Another open letter to the Ethics Commissioner

An open letter to the Ethics Commissioner explaining my concerns about how it appears that his investigation was undermined by a critical omission by both David Smith and Frank Brazeau.




The Abotech Affair: David Smith appears before the Ethics Commissioner, and is cleared

Liberal MP David Smith, representing the riding of Pontiac, ran a home-based computer consultancy firm called Abotech, now owned and operated by his wife and his two children, both minors. Earlier this year, Abotech had several contracts with the federal contract terminated, though the reasons were never clearly described.

A bureaucrat at Consulting and Audit Canada, Frank Brazeau, was suspended. Why? We don't really know.

Today, the Ethics Commissioner, responding to a letter from Nepean-Carleton MP Pierre Poilievre, release his report on David Smith, and gave him a clean bill of health.

*Yawn*

A month ago, I might have cared. Today I know that the question of what is going on at Abotech is not a question the Ethics Commissioner could answer.

The fact is, had the Ethics Commissioner investigated Chuck Guite, it is doubtful he would discovered any unethical conduct in the Sponsorship Program either. Chuck Guite followed all the rules in the contracts that were signed. He did not direct contracts to companies in which he had an interest, or that were run by his family. The fact that the contracts themselves were bogus and no work was done for the money paid is not a concern of the Ethics Commissioner.

The same goes here. But even accepting the constraints of the Ethics Commissioner's area of interest, his report on David Smith was severely compromised by the lack of any sort of in-depth investigation.

The investigation was also compromised because David Smith neglected to mention a very pertinent fact to the Ethics Commissioner, and he got away with it.




The Abotech Affair: A swing riding

A memo that was released accidently to the press last week by the Liberal Party considers the dimming fortunes for the Liberals in Quebec:

The memo paints a grim picture for the Liberals in the province. The party believes at this point that it can only count on winning 10 ridings. Another 20, the memo suggests, could go to either the Liberals or the Bloc Quebecois.

One riding in particular, Pontiac, is of special interest to me.

Pontiac is represented by Liberal MP David Smith. Smith is currently at the centre of a controversy involving his computer consultancy firm, Abotech. CBC Radio ran a special two-part in-depth report examining the questions swirling around Smith (see here and here), a report that was able to use the results of research that appears in this blog.

Is Pontiac one of the 20 ridings that could go either way? It turns it has been identified by the Liberal Party as a swing riding:

"My main opponent is the Bloc," said Mr. Smith, a former Maniwaki councillor, who also worked as a civil servant. "In the riding of Pontiac, if federalists split the vote, then the next representative will be the Bloc."

He added that francophone Quebecers do not generally recognize themselves in Stephen Harper's party, so there would not likely be enough support for the Tories to win, he suggested.

"They will not vote for Mr. Harper's Conservatives."

But organizers at his party's headquarters in Montreal have flagged his riding along with 20 other constituencies held by either the Bloc or the Liberals that could swing one way or the other in the next election. All three Outaouais ridings, Pontiac, Hull-Aylmer, and Gatineau are in that category. Mr. Smith warned that federalists who choose the Conservatives are isolating themselves from the majority of Quebecers.

People in Pontiac are frustrated, and are not responding to the veiled threat of isolation that is typical of Liberal electioneering ("we might be crooks, but if you don't vote for us, the country will fall apart"):

[Conservative candidate Lawrence Cannon, a former provincial Cabinet minister,] has divided his days in between knocking on doors, and meetings with supporters and potential supporters. Just after lunch time, one of those meetings was with a group of former Liberals who were fed up and looking for change.

"As more and more things have been reported about what's going on with the Liberal party, I don't see that I can vote Liberal in good conscience," said Gail Mathias, referring to the fallout from the sponsorship scandal and corruption uncovered by the Gomery Inquiry, and allegations that federal contracts were steered towards the Liberal incumbent David Smith's family business.

It looks like the question concerning David Smith's business affairs are having an impact. Will the riding go the Bloc? Or will the Conservatives be able to succeed here?




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

"We pick up five per cent commission
on what you do as work. How much work 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."

Liberal MP David Smith explaining how his wife
can run his company and successfully earn
hundreds of thousands of dollars in
contracts from the Liberal government

Click here to listen to the original December 21 broadcast: The business of Abotech and the politics of Pontiac

CBC Radio reporter Evan Dyer has prepared a two-part piece on Liberal MP David Smith, representing the riding of Pontiac. David Smith is of particular interest because computer consultancy firm that he once ran, now run by his wife out of the family home, has had contracts with the federal government suddenly terminated as a result of an audit at Consulting and Audit Canada, a branch of Public Works (CAC has since been split into separate departments).

A bureaucrat at CAC, Frank Brazeau, was suspended without pay, for his role in this affair. What he did is not entirely clear -- the audit was never released and the government is refusing to divulge many details.

Over the course of several weeks, this blogger was able to develop an interesting picture showing the relationship between David Smith, Frank Brazeau, and the firm at the centre of this story, Abotech. A full list of Abotech related posts is available.

Today, the second part of Evan Dyer's special report on Abotech was broadcast by CBC Radio One in Ottawa, and into David Smith's riding of Pontiac, which lies across the river from the nation's capital.

The first part focused on questions raised by David Smith's aboriginal status. In that report, we learned that David Smith's campaign is dismissing criticisms from the First Nations reserve in David Smith's home town of Maniwaki because "they don't vote, these people".

The second part focuses on the business of Abotech, the source of the controversy that surrounds David Smith.

In this report, listeners in Ottawa and in the riding of Pontiac learn that despite Public Works Minister Scott Brison's assertion that the taxpayer got value for the million dollars in contracts awarded to Abotech, David Smith insists that running Abotech requires no work or skills whatsoever.

Amazingly, David Smith makes that statement as a defence against charges of unethical conduct.

And in what I think is a remarkable moment, the CBC suggests similarities between the Abotech affair and the Sponsorship Scandal.




The Abotech Affair: Confirmation and Considerations

quepost.jpg

The journalistic team of Julie Murray and Fred Ryan have managed to independently confirm yet another aspect of the Abotech story. The confirmation is revealed in an editorial that points out that the furor over David Smith's personal and business life refuses to die away.




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

"They don't vote, these people."

Dan Smith, Campaign Manager for
David Smith (and his twin brother), on the question
of whether criticisms of David Smith
leveled by First Nations people
should be taken seriously.

Click here to listen to the original December 20 broadcast: David Smith and his aboriginal roots

CBC Radio reporter Evan Dyer has prepared a two-part piece on Liberal MP David Smith, representing the riding of Pontiac. David Smith is of particular interest because computer consultancy firm that he once ran, now run by his wife out of the family home, has had contracts with the federal government suddenly terminated as a result of an audit at Consulting and Audit Canada, a branch of Public Works (CAC has since been split into separate departments).

A bureaucrat at CAC, Frank Brazeau, was suspended without pay, for his role in this affair. What he did is not entirely clear -- the audit was never released and the government is refusing to divulge many details.

Over the course of several weeks, this blogger was able to develop an interesting picture showing the relationship between David Smith, Frank Brazeau, and the firm at the centre of this story, Abotech. A full list of Abotech related posts is available.

Now the CBC, a crown corporation often described as being too quick to ignore stories that embarrass the Liberal Party, is devoting two 20-minute segments in the key 7am talk-show slot on exactly such a story.

Today's highlight: the criticisms of status aboriginals concerning the appropriateness of David Smith's declaration of aboriginal heritage and how he positioned his firm to gain special contracts as a result is irrelevant because "they don't vote, these people".

[Link to a summary of part two of this special report]




The Abotech Affair: The Ottawa Citizen and "Identity Politics"

The Ottawa Citizen continues to consider aspects of the David Smith Abotech affair. As you recall, David Smith is the Liberal MP for the riding in Pontiac. His company Abotech, a computer consultancy firm that he runs out of his home, has had contracts with the federal government cancelled for...well...we don't know why, exactly.

What we do know, and what I've managed to find out, can be read in this series of posts.

One aspect of this story is David Smith's claim to be an aboriginal. This claim came late in life, and the leadership of the Kitigan Zibi band in Maniwaki, where David Smith grew up, has been quite vocal in disputing the legitimacy of that claim.

The editorial board of the Ottawa Citizen has decided to consider the question of "identity".




The Abotech Affair: CBC Radio One to carry an interview with Julie Murray

I just got a call to let me know that Julie Murray, reporter for the West Quebec Post, who worked with me on publishing some of the elements of the Abotech affair involving Liberal MP David Smith of the riding of Pontiac, will be interviewed on CBC Radio One at 2pm (in about 10 minutes).

I can't listen to the radio here, but if anyone out there can tune in to CBC Radio One, let us know how the interview goes.

From this blog to the West Quebec Post to the Ottawa Citizen to CBC Radio One...

Update: This might not actually be a live interview. It might be a taped interview, segments of which would form part of a 3-minute news report to be aired during the news segments. Sorry, I'm not sure which it will be.




The Abotech Affair: More local politics

The fight for the riding of Pontiac is getting nasty.

Not only is the incumbent, Liberal MP David Smith, under attack for ethical questions currently under investigation by the Ethics Commissioner and the legitimacy of his claim to aboriginal status, now the Conservative challenger, Lawrence Cannon, is under review for expenses he claimed during his work for the City of Gatineau.

Pontiac is shaping up to be one of the more interesting ridings to follow in this election.




The Abotech Affair: Questions reported in the Ottawa Citizen

ottawa_citizen_logo.gif

The problems for David Smith continue to grow. An issue first raised on this blog is now gaining some national notice.

As you might recall, David Smith is the Liberal MP representing the riding of Pontiac in Quebec. He once ran a computer consulting firm called Abotech out of his home, but when he was elected to Parliament in June 2004, he transfered ownership and control of the firm to his wife, Anne Ethier, a nurse.

Abotech has been targeted by a KPMG audit at Public Works. The recipient of over a million dollars in government contracts over the last five years, Abotech has seen some contracts summarily terminated.

Why? The government insists that it was over the way the contracts were awarded, and not because of any problems with the way Abotech did the work. In any case, David Smith insists he doesn't know what is going on in the company, even about the terminated contracts.

David Smith is now under formal investigation by the Ethics Commissioner.

Among the questions raised in this blog, and there were many questions raised: Just how legitimate is David Smith's assertion that he is an aboriginal?

Abotech is listed in the government's Aboriginal Business Directory, making it eligible for contract set-asides, that is, work protected from the standard open bidding process and specifically available for aboriginal businesses only. The only person punished so far in this case (that we know about) is a bureaucrat for Consulting and Audit Canada (a part of PWGSC, recently disbanded). Frank Brazeau, interestingly enough, was charged with reporting on CAC's progress on meeting aboriginal set-aside targets.

Frank Brazeau worked with David Smith as secretary for the local Liberal Party riding association.

Sources in the Maniwaki community have also made the claim that Frank Brazeau and David Smith are cousins.

So is part of the mysterious problems revealed by the KPMG audit related to aboriginal set-asides? Did David Smith and Abotech somehow profit from David Smith's political and family relationship with Frank Brazeau?

But is Abotech even an aboriginal firm? Just how legitimate is David Smith's claim? You can read my investigation on this topic, but now the same questions are being raised by the NDP candidate for Pontiac, Celine Brault. And the issue has hit the pages of the Ottawa Citizen.




I hadn't thought of that!

From reader EBD, commenting at small dead animals on the topic of the Ottawa Citizen carrying elements of the David Smith investigation:

Congratulations, Angry, for showing the MSM how it's done. This is a story without a quick punchline; it required a lot of inference and intelligence to get to the bottom of it. Diligence, too. This result -- MSM traction, as you put it -- couldn't come at a better time.

There is a downside, though -- you can forget about your Senate seat.

No Senate seat?! I hadn't thought of that!

Ah crud!

I guess it's too late to take it all back.




The Abotech Affair: Local politics

From the Ottawa Citizen, an editorial by West Quebec Post editor Fred Ryan, explaining how very different this election is going to be for David Smith, Liberal MP from the riding of Pontiac, currently embroiled in the Abotech affair, and the people of this often overlooked riding.




The Abotech Affair: A business that takes care of itself

One of the questions surrounding the Abotech affair is how does Anne Ethier, David Smith's wife, run the business?

Apparently, it's not too hard:

Smith himself protested his innocence during a visit to Wakefield last week, arguing that regardless of the appearance of conflict of interest, he followed federal ethics guidelines when elected in June 2004. He also said he didn’t know why the two recent contracts were cancelled and added he and his wife never talk business at home, painting a picture of a business that takes care of itself.

“You’re a specialist in communication, and you’re looking for a specialist in communication. We do an RFP (request for proposal) and we place you. We accept you. 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…and we didn’t solicit anything in new business after that,” he said.

So Abotech is a shell company that just helps connects contractors with the government, and takes a slice off the top, thus increasing the cost to you and me. As he said, "How much work is there to do in that?"

Now a question to answer is whether any of the contracts were aboriginal set-asides, and what exactly did KPMG find so offensive about this that contracts had to be terminated?

Remember that $200,000 in contracts were cancelled (part of the $1,000,000 or more in contracts that Abotech allegedly had with the federal government in the last 5 years). Does that mean that the contract between the government and the person doing the work was worth $200,000, and that Abotech picked up 5% of $200,000, or $10,000, in commission?

Or did the $200,000 represent the 5% commission, meaning that this work involved moving contracts worth upwards to $4,000,000?




The Abotech Affair: David Smith, Mole for the Orwellian New World Order

A second little tidbit about David Smith, Liberal MP for Pontiac, embroiled in what I call the Abotech affair.

The focus has been on whether David Smith was using his questionable status as an aboriginal and his family ties in Consulting and Audit Canada to land contracts for his consulting firm Abotech, or whether that is a smokescreen to distract from a more serious problem within CAC with regards to the management of all contracts.

What I haven't touched on is the third, and perhaps most frightening, facet of this case: David Smith's agenda to impose a single planet-wide government!

David Smith -- mole for the New World Order!




The Abotech Affair: David Smith, Aboriginal Leader

From September 2004 issue of Livewire, the online newsletter for the Young Liberals of Canada:

The 2004 federal election saw an unprecedented number of high-profile Aboriginal candidates run for the Liberal Party of Canada.

Many Aboriginal MPs are already making their mark on the Canadian political establishment.

Elected for his first time a Quebec Aboriginal leader David Smith was elected in the riding of Pontiac, Quebec. [emphasis added]

It's a minor thing, really, but with all the questions swirling around the legitimacy of David Smith's claim to some sort of aboriginal status, one wonders if his status as an "aboriginal leader" is in jeopardy.

Of course, the only reference to backbench MP David Smith as a leader, aboriginal or otherwise, seems to appear in this Liberal newsletter.




The Abotech Affair: More leaks from inside Consulting and Audit Canada

More detailed information seems to leaking out from inside Consulting and Audit Canada. Is the information accurate? Some of it is. For the rest I can't say one way or another.

But it seemed so detailed and so damning that I'll post it -- you decide for yourself.




The Abotech Affair: West Quebec Post article becomes a "clipping" for the Conservatives

A minor bit of interest, but Pierre Poilievre, MP for Nepean-Carleton, has incorporated the West Quebec Post article about David Smith into his web site as a "clipping" to highlight his work representing his constituents' interests.

Of course, Poilievre is not running against David Smith, who represents the riding of Pontiac, but Laurence Cannon is. And Laurence Cannon, the Conservative Party candidate in Pontiac, is certain to be handing out copies of the article throughout the riding.

Will this make a difference? Well, though many of us outside of Quebec don't recognize the name "Laurence Cannon", inside Quebec, it is very well known. He was a communications minister under Robert Bourassa, and he comes from a family of politicians and business giants.

He is one of the Conservative Party's best bets for a seat in this election, and a leader for further gains in elections to come.

And maybe, just maybe, I helped out a little bit.




The Abotech Affair: In French

At Le Blog de Polyscopique, we have much of the text of the West Quebec Post article on David Smith and the Abotech affair translated into French. If you have contacts in Quebec who are interested but have, of course, only had the reports in Le Droit to read in French (those reports essentially cover the same ground as the Globe and Mail articles), then send them the link so that they can get informed.




The Abotech Affair: The story goes into print

quepost.jpg

Julie Murray of the West Quebec Post has been in regular contact with this blogger over the last week, preparing a story on David Smith and the Abotech affair.

In deference to the people at the Post and their desire not to be scooped, I've kept quiet until today, when the weekly was published and hit the stands.

The questions for David Smith, Liberal MP for Pontiac, are now in print. And not just in print, but in a local paper. The West Quebec Post, with a circulation of about 5000, distributes in David Smith's riding. Don't forget also that Pontiac is just across the river from Ottawa.

So go read the article, and consider what impact it might be having on voters in Pontiac. It'll also be interesting to see if the story gets picked up by another paper, what with an election call days away driving interest. I am personally gratified that Julie Murray was able to independently verify many of the facts I had uncovered, and that I am credited (see the end of the article) for my work on this. She has added much more material as well, with quotes from her interview with David Smith being especially interesting. Thanks also to editor Fred Ryan. I hope wading through my amateurish attempts at journalism wasn't too much of a burden.

As for the role of bloggers, I hope this small example of the synergies that can exist between the new media and the traditional media inspires Canadians to look at bloggers in a new light. It is the sort of thing the folks at Open Source Media PajamasMedia meant when they talked about a "bridge between old media and new".




The Abotech Affair: Frank Brazeau has friends

A series of anonymous posts was received at this blog yesterday, apparently from someone who works with or near Frank Brazeau.

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Minority Hiring at PWGSC: Some advice for Deputy Minister David Marshall

marshall.jpg David Marshall, Deputy Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada

From the National Post:

A major federal department has temporarily banned the hiring of able-bodied white men in an unusual move critics say could spark a backlash against the very disadvantaged groups it is meant to help.

Managers in the Public Works department must hire only visible minorities, women, aboriginals and the disabled, except with written permission from their superiors, David Marshall, the deputy minister, ordered in an e-mail circulated yesterday.

Pierre Teotonio, a department spokesman, said last night the order was prompted in part by a precipitous drop in the number of employees hired from the designated groups this year. The proportion of female, disabled, aboriginal and non-white new hires fell from one in eight this March to only one in 20 by September, he said. The federal benchmark just for the hiring of visible minorities is one in five.

Oddly, David Marshall could kill two birds with one stone -- address the question of the quality of aborignal hires and clear the air about the Abotech affair.

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The Abotech Affair: Smokescreen

This is not a new post, but I thought the closing remarks of this other post deserved a spot of their own, if only to help me organize my thoughts.

Basically, I'm wondering if I've been pursuing the wrong line of inquiry in the Abotech affair, or perhaps more acccurately, one of lesser importance to the real problem behind this scandal.

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The Abotech Affair: An open letter to the Ethics Commissioner

It has been suggested by several people via comments and personal emails that I make the Ethics Commissioner aware of the material relating to David Smith collected on this blog.

I've attached an open letter to the commissioner. I'd like some feedback, and if it is positive, I'll send him a copy.

Also be aware that a key post got deleted. It was the the one that revealed a whole twist on the Abotech affair related to the RCMP Pension Fund. I've rewritten it, along with new information. It's called "A twist in the road".

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The Abotech Affair: A twist in the road

Update: This twist might, in fact, be the road we should be following. With the release of the Auditor General's report in November 2006, suddenly the role of Abotech makes a lot more sense. Read this update to understand why.

This post is a recreation of the original Morneau Sobeco post. Somehow that post has been deleted, and while I'm trying to retrieve it, I've decided to re-write it from scratch. I'm using the post I made for small dead animals as the basis for this version.

My chase of what appears to be an aboriginal company shell game has run smack into an iceberg.

David Smith, who sits in Parliament for the riding of Pontiac and claims to be an aboriginal, ran a company called Abotech, a computer consultancy firm, out of his home. Now the company is run by his wife, a nurse. Smith insists he has no idea what is going in Abotech.

For a full list of posts related to this scandal, check out the Abotech archive.

Abotech has been caught up in a KPMG audit at PWGSC. Several contracts between Abotech and the federal government have been terminated. Why? No one is saying. Also, a bureaucrat named Frank Brazeau has been suspended without pay in connection with the audit. Frank Brazeau is also David Smith's cousin. Why was he suspended? No one is saying.

The theory is that Frank Brazeau directed contracts meant to go to an aboriginal businesses to Abotech. Frank Brazeau was the consultant at Consulting and Audit Canada who help implement the Procurement Strategy for Aboriginal Business. Smith took his cut, and passed the work to a non-aboriginal firm.

But then came news about a $30 billion lawsuit going forward against the Liberal government. Unions representing 300,000 public servants are suing to recover pension surplus money that Liberal finance minister Paul Martin took to pay down the government's debt.

What does that have to do with Abotech?

Quite a bit, as it turns out.




The Abotech Affair: Ethics investigations during elections

Christmas shoppers Ethics Commissioner Bernard Shapiro

David Smith, the Liberal MP for the riding of Pontiac, is subject to a formal investigation with regards to his company Abotech, and the contracts it had with the federal government, contracts that have since been terminated.

The question that confronts us is how do an ethics investigation and an election interact? As it turns out, the answer is murky, and potentially a controversial subject in if itself.

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The Abotech Affair: Turning up the heat on David Smith

David Smith is now subject to a formal investigation by the Ethics Commissioner.

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The Abotech Affair: Another notable absence at PWGSC?

Recall that Frank Brazeau, the bureaucrat at Public Works and Government Services Canada, suspended over the Abotech affair, has had his entry in the Government Electronic Directory expunged.

The Abotech affair involves questionable contracts handed to a company once run by David Smith, Liberal MP representing the riding of Pontiac. David Smith's wife now runs the company, which is run out of the family home. Frank Brazeau is David Smith's cousin. Something was discovered, but not revealed yet, during an audit that caused Frank Brazeau to be suspended without pay and Abotech to lose contracts.

Curiously, at the same time that Frank Brazeau's name disappeared from the directory, a co-worker and presumably his supervisor, Marc Carriere, assistant director in the same office, also disappeared from the listing. I speculated whether the two were linked.

On a hunch, I called who I assumed was Carriere's boss, Bill McCann, Director General at Consulting and Audit Canada. McCann remains in the directory, but the outgoing message on his voice mail states that he would be out of the office from October 20 to November 4, returning November 7.

The outgoing message was recorded by a woman, clearly not McCann.

It is now November 13, six days past his return date.

If he has a secretary recording his outgoing voicemail messages, then I would assume she would record a new outgoing message on his return as part of her regular duties.

Why has a new outgoing message not been recorded? Did something happen while he was away that made adjusting the outgoing message a moot point? I'll follow up on Monday to see if McCann is actually in the office.

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The Abotech Affair: An unexpected change at PWGSC

Scott Brison, Liberal Public Works Minister

Here is a listing of the staff in the office of Project Management Services at Public Works and Government Services Canada:

Brar, Kalvinder; Senior Consultant; (613) 992-6809
Brazeau, Frank; Consultant, CAC; (613) 947-2897
Carriere, Marc; A/Director; (613) 996-6526
Cloutier, Diane; Principal Consultant; (613) 996-7221
Courtney, Joe; Principal Consultant; (613) 995-4178
Fisher, Corrin; Consultant, CAC; (613) 944-4950
Inglis, Gordon; Senior Consultant; (613) 996-7120
Reid, Bill; Principal Consultant; (613) 996-0584
Spanner, David; Principal Consultant; (613) 943-8217
Yip, Jill; Consultant, CAC; (613) 996-0036

So they've gotten around to updating the database, removing Frank Brazeau, the bureaucrat implicated in the Abotech affair.

As you recall, my theory is that Abotech is a shell company created by faux-aboriginal David Smith, Liberal MP for the riding of Pontiac. Abotech, with the help of now-suspended bureaucrat (and cousin of David Smith) Frank Brazeau, lands contracts from the Procurement Strategy for Aboriginal Business program, run by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, under the leadership of the Honourable Andy Scott, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Metis and Non-Status Indians. The work is then handed off to one of David Smith's former firms to do the actual work, after David Smith takes his cut. Jaguar Solutions was one of those firms. It has done work for aboriginal contracts in the past.

I've been watching to see if Frank Brazeau's would eventually be purged from the Government Electronic Directory.

But why did the name of Assistant Director Marc Carriere disappear as well? A search of the directory confirms he has not been moved to another office. Is there a link? Will others disappear as well?

As a mere consultant, it seems strange that Frank Brazeau was the "inside man". Could he have had the power to direct PSAB contracts? Or would signing authority from a higher-up in the office be required?

As an assistant director, you have to wonder about Marc Carriere. Did he have a role in all this?

Perhaps Public Works Minister Scott Brison can answer that question in Question Period, since it goes to the management of his ministry, and thus is fair game in the House of Commons.

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The Abotech Affair: New information and new possibilities

I've dug up some new information on the corporate history of Abotech. A small thing, at first glance, but when you think about it, it suggests all sorts of interesting possibilities.

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The Abotech Affair: The Status of Frank Brazeau

Frank Brazeau, cousin of Liberal MP David Smith, representing the riding of Pontiac, was a civil servant in the Consulting and Audit Canada branch of Public Works and Government Services Canada, until he was suspended without pay as a result of contracts that he managed that had been sole-sourced to a firm called Abotech.

Abotech is David Smith's company, now run by his wife. It is run out of the Smth family home in Gatineau, Quebec, across the Ottawa River from Ottawa.

Details are scarce. The government refuses to give any detailed answers during Question Period. Nor will the government release the KPMG audit that resulted in disciplinary action being taken against Frank Brazeau, and also resulted in more than one six-figure contract with Abotech to be terminated.

Here is the entry showing Frank Brazeau as the coordinator representing CAC to Indian and North Affairs Canada. You see, each major department that issues contracts has a coordinator assigned to report to INAC on compliance with PSAB, the Procurement Strategy for Aboriginal Business. This program is designed to direct a certain percentage of contracts to aboriginal businesses. Abotech is such a business, and David Smith claims aboriginal status (see the index in the expanded entry of the post to find other articles discussing these issues).

Frank Brazeau, an aboriginal from the Kitigan Zibi reserve just outside of Maniwaki, Quebec, David Smith's home town, was in a position to help direct these CAC contracts to Abotech. He no longer appears on the current version of the coordinators list.

Makes sense, being suspended and all.

But then why does this entry appear in Government Electronic Directory Services, under PWGSC Project Management Services, created October 28, 2005?

It's the same Frank Brazeau -- compare the email addresses and phone numbers. I think that "creation" timestamp is misleading; lower down there is a "Last Updated" timestamp of July 15, 2005, which is earlier than the creation date. That tells me the creation time is some computer generated value refering to when the web page was created, and not the underlying database record.

How long does it take to update the directory? Or are they holding off from making the update for some reason?




David Smith and Abotech: Is the the CBC good for anything?

Recall that post about David Smith and his time in Maniwaki? Thanks to the crack fact-checking abilities of the CBC, I need to make a major revision.

Grrrrrr!

Here's is the bio printed by the CBC about David Smith, Liberal MP from the riding of Pontiac. I've posted it in its entirety:

Party: Liberal Party of Canada
Age: 50

Education: Graduate in administration from Heritage College, Hull. Currently registered at graduate-level specialized public administration program at eNAP in Gatineau.
Career Background:
He has more than 15 of years experience in organizational management, human resources, property management, and management of multidisciplinary complex projects. He works as a business manager with Public Works and Government Services Canada. He was previously director of strategic development for Jaguar Solutions and executive director with AGM Informatique. He was also manager of Ameublement Branchard for six years.
Community Involvement:
He was a member of the CEMB, working on the school establishment council, and also served as a volunteer with the Quebec Ice Hockey Federation and the Canadian Cancer Society. Currently serves as a volunteer with the Saint-Pierre Chanel scout movement. He is also a member of the Quebec Aboriginal Alliance.

Political History
Party: He has been involved in political life for a number of years, particularly with the Liberal Party of Quebec.
Municipal: Currently, municipal councillor in Maniwaki. Defeated Liberal MP Robert Bertrand for the nomination.

First, David Smith was 40, not 50, at the time of the election.

Second, he worked for "ASM Informatique", not "AGM Informatique".

Third, I can't find a company called "Ameublement Branchard", but there is one called "Ameublement Branchaud" with stores in Maniwaki and in Gatineau.

And finally, and this is critical, according to research performed at the Maniwaki Town Hall, he was councillor from November 12, 1990 and resigned on July 20, 1992. Then he moved to Gatineau.

The Wikipedia entry on David Smith repeats the same mistake:

Smith served as a city councillor in Maniwaki, Quebec until 2004. At this point, he ran in the Canadian federal election, 2004 for the Liberal Party of Canada in the riding of Pontiac where he won.

Quoting the same bad source as the CBC, or just repeating the information run by the CBC?

This alternate bio contradicts the CBC bio:

At the time of his nomination, Mr Smith was a strategic planning officer for service integration at Public Works and Government Services Canada. Prior to that, he was a business manager for the same department. Mr Smith has more than 15 years experience as a businessman and former director for various businesses in the Outaouais.

Mr Smith was a municipal councillor for the town of Maniwaki. He was responsible for many committees such as public security and fire protection. He also served as a Board member for educational settings and was a member of the Quebec Liberal Party and also a member of their youth wing .

It doesn't provide the details, such as that David Smith counciller for just under two years over 12 years earlier.

But this changes things. Here is a new timeline:

1990 Smith elected municipal councillor
1992 Smith resigns from municipal council; moves to Gatineau
1995 Trepanier/Godbout opens Inter-reseau in Maniwaki
2000 Trepanier/Godbout sells Inter-reseau in Maniwaki
2001 Trepanier/Godbout opens Jaguar Solutions in Gatineau
2002 Smith works for Jaguar
2002 Earliest online evidence of the existence of Abotech
2004 Smith is working for PWGSC as a strategic planner; don't know when he started
2004 Smith elected to Parliament; reins of Abotech given to Anne Ethier
2005 KPMG audit results in the suspension of Brazeau and of contracts with Abotech being terminated

So it looks like Smith was in Gatineau when Trepanier and Godbout were running Inter-reseau in Maniwaki. This suggests that they do not go as far back as I first thought. On the other hand, Smith did work for Jaguar, there is still the overlap on the fire management work, and there is still the problem of the shared fax number.

On the other hand, there is the problem of David Smith working for PWGSC while his firm is taking contracts from aboriginal set-asides.

When I can, I'll try to gather more details on the other players and get them into the timeline.

And from now on, the CBC goes on the same list as the National Enquirer as a source I use.




"Christian", David Smith, and Maniwaki [major update]

[A major update based on new information that contradicts information provided by the CBC]

As you recall, my theory is that Abotech is a shell company created by faux-aboriginal David Smith, Liberal MP for the riding of Pontiac.  Abotech, with the help of now-suspended bureaucrat (and cousin of David Smith) Frank Brazeau, lands contracts from the Procurement Strategy for Aboriginal Business program, run by the Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, under the leadership of the Honourable Andy Scott, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Metis and Non-Status Indians. The work is then handed off to one of David Smith's former firms to do the actual work, after David Smith takes his cut. Jaguar Solutions was one of those firms. It has done work for aboriginal contracts in the past.

Curiously, Abotech and Jaguar have the same fax number. A smoking gun?

When I called Jaguar Solutuions, "Christian" answered the phone, and after a moment on hold to confer with someone, he denied any connection between Jaguar Solutions and Abotech.

So is that it? A clerical mistake, explained away by the fact that David Smith briefly worked for Jaguar Solutions in 2002, according to "Christian".

Or is there more?

"Christian" was very careful not to give his last name. Well, that's not going to stop me. His full name is Christian Trepanier, as indicated by the domain registrar's entry for Jaguar Solutions:

I'm willing to bet the person he was talking to was Yvan Godbout. They go way back, but more on that later.

When was David Smith elected to municipal council? The last regularly scheduled municipal election in Quebec was November 3, 2002. The next is coming up in two weeks, on November 6 (thanks to Chief Whiteduck for that tidbit).

Let's assume that he was elected on November 3, 2002.

That means that prior to becoming councillor, he was working for Jaguar Solutions:

He was previously director of strategic development for Jaguar Solutions...

Trepanier told me that Smith was at Jaguar for maybe a couple of months in 2002 and brought no business to the company.

Now I can't be certain when Jaguar Solutions was founded, but I can guess. You see, Yvan Godbout and Christian Trepanier had sold their previous business in 2000, to "reorientate" their careers:

"We decided to sell the company and to reorientate our careers", Mr Godbout declared while speaking to the shareholders. "Lino Solutions Internet of Telebec, a major partner of Crossnet for several years, seems to us ready to continue our work while respecting our vision and our development philosophy. Lino offers complete Internet services: access, solutions of businesses, multi-media contents, electronic trade...", concluded Mr Godbout.

What business was this?

An Intenet Service Provider called Inter-reseau, founded in 1995.

Where did they work? Maniwaki, Quebec:

In the presence of its employees, Mr Yvan Godbout, one of the shareholders of Crossnet, announced today in Maniwaki the sale of the company to Lino Solutions Internet of Telebec.

Founded in 1995, Inter-reseau ( www.ireseau.com ) is a supplier of Internet access and services for the area of Valley-of-the-Gatineau which serves customers located at Maniwaki, Mount-Bay-tree and the surroundings.

This was a two-man operation. I know because I found this on a newsgroup dated October 21, 1995:

Newsgroups: comp.os.ms-windows.networking.ras
From: Christian Trepanier
Date: 1995/10/21
Subject: Only one RAS connection at a time

I'm setting up a NT 3.51 server to act as an Internet service provider with a pool of 10 modems. Everything is fine with the hardware for RAS (Digiboard 16/e) as long as I have only one client at a time. On the second call, be it on the Digiboard or COM2, I get the following messages under the Port Status of the Remote Access Admin:

Modem Condition: Normal
Line Condition: Line non-operationnal

The hardware and cabling are not to blame as the various help files would suggest.

Anyone with suggestions...

The return email address used was the one for Inter-reseau. Trepanier is clearly a guy who gets his hands dirty.

Might explain why the "president" of Jaguar Solutions is answering the phone -- that always stuck me as odd. How many people work at Jaguar Solutions that the president has to pick up the phone?

By 2001, Trepanier and Godbout sell out to Telebec, and move to Gatineau to start Jaguar Solutions. In 2002, David Smith works for Jaguar Solutions for a short time as director of strategic marketing.

Did David Smith move to Gatineau when he was working for Jaguar, or was he working long-distance from Maniwaki to drum up business?

Maybe the latter. Why? First, there is the problem of David Smith moving from Maniwaki to Gatineau and back in such a short period of time.

But more than that, when elected in November of 2002 (if that's true), he went on to work on the municipal council specializing in fire protection issues:

Before entering federal politics, Mr Smith served as municipal councillor for the town of Maniwaki. He played a key role on various committees which tackled such issues as public security and fire protection.

Jaguar Solutions works on fire management systems.

Almost makes you think it was part of a plan. Then maybe he was just applying the skills he gained at Jaguar to help his community. Still, how much could he have learned in such a short stint with Jaguar as a sales person?

So Trepanier and Godbout were the "go to" guys for internet service in Maniwaki for almost six years. Maniwaki local, David Smith, is a businessman and computer consultant. In a small town like Maniwaki, I figure they all had to know each other. He knows them well enough that soon after they create a new firm, he gets a high-level position with them. Then, for some reason, he leaves that position soon after (according to Trepanier) and goes into politics, including making decisions on policy involving exactly what Jaguar Solutions specializes in.

Just how far back do David Smith and Trepanier and Godbout go?

Remember how I said that Trepanier was a hands-on guy. He registered domains, for example:

#N .branchaud.qc.ca
#S .CA Domain;
#O Ameublement Branchaud inc.
#C Christian Trepanier
#E ctrepanier@ireseau.com
#T +1 (819) 449 7171
#P Inter-reseau inc., 140 rue King, Maniwaki, Quebec, J9E 2L3
#R Automatically generated from a .CA domain registration form
#W registry@cs.toronto.edu (UUCP Liaison); Tue Aug 24 00:57:43 -0400 1999
#
# BRANCHAUD.QC.CA is a For-Profit Corporation, Provincially Incorporated
#
# Meuble detaillant
#
# received: Sun, 5 Jan 1997 19:00:00 -0500
# approved: Sun, 12 Jan 1997 19:00:00 -0500
# modified: Sun, 22 Aug 1999 20:00:00 -0400

Ameublement Branchaud? Ring a bell?

[David Smith] was also manager of Ameublement Branchard [sic] for six years.

"Branchard" is second typo in the CBC bio for David Smith. The first was when they misspelled ASM Informatique as "AGM".

Almost like whoever provided the information to the CBC didn't want to make it too easy to track down the links.

But then I'm just being paranoid.

Ameublement Branchaud had its domain registered in 1997. If David Smith was manager then, he would have known what was going on. But his bio says he was a manager for 6 years. In 1997 David Smith would have been 33. Since he would not have been a manager when he was working at Jaguar Solutions in 2002, we only have a window from about 1987 to 2001 for him to have been a manager.

Remember too that we have jam "executive director" at ASM Informatique in there somewhere. Still haven't figured out when exactly he worked with ASM.

Unless he was made a manager right out of Heritage College, I think it's fair to say that the six stint as manager probably overlapped Ameublement Branchaud's move to the web. Given that he is a computer consultant today, I'd guess he was very involved in that process in 1997, working with Christian Trepanier to establish a web-presence for the company, including designing and building the web pages.

(Of course, he didn't have to be a manager at Ameublement Branchaud to be doing this -- he could have been a non-manager given the project to work on, becoming manager later.)

I know that Trepanier was involved in more than just registering the domain name because when you go to the earliest versions of the Ameublement Branchaud web site available on the Wayback Machine, the pages are copyrighted by Inter-reseau.

So Christian Trepanier and Yvan Godbout of Jaguar Solutions and David Smith might go as far back as 8 years. Back to Maniwaki. Back to Ameublement Branchaud. Back to Inter-reseau. Back to early days at Jaguar Solutions.

We still don't know how close they are today. Except for the tantalizing hint of the shared fax number, which Christian Trepanier shrugged off.

Nothing incriminating in this post. Just very interesting.





Abotech and Jaguar: Jaguar denies links

I just got off the phone with "Christian" at Jaguar Solutions in Gatineau, Quebec. As you recall, David Smith, Liberal MP for the riding of Pontiac, was once "director of strategic development" at Jaguar Solutions.

In addition, Abotech, the firm David Smith founded, and now the subject of a government audit, shares a fax number with Jaguar.

I asked Christian about this and about David Smith and Abotech:






David Smith and the Native Alliance of Quebec

Recall that in my conversation with Chief Jean-Guy Whiteduck, a major question was how a person can be recognized as an aboriginal without the consent of a band.

He pointed out that there are organizations like the Native Alliance of Quebec that have had a questionable history of providing such recognition without the cooperation of any legally recognized band. One such band is the Kitigan Zibi band, lead by Chief Whiteduck, located near in Maniwaki, Quebec, the home town of David Smith, member of Parliamant for the riding of Pontiac.

That triggered a memory and I went back to David Smith's biography published for the June 2004 election:

He is also a member of the Quebec Aboriginal Alliance.

That is the same organization -- the person writing the biography translated the French title of the group, Alliance Autochtone du Quebec, instead of using the official English name.

So now we can be sure that David Smith's aboriginal credentials are not coming from any recognized band, but rather from this organization that provides recognition independent of the tribal leadership, recognition that, at least in the opinion of Chief Whiteduck, is no recognition at all.





The Link between Abotech and Jaguar Solutions

Sometimes the most obvious things are just under your nose.

But a reader spotted this based on the links I've been providing, and I'll share it with you.

As you recall, my theory is that Abotech is a shell company created by faux-aboriginal David Smith, Liberal MP for the riding of Pontiac. Abotech, with the help of now-suspended bureaucrat (and cousin of David Smith) Frank Brazeau, lands contracts from the Procurement Strategy for Aboriginal Business program, run by the Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, under the leadership of the Honourable Andy Scott, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for M├ętis and Non-Status Indians. The work is then handed off to one of David Smith's former firms to do the actual work, after David Smith takes his cut. Jaguar Solutions was one of those firms. It has done work for aboriginal contracts in the past.

Does Frank Brazeau get a piece of the action? We don't know...yet. He might just be a patsy, taking the fall for someone else at INAC.

One of the problems with the theory was that I had no specific evidence linking Abotech and Jaguar other than David Smith worked at Jaguar in the past, and was president of Abotech.

Now we have a link, and it's been there all the time.

Here is the contact information for Abotech:

Here is the contact information for Jaguar Solutions:

Abotech and Jaguar Solutions share the same fax number!

As you recall, Jaguar Solutions is only 1.4 miles from the corporate offices of Abotech, which happens to be the Smith family home.

So now when the government needs to fax information to Abotech concerning a contract Abotech is working on, the information pops up in the Jaguar Solutions office.

Why? Unless all the work done by Abotech was simply handed off the Jaguar Solutions. Recall that Jaguar Solutions is not an aboriginal company according to the government's Aboriginal Business Directory, and to qualify for PSAB contracts, one-third of the work has to be done by an aboriginal business.

Maybe it became a nuisance to get papers at Abotech, and then hoof it up the road to Jaguar Solutions to drop them off. It wasn't like the staff at Abotech needed to actually see the papers faxed over -- it was really Jaguar's problem. And if there was something that David Smith, or the new president, wife Anne Ethier, needed to see, well, it doesn't take long to drive just over a mile to go to Jaguar.





The Abotech Affair: Will the Mounties get their man?

Report of RCMP action with regards to the Abotech affair.




The Smith-Brazeau connection -- Deeper than I ever imagined

From my post on David Smith, the Liberal MP for the riding of Pontiac, and his questionable aboriginal status:

One more thing. According to Chief Whiteduck, the family name of Brazeau is common enough in Maniwaki. I haven't figured out if Frank Brazeau, who seems to play a major part as the "inside man", came from this branch of the family. If he did, one wonders just how far back Smith and Brazeau go.

The answer: two generations.

From a source on the reserve who would prefer to remain unnamed:

Brazeau is from our reserve and is an aboriginal...Smith is from Maniwaki but is not an aboriginal. Funny coincidence, but Smith and Brazeau are related on their MOTHER's side both of whom are french quebecers. Smith's mother ... Suzanne Clement Smith and Brazeau's grandmother ... Thelorèse Clement Fournier are sisters. That means Brazeau's mother and Smith are direct cousins.

Wow! This means that Frank Brazeau, the bureaucrat suspended without pay over the bad contracts, and Liberal MP David Smith, former owner of the company Abotech that profited from those same contracts, are related!

A "funny coincidence"? Or evidence of a conspiracy between cousins who grew up close to each other, one a Liberal member of parliament, and the other a bureaucrat in the department in charge of allocating contracts to aboriginal firms, and also the former secretary of the Liberal Party riding association for that very same Liberal MP? Remember that Brazeau became the secretary for the Liberal association right after the 2004 election, the same election that saw David Smith first elected for that riding.

If this information is good, this is amazing!

I wonder if the RCMP is reading this.





On the question of who manages Abotech and subcontractors

Let's revisit the Strategis entry for Abotech. We know the kids aren't running the company. We know David Smith, Liberal Party MP for the riding of Pontiac, formerly the president of Abotech, claims not to have anything to do with the company since he was elected. We know that wife Anne Ethier, who is supposed to be in charge, is formally trained as a nurse.

So what services does Abotech claim to provide?

IPS Steam consultants in: Project Executive IT, Senior Project Manager IT,Project Manager IT, Project Administrator, Technology Architect, Senior Platform Analyst, Platform Analyst, Senior Network Analyst Network Analysts, IT Security Consultant, Applications Architect, Applications Architect Product Specialist, Senior Applications Analyst, Senior Application Analysts, Product Specialist Applications Analyst, Applications Analyst Product, Specialist Applications Programmer/Analyst, Applications Programmer/Analyst Product Specialist, Database Administrator, Database Administrator Product Specialist, Database Analyst, Database Analyst Product Specialist, Senior Web Developer, Senior Web Developer Product Specialist, Web Developer, Web Developer Product Specialist, Systems Auditor, Quality Assurance Consultant, Senior Tester, Tester, Senior Technical Writer, Writer.

And a partridge in a pear tree.

All out of his house.

I'm an engineer with 15 years experience. I know lots of engineers in computers and software. I don't know any one engineer who can claim all those skills.

This is a description of a firm with at least 15 employees, all senior consultants and all highly paid.

Do they hang out in the kitchen? Obviously not. Clearly Abotech subcontracts the work.

And finally this:

We are an Aboriginal IT consultant Firm.

Well, the problem is this. To maintain that "aboriginal business" status, you have to be careful not to subcontract too much of the work away to non-aboriginals:

In respect of a contract, (goods, service or construction), on which a bidder is making a proposal which involves subcontracting, the bidder must certify in its bid that at least thirty-three percent of the value of the work performed under the contract will be performed by an Aboriginal business. Value of the work performed is considered to be the total value of the contract less any materials directly purchased by the contractor for the performance of the contract. Therefore, the bidder must notify and, where applicable, bind the subcontractor in writing with respect to the requirements that the Aboriginal Set-Aside Program (the Program) may impose on the subcontractor or subcontractors.

So even if Abotech subcontracts, the firm taking the work has to be aboriginal. Then what exactly does Abotech bring into the mix?

And if the subcontracting firm is not aboriginal, then Abotech has to retain enough of the work, one third or more, to qualify under these rules. Since David Smith is not leading the company, and no one has ever claimed that Anne Ethier is aboriginal, that leaves it to Cynthia, 14, and Sebastien, 16, to take on the work of IT Security Consultant and Specialist Applications Programmer/Analyst, respectively.

The government should have caught this:

The bidder's contract with a subcontractor must also, where applicable, include a provision in which the subcontractor agrees to provide the bidder with information, substantiating its compliance with the Program, and authorize the bidder to have an audit performed by Canada to examine the subcontractor's records to verify the information provided. Failure by the bidder to exact or enforce such a provision will be deemed to be a breach of contract and subject to the civil consequences referred to in this document.

Well, maybe they're catching it now, but I'd be interested to know exactly how long this has been going on.

[Hat tip to sslider for starting me on this track]





David Smith's extended Liberal Party bio

From a reader, this cached bio from the June 2004 election:

[Liberal] Candidate for the riding of Pontiac

David Smith is a manager who distinguishes himself by his integrity, his dynamics and his active involvement in the community. Mr Smith is presently studying at l'ecole nationale de l'administration publique in Gatineau. He has also studied Business Administration at Heritage College in Hull and at the Cite etudiante de la Haute-Gatineau, in Maniwaki.

At the time of his nomination, Mr Smith was a strategic planning officer for service integration at Public Works and Government Services Canada. Prior to that, he was a business manager for the same department. Mr Smith has more than 15 years experience as a businessman and former director for various businesses in the Outaouais.

Mr Smith was a municipal councillor for the town of Maniwaki. He was responsible for many committees such as public security and fire protection. He also served as a Board member for educational settings and was a member of the Quebec Liberal Party and also a member of their youth wing .

Mr Smith has worked with various community and charitable organizations. He was a board member with the Maniwaki Chamber of Commerce and has volunteered with the Canadian Cancer Society and the Saint Pierre Chanel Scout movement.

David Smith was born in Maniwaki and raised on a farm. He is 40 years old, and married to Anne Ethier since 1987 and are the parents of two children Cynthia 13 and Sebastien 15.

Also:

Authorized by the registered agent for the Liberal Party of Canada.

Some notable tidbits.

First, no mention of Abotech or of David Smith's aboriginal status. I wonder why.

Second, clearly his kids are too young to be running the business. As I deduced, the children are under the age of majority. In fact, they should still be in high school. If David Smith is not running the company, his wife, Anne Ethier, who is a nurse (confirmed via Don Corkery), is running this computer consulting firm on her own.

Update: Here's the same bio, not cached.





David Smith is as aboriginal as my Polish grandmother

That's the opinion of the Chief of Kitigan Zibi Band in Maniwaki, Quebec. Recall that Maniwaki is where Liberal MP David Smith, representing the riding of Pontiac, grew up.

I know because I spoke to Chief Jean-Guy Whiteduck an hour ago.

The "Polish grandmother" crack was mine, but Chief Whiteduck thought it was funny and laughed.

David Smith is embroiled in the Abotech affair, in which the computer consulting firm which he once led, now operated by his wife, and run out of their home in Gatineau, has had contracts terminated as a result of a KPMG audit of government contracts. Details are scarce right now, but there are hints as to what is going on. To me, the hints seem to point at contracts that are set-asides for aboriginal businesses. As an aboriginal, David Smith could have enjoyed preferential treatment in winning these set-asides.

First to make it clear -- no one seems to believe David Smith's claim to be an aboriginal, except the Liberal Party:

The Aboriginal Peoples’ Commission (APC) congratulate Mr. Todd Russell for his election on May 24th as the newest Liberal member of Parliament representing the riding of Labrador. Mr. Russell,who is of Inuit ancestry, will join fellow Aboriginal Liberals Hon. Ethel Blondin-Andrew, Minister of Northern Development, Ms. Nancy Karetak-Lindell, MP Nunavut, Mr. Paul Devillers, MP Simcoe North, and Mr. David Smith, MP Pontiac in caucus.

It's not just the Chief. His receptionist, another person in the band with whom I've had several email exchanges, David Smith's high school teacher (more on him later) -- all agree that David Smith's claim to be an aboriginal is bogus.

The Chief is adamant. There is no way that David Smith is a legitimate aboriginal. He is not recognized by the band as an aboriginal. So how could he be recognized as an aboriginal if aboriginals don't recognize him as such? Well, you can apply to be recognized through an organization like the Native Alliance of Quebec:

The N.A.Q.'s membership is open to all persons of aboriginal ancestry be it Metis, Status Indians (C-31), Non Status Indians living off-reserve in Quebec which meet the following criteria:
  • You must be of aboriginal ancestry (identity)
  • You must self-identify as an aboriginal person (pride)
  • You must be accepted by your community (belonging)
To become a member of the N.A.Q., you must attend a meeting of your local N.A.Q. community where you will be provided with the necessary documentation to apply. Persons residing in isolated areas may apply by mail directly to our Headquarters or to one of our Regional Offices.

You must also provide documented genealogical proof of your aboriginal ancestry. You must clearly show how you are directly related to a person who is qualified as an Aboriginal individual.

Needless to say, Chief Whiteduck is not particularly trusting of the NAQ and the vigour with which it checks these claims. In fact, the NAQ seems to have a pretty bad reputation, including allegations that the former chief of the NAQ, Guillaume Carle, sold membership cards printed by his own company, Nighthawk Technologies, to anyone for $70 each. After a legal fight, Carle was removed from his position.

A reader emailed me to tell me that at one point, 80% of the Maniwaki residents carried cards in the mistaken belief that they would gain tax benefits. When that was understood not to be true, the number of residents carrying such identification dropped to 20%. Chief Whiteduck related a similar experience.

But on what specifically could David Smith base his claim? It might have something to do with the farm he grew up on, which is part of the band lands. If you grow up on native lands, doesn't that make you a native? Perhaps, but when he grew up, the farm was not part of the band lands. It was an enclave inside the band lands but not recognized as theirs. It is actually subject to a land claim fight, but in the 90s (Chief Whiteduck could not be sure of the year), the band simply bought out the owners for expediency.

So technically his home is part of the band lands, but only recently.

He was not recognized as a member when he was a young man. That comes from Don Corkery, David Smith's high school teacher. David Smith went to high school at Cite Etudiante de la Haute-Gatineau.

Chief Whiteduck vouched for Mr Corkery's identity.

At the time, teachers knew who the native and non-native students were. It was part of the student's file, as well as occasionally discussed in staff meetings. Mr Corkery is adamant that David Smith made no such claim when he was in high school, nor in Mr Corkery's opinion, would such a claim have been justified. Based on David Smith's age, he was in high school during the 80s.

So not a native in the 80s, but a native now. Could David Smith have decided to become an aboriginal when his family farm was bought? After that, creating Abotech in his home and engaging in a scheme to land contracts from the Procurement Strategy for Aboriginal Business with the help of Frank Brazeau seems at least to be a feasible story.

One more thing. According to Chief Whiteduck, the family name of Brazeau is common enough in Maniwaki. I haven't figured out if Frank Brazeau, who seems to play a major part as the "inside man", came from this branch of the family. If he did, one wonders just how far back Smith and Brazeau go.

Update: Sharp-eyed Paul asks if once David Smith stopped being president of Abotech, did the firm stop being "aboriginal"? Recall that his two kids are part owners. If they have been granted some sort of aboriginal recognition because of their father's status, and the ownership of the firm is structured the right way (essentially, 51% ownership by aboriginals), then Abotech might still be able to play the set-aside game.

[Many thanks to Chief Whiteduck for taking the time to talk to me. Not only did he answer my questions, but he took the time to explain many of the subtleties surrounding these issues, as well as to share with me a bit of the history of the band and of Maniwaki.]





Major developments in the Abotech affair (and a major correction)

New developments on the story of David Smith, the MP for the riding of Pontiac.

From Hansard:

Mr. Pierre Poilievre (Nepean-Carleton, CPC): Mr. Speaker, Frank Brazeau, the secretary of a local Liberal association and a public servant, used his influence to secure $1 million in contracts for the Liberal member of Parliament for Pontiac. The KPMG auditing firm has found irregularities in contracts totalling $15 million also given by Mr. Brazeau.

Will the Prime Minister release KPMG's report now? Otherwise, what is he trying to hide?

Hon. Mauril Belanger (Minister for Internal Trade, Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Minister responsible for Official Languages and Associate Minister of National Defence, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, this matter is now before the Ethics Commissioner, as members well know. The member for Pontiac has committed to making the results of whatever the commissioner says public. I would hope that members opposite would wait for a response from the Ethics Commissioner before commenting further.

Mr. Pierre Poilievre (Nepean-Carleton, CPC): Mr. Speaker, this is more stonewalling.

A Liberal riding secretary used his influence to direct almost $1 million in contracts to a Liberal member of Parliament. Both men are close friends and ardent loyalists of the current Prime Minister and both have been lavishly rewarded for it. A KPMG report found that more than $15 million saw irregularities in the way it was handed out in the form of contracts.

Why will the Prime Minister not immediately release this KPMG audit so that taxpayers can know just how much he has been rewarding his Liberal friends?

Hon. Scott Brison (Minister of Public Works and Government Services, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, first of all, the review-and it is not an audit, it is a review-was commissioned by the department as part of our ongoing efforts to strengthen competition and to increase accountability.

The fact is that these contracts with the company were cancelled as a result of this review, but it is important to recognize that in all cases services were received for taxpayers' dollars and that in fact there were valuable services provided by the company. Furthermore, there has been disciplinary action taken against this employee.

Until now, the question has been limited to whether David Smith was actually far enough removed from the company he used to run (now run by his wife, and out of the family home) to be able to insulate himself from the disturbing hints of improperly granted contracts from PWGSC.

Now the circle widens.

François Brazeau, public servant and Liberal Party member, is named. Who is Brazeau? Not some two-bit bureaucrat, that's for sure:

François J Brazeau
Director General

Public Works and Government Services Canada<snip!>

I had the wrong Brazeau! There is a Frank Brazeau (as opposed to François), and while François is linked to David Smith by virtue of both having worked for PWGSC, this Frank Brazeau has a different link:

Frank Brazeau was a contracting officer at Consulting and Audit Canada whose performance came under the scrutiny of auditors at KPMG. In their recent report, the auditors raised allegations of irregularities in Mr. Brazeau's handling of contracts, finding a lack of documentation, backdating of contracts, manipulation of requests for proposals and irregular invoices.

Mr. Brazeau was initially suspended with pay, but he is no longer receiving a salary "pending further review," according to a senior federal official.

What is the link?

It's amazing. He helped coordinate the PSAB program for Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. What is PSAB?

Procurement Strategy for Aboriginal Business!

So there is the link to contracts that are supposed to go to aboriginal business. As I suggested earlier, I wondered if David Smith's Abotech was a front for non-aboriginal businesses landing work that was supposed to be set aside for aboriginal businesses.

And there is yet another link:

In addition to the past professional relationship between Mr. Brazeau and Mr. Smith, sources said that this past year Mr. Brazeau became the secretary of the Liberal association in Mr. Smith's riding of Pontiac, a rural area north of Gatineau, Que.

Association president Luc Martel confirmed in an interview that Mr. Brazeau was elected after the 2004 federal election, in which Mr. Smith first entered the House of Commons. Mr. Martel said the Liberal association is not very active and that Mr. Brazeau did not attend many of its meetings, and that Mr. Brazeau sent a letter of resignation last month. "We didn't meet very often, and when we did meet, he wasn't available," Mr. Martel said.

KPMG has found $15 million, managed by Brazeau, suffering from "irregularities". At least $1 million went to Smith and Abotech. Did other "aboriginal" friends of Frank Brazeau enjoy the rest of the good times? How about any Liberals and friends of Liberals?

And in case I have to say it, one final question: Did any of these friends offer a "success fee" to Frank Brazeau?

[Huge thanks to JM for catching the Brazeau mixup!]





Abotech: One competitive contract awarded

Looking through the MERX database, I can only find one award to Abotech. Abotech, as you recall, was owned by Liberal MP David Smith, representing the riding of Pontiac. After the June 2004 election, he passed control of the company to his wife. The contract itself seems to be on the up-and-up, but then the problem that has prompted the interest in Liberal MP David Smith's former company is with sole-sourced contracts. Presumably they wouldn't appear in the MERX database.

And this one contract I was able to find prompted some new questions.





The Abotech Affair: The Link between Indian Affairs and Public Works

In the emerging picture of Liberal MP David Smith, representing the riding of Pontiac, and his (former) firm Abotech, and the question of work that might have been done by Abotech in relation to aboriginal contracts (David Smith claims to be an aboriginal), it has to be noted that he himself did not work for the Ministry of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. Before becoming an MP, David Smith was a senior bureaucrat with Public Works and Government Sevices Canada.

Abotech received significant contracts, all from PWGSC, all under the category of "Other".

I have theorized that Abotech is taking advantage of its categorization as an aboriginal business to get contracts set aside for aboriginal businesses, and then pass the work off to the firms that David Smith once worked for (after a suitable cut, of course).

You'd expect that contracts would have been tendered from Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

What I have discovered is that Indian Affairs and Northern Development moves quite a bit of money through PWGSC.

Consider the following line items in the "2004-2005 Public Accounts of Canada: Professional and Special Services":


INDIAN AFFAIRS AND NORTHERN DEVELOPMENT

Department

Department management and Administration

Engineering and architectural services (including research):
PWGSC: $3,136,376

Informatics:
PWGSC: $225,125

Protection Services:
PWGSC: $149,753

Other professional services:
PWGSC: $2,398,137

Indian and Inuit Affairs

Accounting services:
PWGSC: $241,772

Engineering and architectural services (including research):
PWGSC: $10,535,048

Non-professional contracted services:
PWGSC: $138,916

Scientific services:
PWGSC: $151,920

Other professional services:
PWGSC: $7,569,018

Northern Affairs

Engineering and architectural services (including research):
PWGSC: $755,135

Scientific services:
PWGSC: $5,185,853

Other professional services:
PWGSC: $5,268,974

That's $35,756,027, or an astounding 21% of the $173,395,663 budget for Indian Affairs and Northern Development essentially subcontracted to PWGSC, home of the Sponsorship Program, and now subject to more questions about how Abotech was given contracts.

Was the money handed to Abotech by PWGSC without competitive bidding entrusted to PWGSC by Indian Affairs and Northern Development? Maybe Minister Andy Scott can give the Opposition a rest and pose a few questions of Minister Scott Brison during Question Period next week.





David Smith, Abotech, and Nursing

One of the questions left unanswered in the Abotech affair is whether it is reasonable to believe Anne Ethier, wife of MP David Smith (Liberal-Pontiac), could effectively lead a major computer consulting firm with no other employees.

It is an important question, because if the answer is "No", it suggests two possibilities, neither of them good news for David Smith:

Thanks to sharp-eyed reader JM, we might have an answer. This web page from the Universite du Quebec en Outaouais lists an Anne Eithier-Smith as a part-time lecturer in the Department of Nursing.

The name is right.

The place is right. The university campus is in Gatineau, at 238 Blvd Alexandre-Tache, three miles from the Smith residence on Rue Meilleur.

Not a lecturer in the business school, or the faculty of computer sciences. Nursing. Not to knock nurses, but unfortunately we are left with the impression that neither Anne Ethier (if this is indeed the right person), nor the kids who are also part owners of Abotech, are formally qualified to run this company. So is it company that is easy to run because someone else is doing the actual work that the government is paying for, or is David Smith still running Abotech from behind the scenes?





Could David Smith's kids be running Abotech?

I haven't written anything about Cynthia and Sebastien Smith, children of MP David Smith (Liberal-Pontiac), who is caught up in questions about contracts awarded to his company Abotech, which he says is owned and managed by his wife Anne Ethier. The kids are also part owners.

Because Abotech seems to run exclusively off of government contracts, his participation in the company would raise ethical questions. However, since the company is run by his wife and kids, and it is a home-based business, one wonders just how much distance there really is between David Smith and the workings of Abotech.

Reader Larry Joe posted this comment:

I want to know how old these children are? A 41 year old man could have children old enough to be doing meaningful work in the family business... but it's not all that common these days to start having children at 20-21 years of age.

Fair question, and since the kids are owners of the company, considering their role is legitimate (and not creepy delving into personal family affiars).

From his official Liberal party bio:

Married to Anne Ethier since 1987, they have two children, Cynthia and Sebastien.

Now I'm going to go out on a limb and posit that Cynthia and Sebastien were born after David Smith and Anne Ethier were married. If so, and assuming that they got started on having kids right away, that would make the oldest one 17.

Not of an age to be running a six-figure company. Of course, they could be much younger.

They might have been born before David Smith and Anne Ethier. David Smith, who is 41, would have been a dad at the age of 19 for the kids to have reached the age of 22, which I think is the minimum age these kids would have to be, that is, at least old enough to have gotten a bachelor's degree. Honestly, I think they'd have to be older.

But continuing with this theory, Anne Ethier is probably younger than David Smith. Just playing the odds here. If she is a year or two younger, then she would have been 17 when they had their first child. That would have been 1983. They didn't marry until four years later.

It might have happened that way. We just don't know.

But it's more likely that they got married in 1987, and started having kids a year or two later, making the oldest 15 or 16. Old enough to sign papers to be owners of a company in a legal sense, but I don't think old enough to be contributing much to running the place.





The press confirms David Smith works out of his home

The Ottawa Citizen ran a story Thursday, and local Conservatives aren't cutting David Smith much slack:

Reports of $1 million in federal contracts being awarded to a company once owned by Pontiac Liberal MP David Smith leave serious doubts about Mr. Smith's integrity, the head of the new Quebec wing of the federal Conservative party said yesterday.

Lawrence Cannon, a former Quebec Liberal cabinet minister who is now the Tory candidate in Pontiac, said a published report yesterday shows Mr. Smith is closely linked to Abotech Inc., a Gatineau computer consulting firm.

We get confirmation that Abotech is run from his home:

Mr. Smith, 41, a former federal public works employee, said his wife and two children have run the company from his home since he was elected in 2004 and he has nothing to do with it. He said he cleared his Abotech connection with federal ethics commissioner Bernard Shapiro and believes Mr. Cannon is "just playing small politics."

I reported that Abotech's corporate address was in fact David Smith's residence on Wednesday.

We also learn more details about how the Ethics Commissioner gave David Smith and Abotech a clean bill of health after the 2004 election:

Mr. Smith said he has provided all the information required on his assets and business interests and the holdings of his wife and family. He said he met KPMG auditors to explain his connection with Abotech and later told ethics commissioner Bernard Shapiro he would co-operate with an investigation.

"When I was elected, I submitted everything to the ethics commissioner for review and he consulted me on some issues," Mr. Smith said. "He said everything was in accordance with the regulations.

"I told Mr. Shapiro that my wife is now the majority shareholder in Abotech and the other shareholders are my two children. I wrote to Mr. Shapiro and requested that he look into these recent allegations. I have always been very transparent and answered all questions about myself."

But we still don't have an answer as to how a firm that he once run, a man who had years of experience in computer consulting, was handed over to his wife and kids with absolutely no further involvement from him, and yet continued to provide services worth hundred of thousands of dollars to the federal government.





David Smith, Jaguar Solutions, ASM Informatique -- close, literally

An interesting tidbit about David Smith, Liberal MP for the riding of Pontiac, and the two computer firms he once worked for as a senior manager, Jaguar Solutions and ASM Informatique.

As you already know, David Smith is in some trouble because the computer firm he once led, Abotech, which had made quite a bit of money from government contracts, is having some of those contracts terminated as a result of a government audit. They were sole-sourced, meaning the government ministry was just handing money over to Abotech without looking for competitive bids.

When he resigned as president of Abotech to avoid conflict of interest, he simply made his wife president. So that means he's sleeping with the boss. But if that doesn't make you suspicious about just how much distance Smith has put between himself and Abotech, it also turns out that Abotech is run out of David Smith's house.

Now it turns out that Jaguar and ASM do significant work with First Nations, though neither is listed as an aboriginal business. Abotech is listed, since David Smith is an aboriginal, so you have to wonder if Abotech is really just a front, landing contracts meant to go to aboriginal business, taking a cut, then handing off to Jaguar or ASM to do the real work.

That's just a theory, of course.

What follows is not a theory.

Here is a map showing the route from Apotech corporate headquarters to Jaguar Solutions:

That's a distance of 1.4 miles.

You might think that's close, but then consider the distance between David Smith's constituency office in Maniwaki and the offices of ASM Informatique (I won't be using a map for this one):

David Smith, Constituency Office
100 Principal Street South Suite 225
Maniwaki, Quebec
J9E 3L4

ASM Informatique inc.
100, Principale Sud, suite 241
Maniwaki (Quebec)
J9E 3L4
Tel: 819.449.4159
Fax : 819.449.4728

What's that, maybe 8 or so doors over?

Maybe he originally worked for Jaguar because it was close to home. Maybe everything in Gatineau is within spitting distance of everything else. Maybe 100 Principal Street is the only commercial office space Smith could get in Maniwaki. Or maybe he really liked the building from his ASM days. But this certainly caught my eye.





David Smith, Jaguar Solutions, ASM Informatique, and Government Contracts

Here is a theory to explain what David Smith, Liberal MP for the riding of Pontiac, and Abotech have been doing for the government for the last few years.

It links his former employers, the federal government, and Abotech in a plausible network to deliver federal contracts designated for aboriginal businesses to non-aboriginal businesses.

It is just a theory.





Liberals: David Smith might have done something wrong. Really!

Yesterday I posted on how questions about David Smith, Liberal MP for the riding of Pontiac, and Abotech couldn't be asked on the floor of the House of Commons because the rules state that when the Ethics Commissioner is investigating a problem, there can be no comment.

It seemed like the government was able to hide behind the Commissioner.

Well, apparently, this is not the case. The Ethics Commissioner is not investigating anything. He was approached by David Smith seeking an opinion. That's covered under different rules, rules that do not exclude asking more questions:

Mr. Jay Hill (Prince George—Peace River, CPC): Mr. Speaker, yesterday in response to a question during question period the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons said:

—the hon. member for Pontiac denies any wrongdoing on his part, but has written to the Ethics Commissioner to ask him to look into this matter. I hope the member opposite waits for a response from the Ethics Commissioner before commenting on this issue in the House again.

Later in question period the member for Nepean--Carleton asked the following question:

The Globe and Mail is reporting today that KPMG had found irregularities in the activities of the firm run by the family of the MP for Pontiac.

The Speaker then ruled the question out of order, citing subsection 27(5) of Appendix 1 to the Standing Orders which reads:

Once a request for an inquiry has been made to the Ethics Commissioner, members should respect the process established by this Code and permit it to take place without commenting further on the matter.

Mr. Speaker, the subsection you cited is a subsection of section 27. Section 27 deals with the matter of a member who has reasonable grounds to believe that another member has not complied with his or her obligations under the code. Under section 27 the Ethics Commissioner would then conduct an inquiry into the matter.

In the case involving the member for Pontiac, it was not another member who initiated an investigation; it was the member himself who made an inquiry. Such inquiries are covered under section 26. Section 26 deals with seeking an opinion and has nothing to do with an investigation. Subsection 26(1) states:

In response to a request in writing from a Member on any matter respecting the Member's obligations under this Code, the Ethics Commissioner may provide the Member with a written opinion containing any recommendations that the Ethics Commissioner considers appropriate.

Therefore, there is no investigation under way. An opinion has been sought and under the rules there are no restrictions regarding the asking of questions in this House.

The remaining subsections of section 26 deal with the opinion being confidential, that the opinion is binding on the Ethics Commissioner and that the last subsection provides rules for the publication of said opinion.

Mr. Speaker, with respect, I contend that you applied the wrong section of the code. A member cannot initiative an investigation into himself. A member can seek an opinion and that is covered under section 26 and not section 27.

Mr. Speaker, in conclusion, I would submit that if your ruling were to stand, it would mean that at any point when government members' activities were called into question, all that would be required to avoid any further questions in this place would be to have those members request the Ethics Commissioner to look into the matter. Given the government's propensity toward questionable behaviour, at some point soon the Ethics Commissioner could be looking into dozens of Liberal members and the opposition would be unable to ask any further questions.

Hon. Dominic LeBlanc (Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I understand and appreciate the comments made by the opposition House leader.

I am conscious, Mr. Speaker, that the rule was designed precisely to allow the Ethics Commissioner to complete his work obviously in a timely way but to complete that work free from increasingly nasty comments made about the work he has undertaken in this particular case.

If we want the Ethics Commissioner, who is an officer of the House, to be able to do his work, I think that the minimum respect for the institution of the Ethics Commissioner requires that he be able to do that work free from undue comment which can be publicly very harmful to members of the House before the Ethics Commissioner has in fact arrived at some conclusions.

Mr. Speaker, I want to tell you and members of the House that it was always the intention of the member for Pontiac that the Ethics Commissioner's report, once it is completed, be made public. I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the member for Pontiac that once the Ethics Commissioner completes his work and arrives at a conclusion, the member for Pontiac will be very happy to make that report public.

The Speaker: I thank the hon. House leader for the opposition and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government for their interventions on this matter. I was going to say something on the issue anyway before the issue was raised. I will say it now.

Yesterday during question period, this matter was alluded to in a question by the hon. member for Toronto—Danforth. The government House leader replied, as indicated in the comments earlier, that the hon. member had asked the Ethics Commissioner “to look into this matter” and asked for members to refrain from referring to the case until the work had been completed.

Later in question period, the Chair reminded members of section 27(5) of the Ethics Code in Appendix 1 of the Standing Orders that enjoins members from referring to an inquiry being conducted under that section.

I now understand that a request made by an hon. member to the Ethics Commissioner to clarify his obligations under the code is mandated under section 26 of the code, which governs opinions sought from the commissioner.

Accordingly, I wish to clarify that there is no specific rule prescribing members from raising this matter in the House. However, I urge them to be judicious in their language and the phrasing of any such reference.

I remind them that the questions that are asked about this must deal with government business and government responsibilities, and not the responsibilities of the hon. member under the code. He cannot be questioned on this matter in the House during question period because questions must be directed to ministers and must deal with matters of ministerial government responsibility.

I know that all hon. members would want to avoid a situation where, in the heat of the moment, they would find themselves contravening Standing Order 18 which specifically prohibits the use of offensive words and I quote:

—against either House, or against any Member thereof.

I think that will deal with the matter. We could now move on to orders of the day.

So Dominic LeBlanc tried to run interference, and spin the Ethics Commissioner's interest in the David Smith matter as a full blown investigation in order to shut down debate, but the Speaker was not having any of it. David Smith asked merely for an opinion, and that means it's fair game.

No questions were actually asked because Points of Order are dealt with after Question Period, which means we'll have to wait until today to see what the questions are asked and what answers are given.

While we wait, we can amuse ourselves with the spectacle of the Liberals demanding that the actions of one of its members be dealt with as a serious ethics violation worthy of a full-blown investigation as a means of protecting the party.

Leave it to the Liberals to make corruption into a virtue.





Abotech Scandal Update #4: The nature of the work performed -- "Other"

Lots of money flowed into Abotech from the government. To do what? It's not obvious.




Abotech Scandal Update #3: Now Abotech is an aerospace company?

What exactly is Abotech? Computer consulting firm or launch facility for spacecraft?




Hiding behind the Ethics Commissioner

Now that the Ethics Commissioner is involved, David Smith and the dealings of his former company Abotech are off limits in the House of Commons.




Abotech Scandal Update #2: MP David Smith's six-figure company is run out of his home

So Liberal MP David Smith, representing the riding of Pontiac, is in hot water because the company of he was president has had several lucrative government contracts terminated as a result of an audit. The reasons include the fact that the contracts were sole-sourced.

My interest was piqued by the fact that I could not find any web presence for this computer consulting firm called Abotech. What sort of computer company doesn't have a web presence?

It's not even listed in the Yellow Pages. How did it ever get any contracts?

David Smith, a high ranking bureaucrat with Public Works and Government Services Canada before becoming an MP, claims to have severed all ties with this company when he was elected to parliament in June 2004, but the federal database lists him as president as recently as April 2005.

But maybe the data is old. On the other hand, the new president of the company is his wife, and his two kids are the other major owners. So the question remains about how severed he really is.

That questions becomes more complicated when you realize that he eats and sleeps at the head office. That's right, Abotech is run out of David Smith's house.




Abotech Scandal Update

The Abotech story continues to intrigue me. More inconsistencies are developing. Just who is in charge of Abotech?




Another Liberal scandal brewing

Is there another Liberal scandal starting to form on the horizon?




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