Newspaper misses key point in conflict of interest story

There was a follow-up story by Patrick Dare in The Ottawa Citizen of February 8 [earlier web version no longer online; it had two informative sentences that were deleted in the print version]. It reports that Ted Cooper wrote to the Ministry of Natural Resources last fall, requesting an investigation into a possible conflict of interest involving a Ministry official who reviewed and advised on consulting engineering work done for Kanata West. Having been rebuffed at first, on December 18 he wrote to the Deputy Minister of MNR, requesting as per protocol that the matter be turned over to the Conflict of Interest Commissioner. Read Ted Cooper’s letter here.

The article omits any mention of the Conflict of Interest Commissioner. Instead, prominence is given to the wife of the MNR official who is said to be “‘offended’ by suggestion of conflict” (headline on the second page of the print version). Ted Cooper made no allegations against the spouse.

The article, as well as the CBC Radio morning news report on this story the same day, also let MNR spokespersons say without challenge that the Ministry is investigating. I.e., MNR backtracked because they had done their investigation and had denied that their former employee had violated the Public Service Act. At this point the request for an investigation should be handed over to the Conflict of Interest Commissioner.

Officials investigating themselves, hmmm, where have I heard that before? It’s behaviour akin to what Patrick Dare’s piece helpfully reported on at the end: Mayor O’Brien got together yesterday with Minto’s Jack Sterling, Michael Green (Kanata West Owners Group) and Susan Murphy, the former City official who was very much front and centre when the Kanata West file moved through the city approval process. Councillor Peggy Feltmate also attended. Dare says that the developers have put out a statement yesterday (which I can’t find on the web), saying they expect any changes to be minor and to have revised results ready in a few days. Making up to a metre higher flood level go away? It’ll be interesting to see how they accomplish that feat.

It seems to me that the diversion and cover-up efforts are out in full force. When will the media catch on to what the real story is here, namely the complete failure of the development review process? Kanata West is a spectacular example but, sadly, far from unique in this city. Any chance that our politicians will grab this by the horns?

Erwin Dreessen