Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Dilemma of David Smith's Abotech

Angry_in_TO, of course, is all over this David Smith / Abotech story, but I figured I'd try a Google search to see what kind of business Abotech did with the government. Here's one that should get you thinking:

For "accounting and audit services," Abotech did a contract for April-June 2004 at Indian Residential Schools Resolution Canada -- $24,000 for 3 months work.

All well and good. It's just that Mr. Smith happens to sit on the House Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, which recently issued a report which was critical of the government's handling of the residential schools issue.

Conflict of interest?

Strictly speaking, no. The contract wrapped up before Mr. Smith was elected to Parliament. The fact that he'd done work on the residential schools issue as a contractor would certainly have led to his membership on the Committee, but he wouldn't make any extra money from that.

But could an argument be made that a conflict exists?

Certainly. Mr. Smith's dealings with IRSRC, as a contractor, may have colored his feelings about the issue, resulting in a more critical report (unless, of course, he recused himself).

Now, how strong an argument this is will depend on your own definition of conflict of interest. Angry is more focused on the idea that, as a parliamentarian, Mr. Smith may give his family's firm an unfair current advantage in competing for small contracts. (The transfer of title to his wife is acknowledged, pretty much by everyone, as a legal workaround.) I'm more inclined to wonder if Abotech's work may have influenced Mr. Smith's work as a parliamentarian.