OTTAWA — Former Liberal cabinet minister Allan Rock says Conservatives are off base to claim “blatant” cronyism is behind a sole-sourced contract the federal government is looking to award the non-profit he chairs.
Conservative MPs Michael Barrett and Jacques Gourde, their party’s ethics critics, rose during question period Monday to draw attention to a tender notice suggesting the government is moving to award a $120,000 contract to Security Council Report (SCR).
Rock, a former Jean Chrétien-era cabinet minister and UN ambassador, is chair of the New York-based organization that monitors United Nations Security Council activities and provides training for member states to navigate its specialized rules.
“The prime minister has mandated that his ministers hold themselves to the highest ethical standards. But now we know they’re in the process of awarding a sole-sourced contract to former Liberal MP Allan Rock,” Barrett said. He called it a “blatant example of Liberal cronyism.”
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“The hallmark of this Liberal government is ethical breaches and cover-ups,” Barrett said in an email to HuffPost Canada, referencing the SNC-Lavalin affair and the prime minister’s previous Conflict of Interest Act breaches. “This is not a demonstration of a commitment to the highest ethical standards — and Canadians deserve better.”
Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne responded to the Tory attack in the House of Commons, saying the government is “always going to uphold the highest standard of ethical behaviour.”
The answer prompted MPs in opposition benches to laugh.
“We’re going to welcome any voices who can contribute to our foreign policy,” Champagne said.
Rock said he’s at “quite at a loss to understand” why the Conservatives are pouncing on a bid that he had no personal involvement in.
He told HuffPost Canada that he derives “no benefit” from any contract awarded to the non-profit organization.
“I am not paid for my work at SCR, and indeed I pay my own expenses to fly to New York for our board meetings, which are three per year,” Rock said.
“While I am actively involved in fundraising efforts on behalf of SCR, I played no part in the effort to achieve the contract with Canada for SCR training.”
Rock said SCR operates on an USD $2.7 million budget, slightly up from USD $2.6 million in 2018.
The former justice and health minister served as the permanent representative of Canada to the United Nations from 2004 to 2006. After joining SCR in 2018, he was elected chair in March 2019.
Details of the Global Affairs contract outline a requirement for a contractor that can offer “personnel specialized core training, over the course of two or more learning events, for country teams preparing for membership on the United Nations Security Council.”
Canada is currently in competition for one of two upcoming non-permanent seats on the UN Security Council. Norway and Ireland are also vying for the same spot in an election this summer.
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Global Affairs spokesperson Krystyna Dodds defended the nature of the contract, calling it beneficial regardless if Canada wins or loses its multi-year campaign for a Security Council seat.
She said seven of the 10 current elected member states on the Security Council have hired SCR for training.
“This training will enhance Canada’s ability to engage multilaterally on key global security issues relating to the UN Security Council’s work. It will be valuable irrespective of the result of the June vote,” Dodds said.
According to government rules, a competitive process will be triggered if a new firm jumps into the fray before the Jan. 31 closing date for the contract. If no other firm bids for the contract, it will be awarded to SCR.
The fate of Canada’s bid for a UN Security Council seat will be decided in a secret ballot vote cast by the UN’s 193 member states in June.