Saturday, July 18, 2009

Minister of State Gary Goodyear Moves From Small Time Scandals to the Big Time

It's a story that has all the hallmarks of a full-blown political scandal: small children in desperate need, millions of dollars in fees paid by would-be adoptive parents, the Christian fundamentalists who run the adoption agency diverting funds into their own pockets - and finally, a federal cabinet minister (married to one of the principals at the agency) who got on the gravy train in the form of $3,000/month rent for offices the agency didn't use.

It's a scandal that's exploding, with stories in papers across Canada and the United States. Meanwhile the three directors of Imagine Adoption (also known as Kids Link International) are out of the country and out of touch, leading to speculation that they'll disappear with the money (both from a recent mortgage on a home renovated with the agency's funds and, possibly, fees diverted from the agency).

Macleans magazine has a good, brief summary here. Local papers have stories today here and here. There is a lot more digging to do: Conservative MP Gary Goodyear is a chiropractor, and the office he charged the adoption agency $3,000/month to rent is 382 Queen Street West, Cambrdige, a chiropractic clinic. Also, it appears that early estimates about the amount of money involved are understated: the agency has about 450 adoptive families paying an average of $15,000 each, plus some sizable charitable donations, which may bring revenues closer to $10M than the $800,000 initially reported.

Those of us who live in or near Goodyear's Cambridge riding are not all that surprised at his involvement in this distasteful business. Goodyear's political career has always had a shady undertone.

This isn't Goodyear's first scandal involving rent. In his first election campaign in 2004, Goodyear took a campaign contribution kickback to lease his campaign office. (His campaign manager later admitted to this, although he provided a dodgy explanation that avoided prosecution.)

In his first major parliamentary appointment (as chair of the Procedure and House Affairs Committee subcommittee on Parliament Hill Security), Goodyear behaved so badly that the committee ousted him with a vote of non-confidence.

After being named Minister of State for Science and Technology by Stephen Harper, Goodyear was asked about evolution, and answered, "I am a Christian, and I don't think anybody asking a question about my religion is appropriate." Later he clarified, saying he does believe in evolution, but later he clarified his clarification, saying he doesn't believe that evolution was the process by which we were created. This controversy unfolded as Goodyear oversaw $150M in funding cuts for science, including massive cuts to Genome Canada, with both controversies creating widespread outrage in the scientific community.

Just recently Goodyear was back in the news, using his cabinet clout to interfere with academic freedom. James Turk, executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, said, "I'm not aware, (in) the history of granting councils in this country, of any minister doing what Minister Goodyear has done. Almost everyone understands that's crossing the line."

Prior to revelations of Goodyear's involvement in the adoption scandal, I chalked up a lot of his mistakes to inexperience and mediocrity. After all, here's a guy who bombed out of university and is a small businessman, thrown into a political arena where he was clearly out of his depth. Harper has a well-established practice of appointing loyal but incompetent MPs to his cabinet - it's the only way he has to keep such a strong grip on all portfolios. Harper's government has consequently had a much higher than average number of cabinet scandals, and in the end you have to blame the boss, not the dupes who take the fall for him.

But this scandal has the potential to really do in Gary Goodyear. Unless he can explain why a company he owns is charging his wife's employer $3,000/month for an office they don't use, it looks like he is not just associated with crooks, but a crook himself.

Update: MP Goodyear linked to bankrupt agency (The Record, July 22)



Cari said...

How about that. I never thought much of him. I..couldn't stand him, in fact..... Now I know why.

Anonymous said...

What's the fair market value of the rental property?

Yappa said...

Anonymous at 3:27 -

What does it matter what the fair market value of the rental property is when the agency wasn't using it? Why is an adoption agency that employs his wife paying rent on a chiropractic clinic?

In addition: Does Goodyear (who is a chiropractor) have any commercial interest in the chiropractic clinic? And: Is the chiropractic clinic also paying rent on the property?

The arrangement looks especially fishy in light of the other money the directors of the agency purportedly siphoned off for their own use: having renovations done on their home and renting luxury vehicles. There may be an explanation, but the presumption is that the rent was paid as a way to siphon money to Mrs. Goodyear.