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OPINION: Long-standing relationships

Bernard Lord, Medavie Blue Cross CEO and former New Brunswick premier, took part in a mental health announcement at Mount Allison University in this March 2017 file photo.

(SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Bernard Lord, Medavie Blue Cross CEO and former New Brunswick premier, took part in a mental health announcement at Mount Allison University in this March 2017 file photo. (SUBMITTED PHOTO) - The Guardian

Islanders must demand fibre-optic, health projects put on hold: neither pass smell test

BY KEVIN ARSENAULT

GUEST OPINION

Premier Wade MacLauchlan recently announced two major projects: A fibre-optic backbone; and an expansion of home-care health services. I wonder if Islanders realize MacLauchlan – and two other premiers – have long-standing relationships with the corporate beneficiaries of these mega-million dollar initiatives? Read carefully, the interlocking connections and time-lines are a tad confusing.

In 2006, the premier of N.B., Bernard Lord, left politics and became the CEO of the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA). The new premier, Shawn Graham, subsequently gave Xplornet (a CWTA member, and wholly-owned subsidiary of Barrett Corporation) a $13 million contract to improve rural internet service (untendered).

In 2011, the premier of P.E.I., Robert Ghiz, secretly amended the $8.2 million (untendered) contract he awarded Bell-Aliant (a CWTA member) in 2007 to provide rural Islanders with DSL internet, increasing it to $23 million.

In Nov. 2017, Wade MacLauchlan announced a surprise mega-telecommunications project to build approximately 1500 KM of fibre-optic cable across P.E.I. at an estimated cost of $30 million. An RFP has since been issued; however, there have been no public consultations.

All we know for sure about this project is that a telecommunications company that Robert Ghiz currently lobbies for, stands to make a small fortune. After resigning in 2015, Ghiz replaced Bernard Lord as CEO of the CWTA when Lord (already a Medavie board member for eight years) became Medavie's CEO. Medavie has three divisions with more than 6,000 employees: Medavie Blue Cross; Medavie Health Services; and Medavie Health Foundation. And here’s where it gets really interesting.

Wade MacLauchlan became a board member of the Medavie Health Foundation in 2009, and was appointed chair in 2013. He was also a director of Medavie for years, until becoming premier. His first disclosure statement revealed he received director fees from both Medavie Inc. and the Medavie Health Foundation.

The board seat MacLauchlan vacated at Medavie was subsequently filled by (I know it’s hard to believe) Robert Ghiz. And Ed Barrett (co-owner of Barrett Corporation and Xplornet, which received the $13 million contract from Bernard Lord) has also been a long-time director of Medavie.

Medavie Health Services N.B. (which already ran N.B.’s ambulance service, like Island-EMS in P.E.I.) was recently granted a 10-year contract (untendered) to deliver the extramural and Tele-Care services (effective January 1, 2018) worth $4.4 million annually. CUPE, the N.B. Nurses Union, and the Vitalité Health Network have all condemned the privatization of the management of these health services.

Not to be outdone, Premier MacLauchlan has just awarded Island-EMS a contract (untendered) for $450,000 annually to provide homecare health services. But unlike N.B., the healthcare workers will also be private, not just management. And to be clear, Island-EMS is wholly-owned by Medavie Health Services, with the very same directors: Erik Sande, President; John Diamond, CFO and Treasurer; and Daniel Marcil, Chief Operating Officer.

Mona O’Shea, president of the P.E.I. Nurses’ Union, has condemned MacLauchlan’s decision to award this contract to a for-profit private corporation and asks why the money wasn’t just used to hire more nurses. She may be unaware of MacLauchlan’s and Ghiz’s long-standing interest in Medavie.

Opposition parties, other unions . . . indeed, all Islanders must demand that the fibre-optic and health-care projects are put on hold until public consultations take place: neither pass the smell test.

- Kevin J Arsenault lives in Ft. Augustus. He obtained his PhD in ethics from McGill University.

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