Winnipeg Free Press takes a run at Vic Toews

Mia Rabson and Dan Lett of the Winnipeg Free Press make a story out of what they perceive to be a non-disclosure of pension income from former Manitoba MLA Vic Toews, now Minister of Public Safety in the government of Canada. Rabson and Toews have sparred before in print and this story suggests that Toews has neglected to follow requirements for full disclosure and is running afoul of his party’s pledge of accountability.

The story as reported by the Winnipeg Free Press:

MP’s pension not listed on registry
Court documents show Toews receives $18,000 annually from province

OTTAWA — Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has not disclosed $18,000 in annual pension payments as required by law in a conflict-of-interest declaration for the public registry he personally signed.

The Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons requires all MPs to disclose assets, liabilities and sources of income over $1,000 outside their MP salary. If they earn income over $10,000, that fact is to be made public in a disclosure summary posted on the ethics commissioner’s website. There is no pension income listed in Toews’ most recent summary he signed on March 5, 2009. All MPs are required to review and sign the annual summaries before they are made public. Toews’ office insists he made the disclosure although it has never appeared on the summaries made available to the public over the past four years.

There are 48 MPs from all political parties who have pension income listed in their disclosure summaries.

Documents obtained by the Free Press show Manitoba’s senior federal cabinet minister has been earning the pension since 2007.

In an affidavit filed in Manitoba court April 10, 2010, Toews acknowledges earning $18,267.84 a year from the Manitoba Civil Service Superannuation Board. Those pension payments began when he turned 55 in September 2007.

Also included in court documents is an email Toews wrote to his lawyer in May 2007. In that email, Toews indicates he had not disclosed to the ethics commissioner the pension he was about to start receiving or a condo his wife owned in Gatineau, Que.

When the Free Press asked about that email in June, Christine Csversko, Toews’ director of communications said “the email is not accurate.”

Ethics have been a key flashpoint on Parliament Hill since the sponsorship scandal helped lead to the defeat of Paul Martin’s Liberal government. The Harper Tories came to power largely on a promise to raise the ethical bar of the country’s federal politicians by introducing a new era of accountability and transparency.

The Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons has been in place since 2004 and is intended to enhance public confidence in both MPs and Parliament, demonstrate to the public that MPs are held to standards that place the public interest above their personal interests and provide a transparent system for the public to judge whether or not that is true.

Each year, MPs must disclose to the commissioner assets and liabilities, including outside income over $1,000, property, businesses, investments, and debts such as loans, mortgages and credit card debt. Only certain things are made public, such as the existence and source for mortgages and loans, businesses owned by the MP and outside income over $10,000 annually.

A spokeswoman with the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner told the Free Press via email Thursday “income over $1,000 received in last 12 months and during the next 12 months must be disclosed to our office. It is only made public (source and nature, no value) if the income is over $10,000.”

Margot Booth, manager of communications for the ethics commissioner’s office, said she could not comment specifically on Toews’ situation other than to say a misunderstanding or administrative error could explain why information was missing on the public registry.

Toews’ spokesman, Chris McCluskey, said he has confirmed with the Office of the Ethics Commissioner that Toews “disclosed the existence of Government of Manitoba pension income in 2006.”

McCluskey did not respond Thursday when asked to explain why the pension income is not on any disclosure summary.

All that is contained on the latest summary for Toews dated March 5, 2009, are two blind trusts. According to Toews’ 2006 disclosure summary, those include an RSP and an investment account.

And a statement from Vic Toews’ office:

“Contrary to the false and misleading information disseminated by the Winnipeg Free Press in its July 16 edition, Minister Toews has properly disclosed all income to the Ethics Commissioner, as required. This includes a pension related to prior employment outside of politics. This disclosure was first made in 2006 and disclosure has been acknowledged by the Office of the Ethics Commissioner. Minister Toews is not in receipt of any pension income as a result of holding any political office.”

The statement from the Office of the Ethics Commissioner is provided for your reference below:

“In the spring of 2006, Minister Toews disclosed to our Office his pension rights under the Government of Manitoba Civil Service Superannuation plan. At the time, he provided a statement of his deferred pension benefits indicating that a monthly pension would be payable commencing September 10, 2007. At the time, it was the practice adopted by our predecessor (the Office of the Ethics Commissioner) not to include any future income in the Disclosure Summary signed by MPs. This practice has recently been revised to better reflect the requirements of the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons. The annual review of the compliance arrangements of MPs is currently underway and the source and nature of income over $10,000 to be received in the next 12 months, if any, will now be included in the public disclosure of MPs.

In accordance with established practice at the time, the Disclosure Summary signed by Minister Toews on May 31, 2006 did not include any information concerning income to be received in the next 12 months. Pension rights are not subject to public disclosure.

An annual review of Minister Toews’ compliance arrangements next took place starting in November 2008 and was completed in March 2009. Due to an administrative oversight on the part of our Office, the documents sent to Minister Toews for his review did not reflect the information he had provided to our Office with respect to the receipt of pension income from September 2007 onward, although they did make reference to pension rights from the Government of Manitoba. Minister Toews returned the documents to our Office without an annotation concerning the receipt of pension income. A Disclosure Summary was prepared by our Office and signed by Mr. Toews on March 5, 2009.

In summary, although Minister Toews could have corrected the deficiency in the documents, the Office did have the information on file that pension income had been anticipated. Not including it in the Disclosure Summary for his signature was an oversight on the part of the Office. An annual review of Minister Toews’ compliance arrangements is currently underway and a new and updated Disclosure Summary will be signed and deposited in our Public Registry once the review is completed.”

Chris McCluskey, the aforementioned spokesman for Minister Toews posted the following comment on the Winnipeg Free Press’ story,

The reporter requesting comment, Mia Rabson, was advised by e-mail from the Office of the Minister of Public Safety yesterday afternoon at 2:56PM EST that the statement expressed in this article is false. Her question, and our response, were as follows:

“Q: We would like to know why the pension income is not listed in his disclosure summary. Was it in fact disclosed? If not why not?

A: As confirmed by the Office of the Ethics Commissioner, Minister Toews disclosed the existence of Government of Manitoba pension income in 2006.”

In spite of this, the editors of the Winnipeg Free Press went to print with a news item containing a statement which they knew to be false. The Minister’s Office has requested a retraction. We have been waiting for an acknowledgement of this request since 3:30PM EST this afternoon.

The statement released by the Office of the Ethics Commissioner is clear:

“IN THE SPRING OF 2006, MINISTER TOEWS DISCLOSED TO OUR OFFICE HIS PENSION RIGHTS UNDER THE GOVERNMENT OF MANITOBA CIVIL SERVICE SUPERANNUATION PLAN”

We continue to wait for confirmation of receipt of our e-mail to the Winnipeg Free Press, accompanied by a reasoned answer as to why the article containing false statements was intentionally printed. We believe the readers of the WFP deserve no less.

The comment still does not appear on the story and is currently being held in moderation (McCluskey emailed me a copy). The WFP story still appears on their website despite information that they have received from Toews’ office and from the Ethics Commissioner.

Comments

comments

  • Lou

    This is all pathetic. Leave the guy alone. No wonder we can't get cool people to go into public office – it is a war on anyone who has more than minimum wage.

  • E Mac

    Of course it is. When you believe you have something to run with – “to Hell with the consequences.”
    I would be putting out a case of suit at the earliest possible opportunity to put these people in their proper “rut” and get an apology for the misuse of journalistic stupidity of which cannot be fixed.
    These guys need to be taken down a peg. Do it once, do it right Vic.
    Kudos to you!
    E Mac

  • E Mac

    Of course it is. When you believe you have something to run with – “to Hell with the consequences.”
    I would be putting out a case of suit at the earliest possible opportunity to put these people in their proper “rut” and get an apology for the misuse of journalistic stupidity of which cannot be fixed.
    These guys need to be taken down a peg. Do it once, do it right Vic.
    Kudos to you!
    E Mac

  • Liz J

    Yeah it's pathetic but worse than that, it's an attempt to slander and should be dealt with accordingly.

  • CanadianSense

    The Press may not accept facts as evidence, after all they have bought CAGW, wafer hook line and sinker with any scrutiny.

    The Press can be bought and controlled. Large advertisers, editorial oversight can dictate the direction of what is published.

  • http://www.stephentaylor.ca Stephen Taylor

    Apprpve

  • batb

    Thanks for this, Stephen. 'Smacks of some kind of witch hunt; is it coincidental that Vic Toews is a member of the CPC government?

    It IS pathetic. If the WFP doesn't retract their allegations, they should be sued. I am SO tired of the Canadian MSM going after Conservatives for supposed splinters of wrongdoing while they leave Liberal$ alone for whole trees — heck, forests — of misconduct.

  • Bugaboo

    Why is he even collecting a government pension (albeit a different level of government) while serving as an elected official?

  • Bugaboo

    Why is he even collecting a government pension (albeit a different level of government) while serving as an elected official?

  • http://www.stephentaylor.ca Stephen Taylor

    We should hold elected officials and cabinet ministers to a higher level, but this story is really twisting itself out of shape to believe something that isn't true.

  • http://www.stephentaylor.ca Stephen Taylor

    I think the WFP and Toews are spending this Saturday weighing all options.

  • http://www.stephentaylor.ca Stephen Taylor

    The problem is when you believe something to be true in your heart and you try to place facts around the belief trying to make the case. You eventually see the world through your own distorted lens.

  • http://www.stephentaylor.ca Stephen Taylor

    The problem with being a cabinet minister I suppose is that you don't generally take on your detractors in court because of the attention it draws.

    That, and generally one has more important things to do.

  • Riley

    Sort of like believing coalition governments are illegitimate.

  • http://www.stephentaylor.ca Stephen Taylor

    Coalition governments when formed six months after the GG asks another party leader to form government are constitutional but lack moral authority.

    /here endeth the threadjack

  • Strawberrysnowsuit

    The WFP is a an extension of the Liberal Party of Canada and Rabson in particular goes out of her way to write negative articles about the Conservatives. She is an embarrassment to journalists everwhere. To give you an idea of the level of reporting in the WFP – there hot story is that Mayor Sam Katz, who is divorced, is dating a younger woman. Front page news apparently.

  • Furtz

    Minister Toews has demonstrated himself to be a totally honest man over the course of his long and distinguished career in politics. With his strong Christian and family values, it seems unlikely that he intentionally hid (did not disclose) this income.

  • http://marginalizedactiondinosaur.net maddinosaur

    I don't ever remember the free Press reporting what Lloyd Axworthy's pensions are. Bet your tush they are a lot more than 18k.

    Just more MSM bias, all the more reason to destroy them by blogging.

  • Regulas

    Unfortunately, all too many people listen to a few sound bites, glance at a few headlines, then trot off to the polls to vote. It's one of the 'Lie'beral's & NDP's greatest assets.

  • Liz J

    Agreed. Ontario voters are a perfect example, they returned a proven fibber and bad manager over one issue that grabbed the headlines.

  • Relayer9

    Type your comment here.
    I hope Toews sues the pants off Rabson, Lett, and the WFP. I can't say I'm impressed by the man, or by his complete failure to rein in the RCMP, but he deserves a public apology from the WFP and it's incompetent employees.

  • Sawgrass08

    The Winnipeg Free Press has disabled the comment section on this story. Not surprising because of the shoddy reporting.

  • Bugzy

    We do expect to hold our politions to a higher level but they have to earn our respect and its perfectly clear that they do not deserve the respect you are talking about. And you yourself is pretty famous at twisting the stories out of shape such as right now.

  • http://www.stephentaylor.ca Stephen Taylor

    ya, so most of the words in the story above aren't mine and describe a timeline of events.

  • Harold Kozik

    In terms of his wife's assets, it's simple: There is a divorce in progress. They are not his assets anymore nor is he in a position to certify what assets she has. Another sad angle on the Winnipeg Free Press's conduct is that they're trolling a divorce court file for gossip. Tabloid journalism at it's finest.

  • Bob90210

    Toews used to be against double-dipping. I am shocked he has his snout in 2 public troughes. The taxpayer is hosed again.

  • Liz J

    You know this to be a fact? Perhaps you better offer your information to the Ethics Commissioner.

  • batb

    Liz, re your reply to Bob90210, touché!

  • kenn2

    This is relatively small potatoes. The Free Press is trying to fluff up a technical error into an ethics crisis (… lame), and now Toews and the CPC (and friends) want to rant it up into a libel case.

    Harper has had years in which to change the rules which made it OK in 2006 to NOT disclose significant pension income. He's just getting around to it now?

    The real story is that more than 4 years in, Harper has done about zilch in tangible improvements to accountability and transparency, and he continues to run an opaque, muzzled government.

  • Liz J

    Oh yeah, it's only one person's reputation so it's “relatively small potatoes” .

    Oh, and that Harper guy, it's definitely all his fault, he's got a MINORITY government, he should be moving faster. Sheesh.

  • Bob90210

    Okay, you guys obviously never read Stephen Taylor's article or the Toews press release. He gets a pension from the Manitoba government and he gets an MP salary and cabinet minsiter bonus. 2 troughs; one snout. One taxpayer paying twice. Like I said, Conservatives used to be against this sort of thing until it suited them.

  • East of Eden

    Uh, two seperate employers. His pension is from the Manitoba government. He is now a Minister in the federal government. Two seperate entities.

  • kenn2

    I read the story, I think Toews was remiss in not correcting the summary prepared for his review, but $18k a year is not a big deal. I won't be calling for his resignation. Correct it and move on. His reputation is intact.

    Small potatoes.

    Oh, and that Harper guy, it's definitely all his fault, he's got a MINORITY government, he should be moving faster.

    Uh huh. List the accountability/transparency measures that Harper has introduced that were blocked or killed by the mean ole opposition. Take your time.

  • batb

    I read the article. Is Vic Toew's not entitled to a pension after his years of service with the Manitoba government? Does anyone have to forfeit a pension from a former employer in order to take on new responsibilities with another? I've never heard of this before. Have you?

  • Liz J

    Good heavens batb, you gotta know better, Toews is a Conservative, he should forfeit everything to sit in the Federal House, even his cat.

  • batb

    'A momentary lapse there, Liz. I was thinking of people's “equality” rights in Canada, forgetting for a moment that some Canadians are more equal than others.

    Silly me …

  • Hikingtogod

    His dad taught at my high school – a truly wonderful gentleman. He was a history teacher, a pastor and our boys' guidance counsellor. Mr. Toews was a true prince of a man. His son is quite similar – but to hear the press, he's got horns in his forehead and trails a sulfurous fume or two. It's very disgusting when a gentleman's reputation is dragged through the mud for no reason. As for double-dipping – please. If I retire from company A and collect a pension and then go work for company B, I am not double-dipping. The WFP made a garbage landhole out of a molehill.

  • Liz J

    “Double dipping” is another overused catch phrase. It's being used by the same people who are playing gotcha games and trying to pass them off a serious politics. This looks an awful lot like another attempt to slander a Conservative MP and should be sorted by the right authorities. Being in politics doesn't mean people can drag your name through the mud and get away with it.

  • Ernie Anderson12

    @Liz J – agree… and intresting article…………………

  • K_c_anderson

    When did the ‘Lie’beral’s & NDP’s take over from the Canadian Republican/Reform Party, now known as the Conservative Party?

  • K_c_anderson

    When did the ‘Lie’beral’s & NDP’s take over from the Canadian Republican/Reform Party, now known as the Conservative Party?