Defence Minister Rob Nicholson’s Office Too Close to Defence Industry

Media Release
For Immediate Release
July 23, 2013

“Ethical wall” for Nicholson’s Chief of Staff would impair the Minister’s oversight role

(Ottawa) The office of Prime Minister Harper’s new Minister of National Defence, Rob Nicholson, is too close to the defence industry, undermining his ability to effectively oversee billions of dollars in government spending on the military.

According to a media report today, Minister Nicholson’s Chief of Staff, Maureen Murphy, is meeting with the Ethics Commissioner to address the fact that Ms. Murphy’s spouse, Richard Morgan, is a lobbyist for several corporations with an interest in new fighter jet and warship programs.

“Any ‘ethical wall’ that would require the new Defence Minister’s Chief of Staff not to participate in key military programs would seriously impact her ability to assist the Minister in fulfilling his proper oversight role of multi-billion-dollar government spending decisions,” said Steven Staples, President of the Rideau Institute.

“Minister Rob Nicholson needs to find a new Chief of Staff,” he added.

This incident highlights the growing concern about industry’s influence over government programs, especially where these companies have very close ties to foreign governments. Nicholson’s top staffer’s spouse lobbies for aircraft engine maker Pratt & Whitney Canada, and warship builder DCNS, through his firm TACTIX Government Relations Inc.

Pratt & Whitney is owned by U.S.-based United Technologies, which earned $12.5 billion (U.S.) from military sales in 2012 and was ranked in the top 10 global defence firms this week by Defense News. It supplies engines for many aircraft models, including the controversial F-35 stealth fighter, built by Lockheed Martin.

DCNS is a France-based shipbuilding firm whose $3.7 billion (U.S.) in revenue for 2012 was derived entirely from military customers. DCNS lobbied then defence minister Peter MacKay to provide surface combat ships for the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy.

The Rideau Institute is an independent research and advocacy organization with a specialty in defence and foreign policy, based in Ottawa.

 

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Steven Staples, c. 613 290-2695 e. sstaples@rideauinstitute.ca

“Defense News Top 100,” http://www.defensenews.com/

“DND top staffer updating ‘ethical wall’ to avoid conflict of interest,” Globe and Mail, July 23, 2013. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/defence-ministers-chief-of-staff-builds-ethical-wall-to-avoid-conflict-of-interest/article13355614/

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