O'Connor well suited for the job
Hugh Winsor injects a little sanity into the supposed 'conflict of interest' problems faced by Gordon O'Connor as Minister of Defence. Some of his analogies in the article are bang on. What's next - a lawyer can't be Justice Minister or a farmer is disqualified as Agriculture Minister?
There's nothing wrong with an ex-lobbyist as defence boss
The critics attacking Prime Minister Stephen Harper's appointment of retired brigadier-general Gordon O'Connor as Minister of National Defence because he once lobbied for companies in the defence and aerospace industries are missing the point. There's a much bigger equipment problem hobbling the Canadian Forces than an unsubstantiated apprehension of a conflict-of-interest scandal.
The critics are apparently unaware that defence procurement has become such a complex and sclerotic business, involving at least half a dozen government departments and central agencies such as the Treasury Board and the Privy Council Office, that a defence minister has little or no influence over equipment choices.
Allan Williams, who recently retired after being assistant deputy minister at the Department of Public Works (which has the contracting authority for defence purchases) and assistant deputy minister of materiel at the Department of National Defence, told a conference at Queen's University that, in the 10 years he had been closely involved with defence procurement, not once did a minister influence the outcome. "Ministers are quite aware of the high political and legal risks in even trying to do so."
Referring to Mr. O'Connor's appointment, Mr. Williams said that "whether or not he was a lobbyist in the past, he will not have much of an impact on who wins any contract. . . . That may be disappointing to him and frustrating to him, but that's the way it is.