Who's auditing the corporations?

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Corporate leaders should be publicly accountable.

Prime Minister Paul Martin and company are getting a much-deserved raking over the coalsfor Liberal improprieties highlighted in Auditor-General Sheila Fraser's scathing audit.But what about the corporations that worked hand-in-glove with theirLiberal Party associates?

The Canadian Federation of Students-Quebec(CFS-Q) thinks that corporate leaders like John Parisella, president ofBCP, should have their turn on the hot seat answering questions in apublic inquiry. Parisella's BCP received millions of dollars in federaladvertising contracts with no competitive bid structure. His company alsosigned a large contract with Health Canada to do workthat in fact had already been completed.

Parisella is a member of Concordia University's Board of Governors.

On Friday, Carolyn Zwicky-Perez, Chair of the CFS-Q calledon Parisella to stepdown from the University's highest governing body in the wake of the scandal mentioned in Fraser's report. At thetime of the call the CFS-Q was unaware of an additional$1.52 million scandal involving BCP and Health Canada.

As the majority of Concordia's Governors are, John Parisella isa member of the Canadian corporate elite. The company he is President of,BCP is mentioned in Fraser's reportas the recipient of $65.7 million in advertising contracts for Tourism Canada. Thereport states:

“In our opinion, advertising contracts were awarded to BCP on asole-source basis. There is no assurance that the government obtained thebest value for these expenditures. Other potential suppliers were nevergiven the opportunity to compete for the $65.7 million in contracts.”

Zwicky-Perez says the granting of these contracts to BCP withoutcompetition should be viewed in light of the $67,842.51 in donations madeby BCP Ltee and Le Groupe BCP Ltee to the Liberal Party of Canada between1993 and 2002.

In another section of the report, BCP is mentioned as the companycontracted to do $1.52 million worth of advertising work for HealthCanada. The contract was signed on March 28, 2002, for work to be completedthree days later on March 31, 2002. In fact, however, the work had alreadybeen completed and the commercials had been on air since March 4.

Although the Auditor General's report only comments on the federalgovernment's role in the matter, Zwicky-Perez says that Canadians shouldbe asking questions about the part that private corporations have playedin the current ethics crisis. “Look at the Enron scandal, WorldCom andCIBC. There is a larger problem here than government ethics.” She pointsout that corporate leaders like Parisella should be publicly accountablebecause they sit on the boards of directors of public institutions likeuniversities, hospitals and foundations.

“The CFS-Q is calling on John Parisella to step down until this wholematter is cleared up,” says Zwicky-Perez. “We are also calling for thefederal government to expand its inquiry to private corporationsimplicated in this scandal so that people like Parisella can defend theactions of their companies.”

Concordia University has been quick to defend Parisella, issuing astatement that “[h]is integrity and professionalism are beyond question inprinciple as well as in our extensive experience of him.”

Zwicky-Perez was taken aback by the University's “unquestioning loyalty toits corporate friends.”

“The Auditor General's report suggests that maybe we should questionprecisely the integrity and professionalism of Mr. Parisella,” saysZwicky-Perez. “I have some questions.”

Yves Engler, an elected student councillor and CFS-Q representative who wasrecently banned from campus for five years and denied a seat on the Boardof Governors calls the University's position a “double standard.”

“When the Rector expelled me he didn't even bother to get my side of thestory, but when one of the University's corporate partners is involved ina $65.7 million boondoggle they jump to his defense.”

Engler's crime? Putting up anti-FTAA stickers on University property.

The CFS-Q has also started a petition campaign called “Parisella out!Yves, Jaggi and Laith in!” The petition calls for Parisella to step downand for the Board of Governors to reinstate Yves Engler and fellow studentactivist Laith Marouf and to lift the ban on non-student activist JaggiSingh. The CFS-Q claims that all three fixtures in the Concordia communitywere targeted for their political activism.

Ironically, John Parisella is known for his capabilities as a spin-doctor.Both Quebec Liberals and their federal counterparts call upon him oftenfor troubleshooting advice. In this case however, the PR expert was notavailable for comment.

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