Canada

Did somebody say ‘Sky Shops’?

IAN URQUHART April 19 1976
Canada

Did somebody say ‘Sky Shops’?

IAN URQUHART April 19 1976

Did somebody say ‘Sky Shops’?

For several weeks, rumors had been circulating around Ottawa that the so-called “Sky Shops” affair was about to reemerge with a vengeance. Finally, just before the House of Commons’ traditional Easter break, new charges began to surface that could threaten the positions of Industry Minister Don Jamieson and Environment Minister Jean Marchand, as well as their former aides.

The charges, raised obliquely in the Commons by Elmer MacKay (PC—Central Nova), the MP who made public the Sky Shops affair last fall, centred on correspondence between Carmel Carrière, Marchandé executive assistant when he was minister of Regional Economic Expansion from 1971 to 1972, and Andrew Chatwood. Jamieson’s executive assistant when he was minister of transport during the same period.

An RCMP report on the matter has been in the hands of the provincial prosecutor’s office in Montreal for several weeks awaiting a decision to go to trial. Although the report is, of course, secret, sources say it reveals the following sequence of events:

In October, 1971, a senior political figure visited Marchandé office. The visit was followed on October 26 by a handwritten note from Carrière to Chatwood in Jamieson’s office, suggesting the renewal of Sky Shops’ lease from the ministry of transport to run a duty-free shop at Montreal’s Dorval airport. On November 23, 1971, Chatwood reportedly wrote William Huck in the air transport division of the ministry, with a carbon copy to Gerry Stoner, the deputy minister. On May 1, 1972, Chatwood wrote Carrière, reporting on progress. On June 9, 1972, Senator Louis G. de Giguere, a Liberal bagman in Quebec, obtained 5.000 shares in Sky Shops for $1 each. On August 24, 1972, the cabinet confirmed renewal of the Sky Shops lease. And on November 14, 1972, Giguere sold his Sky Shops shares for $20 each.

Jamieson said in the Commons that he had “no personal knowledge” of the exchange of correspondence. Marchand made similar remarks outside the Commons. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau said he had talked to Marchand and Jamieson about Sky Shops and was “satisfied that neither . . . knew of any wrongdoing in their departments or on the part of their staff.”

But the question remained whether, if Carrière and Chatwood are accused of illegal or improper activity. Marchand and Jamieson should be held responsible even though it happened behind their backs. Said Trudeau: “I don’t think a minister should be held responsible for every detail in his department.” But MacKay says that constitutes an erosion of the tradition of ministerial responsibility in Canada. He believes the two ministers may be guilty of “errors of omission rather than commission.” The whole matter should become clear after Easter, when the case is expected to go to court.

IAN URQUHART