Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The plot thickens as Income Trust probe continues

An e-mail from Brison tipped investors off?

The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce has turned over an e-mail received from Liberal MP Scott Brison to police and regulators as part of a probe into the income-trust controversy that dogged the Liberals in the recent election campaign, The Globe and Mail has learned.

Sources said the former public works minister, a potential contender for the Liberal leadership, sent an e-mail to one of CIBC's employees the day before Ottawa announced its much-anticipated policy on income trusts last November, in which he suggested the recipient would likely be pleased by the decision.

The bank did not learn of the e-mail until after the federal election campaign began, but when it did, it launched an internal review of its trading activity in the lead-up to Ottawa's announcement. The sources said the review did not turn up anything unusual, but CIBC still decided to bring its report to the attention of the RCMP and the Ontario Securities Commission.

Trading of income trusts spiked considerably on Nov. 23, the day former finance minister Ralph Goodale unveiled his policy on the booming sector, prompting speculation that there may have been a leak from the federal government.

Steve Janke

Of course, Brison is denying everything, which is bizarre, if only because the email is actual hard evidence. This isn't someone recalling a conversation. This is an email with headers and whatnot. The email was sent on November 22, a suspicious date indeed.

Even if the CIBC did not act on the information, and it insists it did not, the fact is that there is evidence that a senior cabinet minister sent a nudge-nudge-wink-wink email to a financial house about impending tax law changes.

People go to jail over stuff like this.

If the email turns out to be legit, I wonder exactly why Brison knew about the tax decision. I can't see why he should have known. McCallum as revenue minister and Valeri as House Leader made sense. Public works minister? Don't see it. How did he know about the decision? Paul Martin, Ralph Goodale, John McCallum, and Tony Valeri all insist that they confided only in immediate senior staff, and that no one leaked the information any further.

Someone else is lying.

You know what the bizarre thing is? When Parliament resumes sitting, Question Period will make no sense. The Conservatives, as the governing party, will be asked all the questions. But the answers to all the interesting questions still lie with the Liberals.