Gordon O'Connor

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Brigadier-General (Ret'd) The Honourable
Gordon O'Connor
PC OMM CD MP
Gordon O'Connor with Robert Gates, Jan 23, 2007, cropped.jpg
Minister of State
Chief Government Whip
In office
October 30, 2008 – July 15, 2013
Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Preceded by Jay Hill
Succeeded by John Duncan
Minister of National Revenue
In office
August 14, 2007 – October 29, 2008
Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Preceded by Carol Skelton
Succeeded by Jean-Pierre Blackburn
Minister of National Defence
In office
February 6, 2006 – August 14, 2007
Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Preceded by Bill Graham
Succeeded by Peter MacKay
Member of the Canadian Parliament
for Carleton—Mississippi Mills
Incumbent
Assumed office
2004 federal election
Preceded by Scott Reid
Personal details
Born (1939-05-18) May 18, 1939 (age 75)
Toronto, Ontario
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Carol O'Connor
Residence Kanata, Ontario
Profession Soldier, defence consultant
Portfolio Minister of State
Chief Government Whip

Gordon James O'Connor, PC OMM CD MP (born May 18, 1939) is a retired Brigadier-General, businessman, lobbyist, and current Canadian Member of Parliament. He was a cabinet minister from 2006 until his demotion in July 2013.

He was Minister of National Revenue and the Minister of National Defence. O'Connor was one of the few defence ministers to have served in the military, the most recent prior to O'Connor being Gilles Lamontagne.

Early life and family[edit]

Born in Toronto, Ontario, he has a B.Sc. in Mathematics and Physics from Concordia University (Montreal) and a BA in Philosophy from York University.

Gordon O'Connor is married and has two children, both of whom are now adults. He currently resides in Kanata, Ontario, where he has lived for over 25 years.

Military career[edit]

He served over 30 years in the Canadian Army, starting as a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps and retired at the rank of Brigadier-General.

O'Connor then entered the private sector as Vice-President of Business Development for a large facility management firm, and Vice-President of Operations for a vehicle testing centre. He was a Senior Associate with Hill & Knowlton Canada, a worldwide public relations, public affairs and strategic communications company. O'Connor has also been a lobbyist for several defence companies. These companies include: BAE Systems (1996 to 2004), General Dynamics (1996 to 2001), Atlas Elektronik GmbH (1999 to 2004), and Airbus Military (2001 to 2004).[1]

Parliamentary career[edit]

He was elected in the 2004 elections as a Conservative candidate in the Ottawa riding of Carleton—Mississippi Mills with slightly more than 50% of the vote. After winning he became Defence Critic for the Official Opposition. His vote share increased in the 2006 election and again in the 2008 election. He is an honorary member of the Royal Military College of Canada Club, S157. O'Connor will not run for reelection in 2015 in the modified riding of Kanata-Carleton.

Cabinet selection[edit]

Though somewhat muted by the higher profile issues in the naming of David Emerson and Michael Fortier to the cabinet, the posting of O'Connor to the position of Minister of National Defence by Prime Minister Harper was met with controversy. Harkening back to ethics and accountability issues including a promised crackdown on lobbying and reforms to lobbying legislation[2] that Harper raised during the 2006 federal election, O'Connor's employment as a lobbyist for several major defence industry companies including some of the world's largest military contractors, such as General Dynamics, BAE Systems and Airbus as recently as 2004 was seen by many as peculiar. Some feared that with the posting the minister would often be dealing with the very companies for whom he advised and assisted in soliciting defence contracts; seemingly putting him in constant peril of conflict-of-interest issues.[3] However, the aim of the Accountability Act is to prevent people from moving from government to lobbying, and not the opposite as was the case with O'Connor (at least not this time, although in the past he went from Brigadier General in the Canadian Forces to lobbyist).

There were potential conflict-of-interest issues early in his term, as one of the first major issues the Conservatives pledged they would sort out was the replacement of the Forces' 'tactical airlift' fleet. One of the most prominent companies bidding for the contract to replace the present fleet of C-130 Hercules Turboprops is Airbus S.A.S. for whom O'Connor worked as a lobbyist until February 2004, lobbying the former Liberal government to purchase the airplane that would become the Airbus A400M for its tactical airlift fleet.[4]

Minister of Defence[edit]

Within months of Gordon O'Connor becoming Minister of National Defence, the Canadian Government announced the purchase of 4 C-17 Globemaster IIIs, manufactured by Boeing Integrated Defense Systems for $3.4 billion,[5] 16 CH-47 Chinook medium lift helicopters, also from Boeing Integrated Defense Systems, for $4.7 billion,[6] 17 C-130Js from Lockheed Martin for $4.9 billion,[5] 2300 Medium-Sized Logistics Trucks for $1.1 billion,[7] and $2.9 billion for 3 Joint Support Ships,[8] for a total of $17 billion.

O'Connor announced on May 30, 2006 that the Canadian Forces would be restricting usage of the Mercedes G-Wagon to on-base operations only, after a number of Canadian soldiers were killed while travelling in the lightly armoured vehicle. However, three months later it was revealed that no such order was ever given, and the controversial vehicles were still being used in combat operations.[9]

In a major cabinet shuffle on August 14, 2007, Prime Minister Harper moved O'Connor to the position of Minister of National Revenue, replacing him in the defence portfolio with former Foreign Minister Peter MacKay.[10][11]

Controversies[edit]

Afghanistan[edit]

In May 2005, Canada's practice of transferring persons detained by the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan to units of the Afghan police came under question when some prisoners said they were beaten and abused. O'Connor told Parliament that the International Committee of the Red Cross: "The Red Cross or the Red Crescent is responsible to supervise their treatment once the prisoners are in the hands of the Afghan authorities. If there is something wrong with their treatment, the Red Cross or Red Crescent would inform us and we would take action."

This statement was later denied by the ICRC, which stated that it was "informed of the agreement, but ... not a party to it and ... not monitoring the implementation of it." The ICRC also advised that, in accordance with its normal operating procedure, it would not notify any foreign government (Canada included) of abuse found in Afghan prisons.[12]

On March 13, O'Connor travelled to Kandahar to meet with Abdul Noorzai of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, "look the man in the eyes", and gain assurances that detainees were being supervised.[13]

O'Connor subsequently acknowledged in an official release that his statement in Parliament was not true, and that the ICRC was not monitoring detainees and not informing Canada as he claimed.[14]

Additional controversy was generated in the week of April 23 when The Globe and Mail reported that 30 Afghan men formerly under Canadian custody alleged they had been tortured by their Afghan captors.[15] Two days later, another Globe story ran on a government report from which "negative references to acts such as torture, abuse, and extra judicial killings were blacked out without an explanation."[16][17] The difficulties faced by O'Connor were exacerbated after various government ministers and Stephen Harper himself gave apparently conflicting testimony on the existence and nature of the agreement with Afghan forces to supervise detainees.[18]

Following these revelations, the opposition parties unanimously demanded O'Connor's resignation; a demand echoed by some press commentators such as Andrew Coyne. Stephen Harper resisted calls for O'Connor's dismissal.[19]

O'Connor also faced criticism for remarks that Canada was in Afghanistan as an act of retribution for 9/11.[20][21]

Letter to Donald Rumsfeld[edit]

In December 2006, O'Connor wrote to outgoing United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld praising his "vision", "many achievements", and "significant contribution", adding: "Here we have been privileged to benefit from your leadership" in "the campaign against terror." Some critics argued the letter was excessively flattering and went beyond the demands of courtesy.[22][23] Rumsfeld's leadership during the Iraq War had been heavily criticized.

Forgiving tax bills[edit]

As Minister of National Revenue, O'Connor issued a remission order forgiving the tax bills of 35 former SDL Optics Inc. employees. The employees had used stock options to buy shares in their company for a fraction of their market value. The options were taxable and the shareholders owed hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes.

O'Connor's order was made against the advice of Canada Revenue Agency commissioner William Baker. Tax professionals called it favouritism and "purely political."[24] Most of the affected employees lived in the riding of fellow Conservative Cabinet Minister Gary Lunn.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Lobbyists Registration System. (Search: O'Connor, Gordon.) Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists – Canada. Retrieved on August 23, 2007
  2. ^ Stand up for accountability – federal election platform 2006, (pdf). Conservative Party of Canada. Retrieved on August 23, 2007.
  3. ^ Adam Day, "Gordon O'Connor: Minister of National Defence", Legion Magazine, September/October 2006. Retrieved on August 23, 2007.
  4. ^ Romeo St. Martin, "Military spending puts spotlight on O'Connor", PoliticsWatch, June 27, 2006. Retrieved on August 23, 2007.
  5. ^ a b DND/CF News Release, June 29, 2006, Retrieved on August 23, 2007
  6. ^ DND/CF News Release, June 28, 2006, Retrieved on August 23, 2007
  7. ^ DND/CF News Release, June 27, 2006, Retrieved on August 23, 2007
  8. ^ DND/CF News Release, June 26, 2006, Retrieved on August 23, 2007
  9. ^ "O'Connor misspoke on G-wagons: gov't records", Canadian Press, August 14, 2006. Retrieved on August 23, 2007.
  10. ^ Alexander Panetta, "Embattled O'Connor loses defence post in cabinet shuffle to MacKay", Canadian Press, August 14, 2007. Retrieved on August 23, 2007.
  11. ^ Richard Foot, "O'Connor demotion inevitable, but not deserved", CanWest News Service, August 14, 2007. Retrieved on August 23, 2007.
  12. ^ Paul Koring, "Red Cross contradicts Ottawa on detainees", The Globe and Mail, March 8, 2007. Retrieved on August 23, 2007.
  13. ^ Joe Friesen, "O'Connor meets with Afghan rights chief", The Globe and Mail, March 15, 2007. Retrieved on August 23, 2007.
  14. ^ "O'Connor sorry for misinforming House on Afghan detainees", CBC News, March 19, 2007. Retrieved on April 27, 2007.
  15. ^ Graeme Smith,"From Canadian custody into cruel hands", The Globe and Mail, April 23, 2007. Retrieved on August 22, 2007.
  16. ^ Paul Koring, "What Ottawa doesn't want you to know", The Globe and Mail (subscription required), April 25, 2007. Retrieved on August 23, 2007.
  17. ^ "Canada to get access to Afghan detainees: O'Connor", CTV News, April 26, 2007. Retrieved on August 23, 2007.
  18. ^ "Cdns. have had access to detainees all along: Day", CTV News, April 26, 2007. Retrieved on August 23, 2007.
  19. ^ Daniel LeBlanc, "Harper stands by O'Connor as furor grows", The Globe and Mail (subscription required), April 25, 2007. Retrieved on August 23, 2007.
  20. ^ Andrea Sands, "Canadian troops in Afghanistan as 9/11 'retribution'", The Edmonton Journal, January 21, 2007. Retrieved on August 23, 2007.
  21. ^ Sean Gordon and Les Whittington, "Probe Afghan role, Dion urges", The Toronto Star, January 25, 2007. Retrieved on August 23, 2007.
  22. ^ Jennifer Ditchburn, "Canada 'privileged' to benefit from Rumsfeld's leadership: O'Connor", Canadian Press, June 21, 2007. Retrieved on August 24, 2007.
  23. ^ Mike Blanchfield, "O'Connor letter praised Rumsfeld even when U.S. official sacked", Ottawa Citizen, June 21, 2007. Retrieved on August 22, 2007.
  24. ^ Kathryn May, "Tories forgive huge JDS tax bills", The Ottawa Citizen, December 7, 2007. Retrieved on May 26, 2009.

External links[edit]

28th Ministry – Cabinet of Stephen Harper
Cabinet Posts (2)
Predecessor Office Successor
Carol Skelton Minister of National Revenue
2007-2008
Jean-Pierre Blackburn
Bill Graham Minister of Defence
2006-2007
Peter MacKay
Sub-Cabinet Post
Predecessor Title Successor
Jay Hill Minister of State
(2008-2013)
(Also served as Chief Government Whip)
John Duncan
Parliament of Canada
Preceded by
riding created in 2003; see Lanark—Carleton
Member of Parliament from Carleton—Mississippi Mills
2004 - present
Succeeded by
Incumbent