Democracy M.I.A.

Stephen Harper notified of evidence of potential illegal activities on January 5, 2006 [view]

Profiteering in the Name of Culture, 2007 research report [view]

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I am a former Canadian broadcasting insider named Keith Mahar. In my opinion, crony capitalism is a crime against democracy. As addressed in my recent article (Canadian Television Fund: A Convenient Deception ), published by Canada Free Press , Prime Minister Stephen Harper might better be described as a "subPrime Minister" for his failure to stop an ongoing corporate welfare scam which has unjustly enriched a number of powerful Canadians, including billionaire Edward (Ted) S. Rogers and J.R. Shaw. 

Profiteering in the Name of Culture is my 2007 research report covering a long-standing case of systemic government corruption at the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), resulting in the unjust enrichment of media companies. Not surprisingly, the issue has not been properly covered by the media. In fact, my precendent-setting legal case related to the current issue (Mahar v. Rogers Cablesystems Ltd.) was listed by NOW magazine as one of the top under-reported stories of 1995. My legal team  (Christopher K. Leafloor, Neil Milton and J. Blair Drummie) won a precedent-setting legal decision on costs for me, turning me into a precedent-setting public interest litigant. Unfortunately, Ted Rogers' corporation won a precedent-setting legal decision on jurisdiction - stopping Justice Sharpe determining the legal right of citizens to notice that they were being forced to subsidize Ted Rogers and other shareholders in his company. This legal issue remains outstanding to this day - but the policy itself is far more interesting, one which illuminates the degree of disrespect Canadian officials have towards the public, and that the state has been effectively captured by corporate interests.  Not surprisingly, I don't expect to be congratulated on my critical analysis from Ted Rogers, Prime Minister Harper, or CRTC chairman Konrad von Finckenstein.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper was notified of this case more than two years ago by senior legal counsel Paul Armarego, on my behalf. Mr. Harper was provided with detailed evidence of an elaborate accounting scheme which has improperly enriched corporations by more than $1.2 billion since 1995. He was also informed that millions of citizens may be legally entitled to refunds from the offending corporations. At the same time, Mr. Harper was notified of a damning regulatory decision which was never made public, and stored by CRTC officials beyond public scrutiny in File 1000-121. At that time, Mr. Harper was the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, campaigning on a platform that promised to restore the integrity of the Canadian political system following the findings of the Gomery Commission.

Prime Minister Harper, like the previous administrations of Jean Chretien and Paul Martin, has never addressed this potentially illegal corporate scam, one which was originally adopted by CRTC officials appointed by the Mulroney cabinet.  Commissioners Keith Spicer, Beverly J. Oda, Fernand Belisle, Garth Dawley, David Coleville, Louis R. Sherman, Adrian Burns, Yves Dupras, Edward Ross, Gail Scott, Peter Senchuk, Claude Sylvestre, Rob Gordon and Sally Warren were active at the CRTC at the time. It is a matter of public record that Ms. Oda, Mr. Coleville and Mr. Gordon voted against the initial decision which implemented the plan. Several influential companies are implicated in the affair, including Rogers Communications and Shaw Communications.

During the summer of 2007, I requested  information respecting documents contained in File 1000-121, which included an extremely unorthodox and undemocratic 25 June 1996 decision made by CRTC officials which was never made public.  This decision, made in response to a complaint by Cable Watch, contained several rulings, one being that Parliament had granted the CRTC commissioners the legal authority to require millions of Canadians to pay fees to subsidize private companies, but that the citizens being required to pay the fees were not entitled to written notice that they were being required to pay the fees or the amount of the corporate subsidies that they were being required to pay. Moreover, the cable companies which were retaining 50% of the fees under the scheme were not required by the CRTC to do any work for the revenue, money for nothing.

CRTC legal counsel Shari M. Fisher confirmed to me in October 2007 that the Commision had destroyed all of the documents stored in File 1000-121, on March 27th 2006 - weeks after Prime Minister Harper was informed of its existence by my lawyer. . Moreover, Ms Fisher declined to identify who at the quasi-judicial federal agency authorized the destruction of the documents, or why those documents were shredded at that particular point in time. In addition, the CRTC has also refused to identify the list of documents that were shredded after Prime Minister Harper was alerted of the corporate welfare scam and File 1000-121.

Fortunately, I am in possession of copies of several of the destroyed documents. On 7 February 2008, I participated in a CRTC public hearing on the Canadian Television Fund, a program operated as a partnership between industry and government; a 'partnership' which has been exploited by industry and central to the unjust enrichment scheme. At that time, I recommended a judicial review of the corporate welfare affair, and announced the launch of (view). I issued a press release later in that day to address the inaction by Prime Minister Harper on the issue for more than two years (view). While several international news sources picked up the release, including Reuters, Fox, AOL, and Forbes - Canadian media companies did not report the story, which is related to a scam requiring millions of citizens to subsidize shareholders of Canadian media companies (Mediascam).

Less than 24 hours after I publicly addressed the matter at the CRTC hearing, Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP) raised questions to the Government in Parliament respecting Mediascam. The Honourable Jim Abbott (Parliamentary Secretary for Canadian Heritage) claimed that the Harper Government had already referred the issues raised by Ms. Davies to the CRTC (Hansard, 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. 8 February 2008). The statement made by Mr. Abbott was false; the Conservative Government did not ask the CRTC to look into Mediascam as part of its current review of the Canadian Television Fund. The saga continues and Canadian democracy is still missing in action.    

This website is a work in progress. Additional material will be added shortly. Furthermore, it is important to stress that not all cable operators participated in the scheme and it does not involve any small cable systems. 

In addition, I want to acknowledge the tremendous help of Liberal MP Dan McTeague during 1995-99 on this matter.  It is a matter of record that the Hon. Dan McTeague has done more to try to stop this corporate welfare scam than all other elected representatives combined since 1995. 

Note-Toronto Star articles on this website are reproduced with the permission of Torstar Syndication Services.


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