Scott Brison And The Maritime Mafia

November 1st, 2018 | R. Rados
scott brison mafia

It's important to start by saying that none of these allegations have yet been proven in court. It's also important to say that the media's coverage of the Mark Norman affair has been mostly non-existent. His trial will likely happen during the 2019 election season, just as Mike Duffy's trial happened during the 2015 election season, but we shouldn't expect the media to give it the same coverage. If you're unfamiliar with this whole case and haven't heard the latest news about Scott Brison being implicated by Mark Norman's lawyers, I'll fill you in. If any of it happens to be true, it will add another Trudeau Liberal to a growing list of corrupt, unaccountable ministers and operatives who have mostly been untouched by the same political consequences that have sunk Conservatives.

In January of 2017, navy officer Mark Norman was suspended after leaking sensitive documents regarding the procurement of a supply vessel for the Canadian Navy. In spring of this year, he was charged with breach of trust and his trial will likely begin during—or leading up to—the 2019 federal election. We should consider this the Liberal Party's Mike Duffy affair, except far more scandalous if the allegations made by Mark Norman's lawyers prove true.

Documents obtained by real, hard working journalists show that Norman's lawyers are alleging that Liberal minister, Scott Brison, intervened to kill a Conservative contract to procure a $670M navy vessel in order to secure a new deal with his friends at Irving Shipbuilding. If proven true in court, it would reveal yet another layer of corruption within Trudeau's Liberal government.

When it comes time to cover the Norman trial, the media's attention will be set on whether or not he is guilty and on his supposed “leak” to Davie executive Spencer Fraser and journalist James Cudmore. The media will likely attempt to white wash and downplay the allegations against Scott Brison—even if evidence emerges to add credibility to the claims against him. Make no mistake about it, the CBC will do everything to protect the Liberals in the next election. This is why it's important for bloggers and low-key investigative journalists to cover every aspect of Mark Norman's trial next summer.

When Mike Duffy made unsubstantiated allegations against Stephen Harper and others involved in the infamous $90,000 cheque, the media didn't hesitate to inflate and perpetuate them before they could be proven true or false. Don't expect them to do the same when it comes to allegations made against Scott Brison. Suddenly, restraint and “journalistic integrity” will become a thing for journalists at the CBC and Postmedia.

So what connections does Scott Brison have to Irving?

Irving Shipbuilding

It all started with a letter that was sent to Harjit Sajjan and Judie Foote, in which Scott Brison and Bill Mourneau were copied. The letter came from Irving CEO, James D. Irving, and it asked the new Liberal government to reconsider a contract with Davie Shipbuilding, which was authorized by the previous Harper government.

Scott Brison claims that this was the only correspondence he ever had with Irving before he intervened and pushed to have the original Davie deal terminated.

Mark Norman's court filings claim that Scott Brison “appears to be close” to the Irving family and that he was frequently lobbied by Irving Shipbuiding and James Irving. We shouldn't expect most Canadian journalists to actually bother investigating these claims, no matter how much evidence turns up between now and August. Most of the real meat and potatoes of this claim probably won't come to light until the trial, when Norman's defence team starts presenting the evidence, but that doesn't mean we can't start the digging now, while CBC and Postmedia journalists sit around pretending the real scandal involves Mark Norman's “leak”.

So how far back does speculation go about Irving Shipbuilding wanting to kill the Davie deal?

In August of 2017, in a CBC article, Murray Brewster stated, “The lease contract for the temporary supply ship was initially signed by the former Conservative government just days before the 2015 election was called. Some of the lobbyists believed rival Irving Shipbuilding of Halifax was trying to kill the project, but others weren't so sure.”

This means that speculation about Irving being involved in efforts to kill the Davie deal isn't new. Last year, lobbyists for Davie believed Irving was pushing to have their contract scrapped by the new Liberal government. This could be the only basis for Norman's claim that Brison is “close to Irving”, but again, it's hard to say.

Is the speculation based on anything? Maybe.

Scott Brison, himself, called the Sobey and McCain families “long-term friends” in 2016. When asked why he wouldn't essentially recuse himself from certain decisions based on conflict of interest, Brison said, “I have no directorship or active business interests. Everything is in a blind trust. These are long-term friends.”

Who are the Sobey and McCain families? They happen to be two of Atlantic Canada's richest and most powerful families and founders of Seafort Capital Inc., an investment firm which had Brison's partner, Maxime St-Pierre, on its board of directors—after Brison left the same position to become a cabinet minister under the new Trudeau government. This entire incident opened a conflict of interest situation that mostly fell to the way-side in terms of media coverage.

All from the same region of Canada, it would be hard to imagine that the Irvings, Sobeys and McCains of New Brunswick haven't crossed paths or hosted lavish dinner parties with their friends and close associates, some of whom might include politicians. Knowing that, it would be hard to imagine Scott Brison never crossing paths with James Irving or other members of the Iriving family given his allegedly close relationship with the McCains and Sobeys.  

The Irving-Sobey-McCain Connections

Another New Brunswick family, The Sobey family, is so powerful and influential, the faculty of commerce at Saint Mary's University in Halifax was renamed the Sobey School Of Business.

The Sobey family, along with the McCains and Irvings, are jokingly referred to in Atlantic Canada as the “Maritime Mafia”. Kenneth Irving, head of Irving Oil, and Michael McCain, CEO of Maple Leaf Foods, are considered members of the “new wave” of wealthy Maritime heirs who are upholding the tradition of loyalty and networking that earned the Maritime Mafia its nickname.

In 2011, former New Brunswick premier, Frank McKenna, said of the Maritime Mafia, “It very much exists, I'm part of it. More things are done with a handshake.”

Also in 2011, Irving Oil and Sobeys teamed up to create a gas savings program that distributes gas gift cards to thousands of Atlantic Canadians. Under the program, Sobeys shoppers in Atlantic Canada are given gift cards when they purchase more than $50 or $250 worth of groceries from any Sobeys grocery store.

Frank Sobey and the late KC Irving both owned lavish, private estates just blocks from each other in Bermuda—where they moved to escape Canadian taxes. Just last spring, KC Irving's Bermuda estate was listed for nearly $2M, despite being called modest and “in need of cosmetic updating”.

In 2012, the Sobeys and McCains teamed up to create SeaFort Capital. Scott Brison was appointed chairman, until his same-sex partner took over the job after Brison joined Trudeau's cabinet. While in cabinet, Brison has managed to avoid legitimate criticisms and concerns about the conflicts of interest posed by Maxime St-Pierre being on the company's board of directors.

It Doesn't Matter To Liberals Or Media

If Scott Brison were a Conservative, we know how busy journalists would be covering Brison's various connections to the Irving family and his partner's position at SeaFort Capital. Since taking office, Justin Trudeau's cabinet has avoided the same fallout as a Conservative cabinet over ethics violations, conflict of interest and spending. We've come a long way since Bev Oda's $16 orange juice.

Bill Mourneau had a chateau in France he conveniently forgot to mention. Mariam Monsef fudged her country of birth. Harjit Sajjan lied about masterminding an operation in Afghanistan. Kent Heir and Darshan Kang are creeps. Catherine McKenna hid details about how much a carbon tax will cost us. Justin Trudeau got away, scot-free, after groping a journalist almost twenty years ago and breaking ethics rules with the Aga Khan. These are all things Conservatives wouldn't have the same privilege of getting away with, so it should be no surprise the media will let Trudeau get away with Brison's conflicts of interest and with keeping important documents in the Norman case secret—against the requests of Norman's legal team.

It doesn't matter to journalists unless these things are committed by Conservatives. Things shouldn't be expected to change in time for the next election. This is when bloggers and independent journalists matter the most.

As for the question of whether Scott Brison has a close relationship with the Irving family, there really isn't a solid, provable link just yet. However, his close relationship with the Sobey and McCain families makes it highly probable that he has attended events and private parties where the Irvings were present. This gives him close proximity to the Irving family, creating lots of opportunities for friendship and private deals made with handshakes. Even if it doesn't, the Irvings are close with the Sobeys and McCains—so if there is any truth behind the Maritime Mafia, family always comes first. Through the other two families, who are admittedly close friends with Brison, the Irvings have access to his inner circle.