The appointment of Nigel Wright as Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s new chief of staff has added a new dimension to the debate over the purchase of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
Opposition critics are questioning the selection of Wright because of his employment with Onex Corporation, which has financial dealings with Lockheed Martin, the manufacturer of the F-35. Wright is reportedly on leave from Onex Corp. and expected to return as a partner and managing director in 18-24 months; he also continues to hold a significant financial interest in Onex, owning stock estimated to be worth $3.5 million (Richard J. Brennan, “Wright’s business ties make him wrong man for PMO, critics say“, Toronto Star, 4 October 2010).
The opposition parties are demanding a review of the appointment by the Ethics Commissioner, arguing that Wright’s connections represent a potential conflict of interest that could affect Canadian aerospace and defence policy. The Conservatives reply, however, that Wright has already met with the Ethics Commissioner and that he will adhere to the parliamentary watchdog’s rules (Jane Taber, “Tories fear ‘American-style confirmation hearing’ for chief of staff“, Globe and Mail, 5 October 2010).