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FCC to consider farmers’ “integrity” for loans

The federal government has acted on a pledge to require Farm Credit Canada to consider the “personal integrity” of people applying for financing from the federal farm lender.

FCC was one on a list of five Crown corporations that will now be required to make such considerations, announced Saturday by federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz and International Trade Minister Michael Fortier.

“The concerned Crown corporations will immediately begin to review their policies and programs to ensure that due consideration is given to the personal integrity of persons applying for financial assistance or other benefits from the corporations,” Ritz said in a release Saturday.

“Due consideration will also be given to the effect that a proposed transaction would have on the corporation’s reputation and its ability to attract and retain other persons or entities to use the corporation’s services,” Ritz added.

“This provision will ensure that the government is diligent in helping responsible Canadians secure financial support to help grow the Canadian economy,” Fortier said.

The other four Crown corporations on the list include the Business Development Bank of Canada, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the Canadian Commercial Corporation and Export Development Canada.

Though not mentioned in the federal release, the announcement follows an Aug. 30 report in the Montreal newspaper La Presse that former Liberal cabinet minister Alfonso Gagliano and his family had successfully applied for a $550,000 FCC loan to buy a vineyard in Quebec’s Eastern Townships.

Though he has never faced any related criminal charges, Gagliano came under harsh criticism in the 2005 Gomery report for his role as the Liberal caucus’ head of the Chretien government’s sponsorship program in the late 1990s.

That program, designed to promote federalism in Quebec, fell apart in scandal amid claims of millions of dollars being siphoned by advertising agencies with close Liberal ties.

Gagliano was a Quebec Liberal MP from 1984 until 2002, when the Chretien government named him ambassador to Denmark. The Martin government fired him from that post in 2004 amid outcry over what by then had become known as “AdScam.”

News reports on the loan quoted a spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper as saying plans were underway to revise guidelines for Crown corporations to loan money, and that “personal integrity” would be among the considerations that Crowns would have to account for when examining applications for business loans.

“The Conservative government believes that money should go to help farmers, not former Liberal cabinet ministers,” Harper spokesman Dimitri Soudas was quoted as saying.

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