Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Is Harper Planning Another In and Out? And Other Thoughts on The Conservatives' Best Week in Office

So with the blog hiatus over I can now re-direct my attention back to where it matters most: Canadian politics. I gave my my thoughts on the RCMP raid the day it happened, but the story has only gained strength since then.

First of all though Harper's recent comments about the "in and out" scandal have me quite alarmed and I'm surprised the media hasn't jumped on this yet. This story notes that
"Prime Minister Stephen Harper says the Conservatives followed the spending rules in the last election — but if the official interpretation of those laws changes, the party will adapt as well."
Ok so does this mean that unless an official ruling comes BEFORE the next election that the Conservatives plan to repeat the same creative accounting all over again?

Stephen Harper needs to give a very clear answer on this and he should firmly commit that no matter how they handled advertising next election his party will under NO circumstances go over the $18 million spending limit. If he can't commit to that then that's extremely troubling and essentially admits that they were planning to get around the rules when the next election came despite the fact that those rules are there for a very good reason. Elections don't operate on a level playing field when other parties stay within an $18 spending million limit and another goes $1 millon or more over it through some creative book-keeping. This should not happen again and Harper should commit to that.

Harper should also explain these comments of his former adviser Tom Flanagan who has had the current PM's ear for years:
"Even though there is a cap on national campaign spending, it is easy and legal to exceed it by transferring expenditures to local campaigns that are not able to spend up to their own legal limits"
(see here for more info on Flanagan's revealing musings), but it would seem that Tories just don't have any respect for the spending cap and they keep dodging this issue when asked about it. Again the media have to ensure Harper commits to respecting the rules that it seems everyone but him agrees to.

As for my thoughts on the farce that has been the Conservatives' official handlings of this scandal in recent days, I think two words sum it up: laughable and pathetic.

First they tried (and continue to try) to run down the organization that is tasked with making sure our elections free and fair. It's an organization that has an impeachable record and that is respected around the world. Yet solely because they are investigating Conservatives (and have busted them before mind you over the dispute over their convention fees) now this very proud institution is being smeared. It's just absolutely shameful and I don't think many Canadians will support many of the tinfoil hat theories coming out the Conservative caucus on this. The fact is no other party spent over $18 million and no other party did what the Conservatives are accused of. In fact this investigation is the most serious Elections Canada has ever undertaken (since its inception in 1974), so take off the tin foil hats Tories and start realizing that what you are being investigated for is quite serious. Meanwhile, I think Canadians will see that this is far from the only scandal you are dealing with, it's just part of one long shameful pattern.

Then there was another fine example of how a government should deal with the media. I think those who were there describe it best but whoever thought that holding secret meetings, picking friends (and making enemies) with certain media outlets and then sneaking out down the fire escape was a great strategy for handling this mess I just hope those same individuals have a high level role in managing their election campaign. While Warren suggests that some people be fired, I say no promote them!

And then the full warrant was released Monday (a day after snippets were given to handpicked media when Conservatives claimed a few days earlier they didn't have the warrant). I encourage everyone to read Aaron Wherry's Maclean's blog where he dissects the warrant in excruciating detail (I think there are more than 20 different posts on it) and this Globe article that does a good job of naming all the important players in the scandal. Suffice it to say I don't think there will be many smiling faces at the next Conservative caucus meeting that's for sure. One just can't be too happy when you see headlines that say "Tories Violated Elections Law" and it is alleged that you deliberately went over the spending limit, filed deliberately misleading statements, and there is evidence of doubts being expressed about the legality of the Tories' actions by members of their own party and media relations arm from the last election. Well this is what they get for running the last election pledging to be holier than any party in history and in the end they are exposed as party that has gone against honesty, openness and integrity at every turn.

As for whether an election will come soon, well if we get the June election many have mused about then I can just say that I will be very much looking forward to celebrating this year's Canada Day knowing we again will have a Prime Minister that will make Canadians so proud at home and respected abroad. Today we don't have that kind of leader at the helm of our country, but when the election comes I know Canadians will get the Prime Minister they deserve and that will be Stephane Dion.

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burlivespipe said...

Damn right! If the people and the media continue to connect the dots on how Harper has conducted himself, before and after this election, they will see someone who's craven dislike for the Canadian political system is truly below reproach. He's personally been involved in at least a couple of serious ethical acts, maybe or maybe not criminal, and shows no interest in responsibility except for THE OTHER GUY.
Let's send this guy packing!