Till the day I die

Peter
Peter Jackson
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You know the ones. The ones who say they’re die-hard Liberals, their parents and grandparents were Liberal, and their spouse and children are, too. (The spouse, meanwhile, votes according to conscience behind the cardboard screen).

Substitute the word Conservative for Liberal, and you get the same thing.

There will always be those whose blind adherence to one or another party is as central to their identity as their family name. They are in the clan, and will be till they die. All others are intruders and false prophets.

Then there is the soft vote. Like the vote that finally hauled down the Liberal dynasty in 2006 and has kept the Conservative minority afloat ever since.

Sometimes, though, you have to wonder what will turn the soft vote around again.

For the Liberals, it was pretty straightforward: the sponsorship scandal.

Millions of dollars flowing from the public purse into the pockets of political allies in Quebec. Bags of money trading hands in restaurants. You can’t get much more corrupt than that.

But how many smaller transgressions does it take to break a government’s grip?

If the Harper Government™ is anything to go by, it’s going to take a lot. Because nothing seems to phase the core of this party’s support. The Conservative end must be met; the means be damned.

Mind you, not every so-called scandal is worth squawking about. Opposition parties cry bloody murder at the drop of a hat.

Take the fundraising missive to Tory MPs sent last week on Jason Kenney’s ministerial letterhead. It came to light when it was accidentally forwarded to NDP MP Linda Duncan.

This is a no-no. You can’t use your political office to conduct party business. But, really. It’s letterhead we’re talking about. Ink and paper, sent to Tory MPs. No one was under any misconception this was government business. It’s a pretty minor offence. At best, it merits a slap on the wrist.

 Nonetheless, the Kenney letter does reveal a little something about the Harper Government™ mindset, and perhaps of its most loyal defenders.

The letter was a plea to help finance a campaign to attract more ethnic voters, particularly Chinese and Southeast Asian immigrants, in key districts.

Fair enough.

But the language throughout presents the plan as an attempt to sell a product to certain “markets.” It’s not about actually listening to, or acting upon, ethnic concerns. It’s about window dressing, getting the customer to come in and buy something.

And that, I think, is where the disconnect arises. That is where the Conservative fold sees things through a uniquely different lens.

It certainly explains a lot about another, much more serious scandal: the “in and out” election ad scheme.

Four people now face charges under the elections act for this ploy, in which funds were channeled through local campaign accounts so that the Tories could overspend their national advertising limits during the 2006 election.

In the old days, ministers would resign over something like this. At the least, an inquiry would be called.

But despite the charges, and despite the fact that a higher court has overruled an earlier legal action involving others, the prime minister still insists nothing more is at play than an innocent difference of opinion over accounting practices.

And that, in a nutshell, would be the consummate defence of any business trying to get around financial regulations or tax laws. We thought it was OK. Technically, it was just a loophole.

In other words, it’s all about the bottom line. It’s all about winning. Ethics? Fairness? Those words aren’t in the corporate lexicon.

Politics has a business side. And best business practices are an important tool in administering the public purse.

But governments aren’t businesses, and voters are not customers. And in a democracy, governments are not supposed to sidestep and usurp the very rules they are elected to uphold — nor should the parties who aspire to form that government.

If such cynical schemes are a means to an end, it’s time party supporters — soft and hard — honestly asked what that says about the end.

Peter Jackson is The Telegram’s commentary editor. He can be reached at pjackson@thetelegram.com.

Geographic location: Quebec

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  • Mary
    March 08, 2011 - 12:21

    "This is a no-no. You can’t use your political office to conduct party business. But, really. It’s letterhead we’re talking about. Ink and paper, sent to Tory MPs. No one was under any misconception this was government business. It’s a pretty minor offence. At best, it merits a slap on the wrist.' There is the problem - the dismissal of a wrong, "it wasn't much, no big deal, just one little thing." These little things are adding up and are worst than the "bigger" ones. It is a slow and insidious process of dishonesty and wrong.