Let them eat cake…

Russell Wangersky
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There are those who bridle at the idea of Senator Fabian Manning trundling around the province, handing out federal government cash under any number of pretexts, like this one, which he was to undertake today: “The Honourable Keith Hutchings, Minister of Innovation, Business and Rural Development, and Senator Fabian Manning on behalf of the Honourable Bernard Valcourt, Associate Minister of National Defence and Minister of State (Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency) (La Francophonie), will make provincial-federal funding announcements for projects in Goulds and Holyrood tomorrow (Tuesday, January 8). The first event will take place at Goulds Lions Arena at 10:00 a.m. and the second event will be at the Star of the Sea in Holyrood at 1:00 p.m.”

The detractors point out, quite rightly, that the federal government is essentially trying to set Manning up as a faux member of Parliament, the government’s representative on the ground, and is perhaps attempting to make him a saleable candidate in any future federal election Manning might choose to contest.

It is, after all, a strategy that the feds tried and Manning failed at last time around, even though, in the years leading up to the last federal election, Manning doled out more federal cash than a billionaire who had suddenly found religion. Every time you turned around, Manning was cutting a ribbon or a cheque.

It was, by the election call, so transparent it was almost abusive, and I think I may have said something along those same lines in a column myself at the time.

But the more I think about it, the more I can’t help but feel, in some small way, Manning’s unelected status is exactly, precisely in keeping with the federal cash-delivery duties he’s been tasked with.

It might be even more unseemly for an elected politician to be trundling around on the taxpayers’ dime, gleefully tossing out dollars to ensure re-election.

What you get …

With Manning, you get exactly what you see: a comfortable and financially secure, fully pensionable and unelected political appointee both taking your money for a salary and handing it out to others as if he was throwing alms.

In its own way, it is the modern equivalent to having nobles throwing loaves of bread from their moving carriages to the assembled and hungry poor. By the time they’re done fighting each other for the scattered loaves, Senator Manning can be back on the plane.

You don’t have to have any comfortable fiction about Manning living the same kind of life or having the same set of employment fears as anyone else, nor do you have to insulate yourself with the tired trope of having the cash delivered by one of those self-proclaimed “overworked and underappreciated members of Parliament.”

No, Senator Manning is a well-fed appointee gifting back money that the government harvested from all the rest of us.

In the process, it may show a whole lot about how our federal government feels about us. 

First, in its most blunt form, it shows that the government thinks we’re all as stupid as house cats — because Manning shows up every day with the food bag, we’re supposed to follow him around meowing and rubbing votes on his legs in some future election.

Second, it shows we’re dumber than house cats, especially if we believe he won’t quit the Senate and, if he doesn’t win but the Tories do, that he’ll end up right back in the Red Chamber.

And thirdly, but most importantly, it shows that in one critical way, the new Tories are just like every other federal government we’ve ever had, even the wallet-happy Liberals: the Tories think we should and will reward them for handing back a few of our own dollars.

There’s no work for the peasants? Let them eat announcements. Do send Lord Manning out with a few.

Russell Wangersky is the editorial page

editor of The Telegram. He can be reached by email at rwanger@thetelegram.com.

Organizations: Rural Development, National Defence, Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency La Francophonie Red Chamber The Telegram

Geographic location: Holyrood, Goulds

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Recent comments

  • Skeptical Cynic
    January 08, 2013 - 16:07

    As far as the voters of Avalon district are concerned, it's probably a safe bet Fabian Manning is radioactive to the extent that he'd make a pellet of weapons-grade plutonium look like one of those party novelty glow-sticks. Or more succinctly, Manning has about the same chances of getting re-elected in Avalon as Penashue has in Labrador.

  • Pierre Neary
    January 08, 2013 - 15:53

    "a faux member of Parliament, the government’s representative on the ground, and is perhaps attempting to make him a saleable candidate in any future federal election Manning might choose to contest." That’s a bit of a stretch for me. Way to generous on your part Russell. I find it hard to believe PM Harper would be dumb enough to try that futile idea again. Would he? Time for Mr. Manning to ride off into the sunset with his pension and leave us alone.

  • Aunt Lizzie
    January 08, 2013 - 15:20

    So Wangersky is now complaining because the federal Conservatives are spending too much money in our province? Or is he just bothered because it is an unelected Senator who is making the announcements? At least Manning is doing something to earn his keep. And he is not the one handing out the money - Ministers approve the spending, and Manning is simply used as a messenger because he is based here and the Conservatives have no elected MPs on the island to make these announcements. This all seems perfectly reasonable to me, but some people like Wangersky have a remarkable ability to complain no matter what.

  • saelcove
    January 08, 2013 - 13:17

    It,s a no win situation complain when they do complain when they do not

  • Doug Smith
    January 08, 2013 - 11:50

    Fabian Manning trundling around the province handing out federal government cash is a good thing, the more the better. Our provincial government is now talking about lay offs, cutbacks and tax increases. Given all the money coming in from oil they still have managed to put us in a big deficit with no end in site. We need help and if Mr. Manning is going to help why don’t we let him? The accusation that the federal Conservatives are trying to set Manning up as a saleable candidate for the next election is probably true but so what, who cares? All politicians promise us things and if they didn’t we wouldn’t vote for them. Doug Smith, GFW

  • Maurice E. Adams
    January 08, 2013 - 06:48

    There is nothing very subtle about being bribed with your own money. Whether appointed or not, this is not the kind of work that a Senator is supposed to be doing, in effect, political campaigning ---- paid for by taxpayers.