Déjà vu

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The topic of free flights did not go over well in the House of Commons, as the prime minister and members of his cabinet brushed off persistent questions from the opposition.

When some government MPs suggested people don’t care about the issue, the opposition fired back.

“These guys are so arrogant they think it’s up to them to decide what we can or can’t ask. Obviously they don’t like the questioning because we’ve already found out that three or four of them didn’t report things when they were supposed to.”

Seems like an ordinary day in the Commons. But this didn’t happen recently. This was August 2003. And the opposition leader? Then Canadian Alliance leader Stephen Harper.

At the time, four Liberal ministers under Jean Chrétien were under fire for free flights on Irving corporate jets or visits to the New Brunswick fishing lodge owned by the family.

Three months later, Harper was on the warpath again. This time, the prime minister was Paul Martin. Martin was defending the fact that when he was Chretien’s finance minister, he had accepted free flights from a number of rich friends.

“The whole purpose of conflict-of-interest rules is to make sure that you don’t accept gifts that have influence, and in particular, from friends,” Harper said.

Government ethics was Harper’s strong suit. At the time, the famous sponsorship scandal was just starting to unfold. Before long, the Gomery inquiry would unveil a breathtaking scheme of Liberal party financing through government coffers.

So, you would think when alleged cases of wrongdoing arise among his own ranks today, Harper would go out of his way to get to the bottom of it.

Apparently, a lot has changed in 10 years.

On Sunday, interim Liberal leader Bob Rae released a letter he wrote to Elections Canada formally requesting an investigation into the campaign spending of Labrador MP Peter Penashue during the 2011 election.

It comes on the heels of several allegations of overspending, including reports that an airline wrote off thousands of dollars in flights during the campaign.

Nonetheless, Harper seems content to ignore the matter, leaving it to Elections Canada to clear up the mess. He had a similar attitude when documents revealed Ontario MP Dean Del Mastro may have received campaign funds funneled through employees of his cousin’s company.

It’s hard to shake a scandal like the sponsorship scheme. Liberals are still trying to live it down.

But corruption is a cumulative thing, and the tally under Harper should start to raise some alarms.

Perhaps Harper should heed his own words from 2002, when Chrétien shuffled Art Eggleton and Don Boudria out of his cabinet over ethics violations.

“The crisis is a result of Jean Chrétien leading the government where, for the past nine years, ethical standards and competence have been declining constantly.”

Yes, indeed.

Organizations: House of Commons, Canadian Alliance, Elections Canada Ontario MP Dean Del Mastro

Geographic location: New Brunswick

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Recent comments

  • Eli
    November 05, 2012 - 12:15

    Wasn't Senator John Buchanan (PC-NS) appointed just as the sheriff was about to knock on HIS door. This whole story brings to light Danny Williams' assurance of openess & accountabliity? Duh!

  • Politically Incorrect
    October 30, 2012 - 12:20

    Pacific Scandal

  • Politically incorrect
    October 30, 2012 - 10:44

    Don't you Tory apologists get tired of having to defend your Dear Leader on the strenght of "well, the Liberals did it first" and "you just like him better." In the words of my father from the front seat of his Ford Escort, "Stop your whining back there or I'm turning this *$^#! car around and no one gets ice cream."

    • david
      October 30, 2012 - 11:03

      The Liberals didn't "do it forst"...they invented it, perfected it over 50 years, and are seething that they aren't still there doing more of it. Tory apologist I'm not....I'm just an observant, awake person.

  • Lawyerman
    October 30, 2012 - 10:34

    Your Honour: These charges of robbery against my client must be dropped because that bank he is charged with holding-up was held-up seven years earlier by another robber. By charging my client, the Court is complicit in the previous robbery. Indeed, even by discussing the robbery with which my client has been charged without focussing on all pervious robberies demonstrates the Court’s hatred for my client. Furthermore, I charge that Your Honour, the Court, the Prosecution, the Jury, and everyone else in this room will also rob this bank and therefore, my client is not guilty. Besides, we don’t recognise the legitimacy of any court that does not rule on my client’s behalf.

    • david
      October 30, 2012 - 11:08

      Your objection is noted. But I would ask defense counsel to explain why the previous robbery was never investigated or pursued at that time. I see no police report, no investigation, and no trial...it would seem that the accused in this case has reasoinable grounds to claim that a legal precedent for dismissal has been firmly established.

  • David
    October 30, 2012 - 08:43

    FYI: Ethics is every opposition's strong suit. They don't get the opportunity to dip their own beaks, so they make a pretty big scene when they can ---- rooted in pure envy, truth be told. But I guess that this seething hatred for Harper is so strong that it actually has 'woken' up the Telegram to all kinds of previously acceptable Liberal pork and corruption. Let''s hope they remember the concept when the next bunch get in and start slobbering around in the trough......they show a real zeal for it now.