Guess what? Apparently, it’s the media’s fault that poor Diane Ablonczy got her knuckles rapped. Somehow, I just knew that ultimately, it would turn out that we were to blame. Today’s Toronto Star reports that, according to various unnamed Tories, it may have been a photo of the minister on stage with a troupe of burly burlesque dancers that pushed PMO over the edge:
Sources said the Pride Week grant sparked a crisis at the highest levels of the Harper government.
“It was seen as a poke in the eye” to social conservatives, said one senior insider, noting the Prime Minister is wary of alienating a key part of his base. […]
Ablonczy, the MP for Calgary-Nose Hill who famously introduced Harper to his wife, Laureen, was reportedly so impressed by Pride’s “polished and professional” application that she insisted on coming to Toronto to present the cheque in person. A Conservative source said it was the media coverage that prompted the backlash against Ablonczy.
“The TV shots of her with transvestites inflamed some people,” the source said.
Another Tory insider agreed the sight of drag queens with the minister caused Ablonczy “big-time” trouble because she had not cleared her attendance at the event with Harper’s office.
So, let me get this straight: it’s okay — or, at least, not a firing offence — for the government to give money to a gay pride parade — just don’t get caught doing so on camera?
Really, it’s becoming almost impossible to piece together what actually happened here. Did Diane Ablonczy really lose signing authority over her sponsorship-is-such-a-loaded-word slush fund simply because she showed up on stage with a couple of drag queens? Or is that just what PMO types are quietly telling cranky caucus so-cons to stave off a mini-mutiny in the furthest reaches of the backbench?
It’s hard — no, let’s face it, it’s impossible — to imagine that any minister — especially a junior mint like Ablonczy — would swan off to Toronto for what she probably thought would turn out to be a good news announcement without getting the go-ahead from one of Guy Giorno’s minions. Even — or perhaps especially — considering that the announcement took place at the height of the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it standoff over the main estimates, of which the stimulus package — including the Marquee Tourism Event Program — was part and parcel.
Remember what a big deal the Conservatives made over all that taxpayer money that was in danger of disappearing if the estimates didn’t make it through the House — PMO even included MTEP in the list of programs at risk provided to Canadian Press. Someone at Langevin would have presumably been making calls to ministers’ office to get more talking point fodder. Any imminent funding announcement, especially one likely to garner media attention, would have made the PMO watchlist — what better way to shame the Liberals into supporting the estimates, after all, than to accuse them of plotting to starve the summer festival circuit of much-needed cash?
The most plausible explanation, then, is that the prospect of a public display of federal support for Pride Toronto didn’t raise a single red flag – or eyebrow – at PMO at the time, and any “big-time trouble” would have originated far below the “highest levels” of the Harper government. Yet someone — maybe, but not necessarily, someone ostensibly in the know — apparently told Trost — and possibly others — that the news came as a shock to “most of PMO”, presumably in an effort to — o, irony — prevent him from grumbling about the grant in public. Which didn’t quite work out as well as he/she/they had hoped, really.
Oh, and before I forget, Colleague Raphael wants ITQ to remind y’all that this isn’t the first time that LifeSite has caused consternation for a Conservative cabinet minister. Back in June, the self-described “life, family and community outpost” accused Jim Flaherty of “[expressing] support for [the] homosexual agenda” after the minister sent a congratulatory letter to his former campaign chair, Conservative strategist Jaime Watt, who was recently feted by EGALE Canada for his “outstanding contribution to LGBT human rights in Canada”. (Watt, that is, not Flaherty — ITQ doesn’t want to get him in even more trouble.)