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The Commons: Shakespeare’s worst play

Even if Jaffer was lobbying, he wasn’t very good at it


 

The Scene. Bob Rae stood and commenced to separate the knowns from the unknowns.

“We now know that there were several meetings between Mr. Jaffer and his partner with the parliamentary secretary. We know that Mr. Jaffer had dinner with the minister. We know there were proposals made worth at least $800 million that were not only discussed, but were considered directly by the department and that there were answers from the department for the proposals,” he said.

He held his hands in front of him and brought them close together, as if to put this all in a metaphorical box for presentation to the Prime Minister.

“I have a very simple question for the Prime Minister,” he said. “If all of this does not amount to lobbying and does not amount to special access for those who are friends of and close to the Conservative Party, what exactly would the Prime Minister—”

Alas, he had spent so much time reviewing just one-tenth of this story that his time had run out.

No matter, the Prime Minister was in no mood for gifts anyway. He wanted only to be clear. Absolutely clear.

“Mr. Speaker, let us be absolutely clear,” he said, “there are no government contracts of any kind involved here. That is because ministers and parliamentary secretaries have conducted themselves properly at all times. The government has put in place important laws to regulate the affairs of lobbyists. Those laws are enforced by an independent Lobbyist Commissioner. If Mr. Jaffer or any other individual has violated those laws, I am confident they will be held accountable.”

Mr. Rae stood again, exchanging his pantomimed box for a figurative water fowl.

“Mr. Speaker, it is not a bad rule in life that if it swims like a duck, it walks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, it is probably a duck,” he offered, ticking off these evidentiary guidelines on the fingers of his left hand. “In this case it looks like lobbying, it swims like lobbying, it walks like lobbying, it talks like lobbying and it smells a lot like lobbying, so it must be lobbying.”

The Conservatives across the way loudly complained with this choice of analogy. Mr. Rae, now sermonizing, raised his voice over theirs. “I would like to ask the Prime Minister,” he declared, “does he not realize that he bears some responsibility for the culture of deceit that envelopes the Conservative government, that gives special access to some, and denies others the same kind of treatment?”

“Again, Mr. Speaker, there are no government contracts, no government business involved here,” the Prime Minister repeated. “That is a strange definition of special access in anybody’s books.”

And so maybe Mr. Jaffer was lobbying his friends in government. Maybe he wasn’t. But surely, we can all agree that even if he was, he wasn’t very good at it.

After another go from Mr. Rae, the Liberals sent up Siobhan Coady, their no-nonsense Newfoundlander. “Talk about special access, Mr. Speaker,” she sighed. “Yesterday, the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities circulated copies of proposals for Mr. Jaffer that the minister said he had not spoken to him about. These proposals, asking for millions of taxpayers’ dollars, were sent for review to the parliamentary secretary to the minister. They were not submitted using regular channels. They were given special attention by the parliamentary secretary. Can the minister confirm that he knew of these proposals and gave Mr. Jaffer, the former Conservative caucus chair, special access?”

Over to John Baird, who stood solemn and serious and suddenly short of things to say. “Mr. Speaker,” he said, “in direct answer to the member opposite, at no time did Mr. Jaffer ever discuss any of these issues with me.”

Ms. Coady pressed further, accusing the minister of panicking and releasing various versions of various documents after yesterday’s mess of a committee hearing. And now Mr. Baird was indignant and perhaps a bit besmirched and stood, looking quite serious again, to proclaim his government to be open and ethical and transparent.

Another nine questions from a tri-partisan collection of speakers followed, but happily the House did not move on before Thomas Mulcair, the dramatic NDP deputy, had his moment in front of an open microphone.

“Mr. Speaker, the summer theatre season is upon us,” he reported, “and it would appear that the Prime Minister has decided to audition for the role of Lady Macbeth but he is going to have trouble washing his hands of this one though.”

At this Mr. Harper signaled to the Transport Minister to handle the government’s response. The Prime Minister’s day was done and now Mr. Mulcair and Mr. Baird would spar over who had said what to whom about what.

“Who,” Mr. Mulcair finally begged, “is going to take the fall this time for the government’s sleaze?”

He veritably hissed this last word.

And yet even this was not the day’s unkindest clause. No, that had been delivered just moments earlier, when Gilles Duceppe stood to raise the possibility that Helena Guergis, if cleared by the RCMP, might soon rejoin the Conservative caucus.

The Stats. Helena Guergis, 14 questions. Afghanistan, six questions. Officers of Parliament and infrastructure, four questions each. Quebec, Rwanda, employment and seniors, two questions each. Crime and foreign aid, one question each.

John Baird, 10 answers. Diane Finley, six answers. Stephen Harper, five answers. Rob Nicholson, four answers. Peter MacKay and Stockwell Day, three answers each. Deepak Obhrai and Keith Ashfield, two answers each. Jim Prentice and Bev Oda, one answer each.


 

The Commons: Shakespeare’s worst play

  1. With respect to Mr. Rae and Mr. Mulcair, it looks like they're trying to hang something on the prime minister that doesn't belong hung on the prime minister. If Jaffer violated lobby laws, so be it, punish him. But he is not part of the government, and he has nothing to show for his efforts. It doesn't look like the government took the bait at all. I think if asked, Rae and Mulcair would admit that the responsibility with registering as a lobbyist lies with the lobbyist, not the government. So how is any of this the government's fault? Mr. Rae? Mr. Mulcair? Care to answer that? I don't see how this attaches itself to the current government at all. And frankly I don't think anybody else does either, despite these guys' best efforts. I think I have to offer kudos to the Prime Minister and his government on this one… they didn't get sucked in.

    • This is not about MP's such as Rae and Mulcair answering the appropriate questions. This is all about optics. If the PM can optically be included within this Jaffer saga, he will be held in such suspicious light by many. Mr.Rae and Mr.Mucair are well aware of what they are doing.

      You see, we must believe that negative advertising is doing us average voter in, but the contrary is the case, namely that this subtle smearing "by the way" side is much more effective because we hardly notice it creeping in.

      At least negative advertisement is in your face, enough to be aware of it. It's the unawareness of subtle associations which does the most damage.

    • It doesnt seem to be working for Rae or the angry Mulcair.For one thing PM Harper is not the sort of man to be interested in this type of thing, let the libs bang away every -single- day.It looks like the recent polls dont care for this kangaroo court of nobodies.

    • I'm 87% in agreement with your post.

      I'm just a little uncomfortable that the entire responsibility for registering as a lobbyist rests with the lobbyist; seems to me that there is some room to have MPs/civil servants share in those responsibilities.

      • How so? It's not an MP's fault or a civil servant's fault if an individual decides to behave like he's a lobbyist without registering as such.

        • I raised this point some time ago http://www2.macleans.ca/2010/04/13/tonight-in-gue

          At that time I did not realize the amount of evaluation bureaucrats had put into the applications after having been forwarded by Jean's office (see KOM blog). There was even a draft letter prepared for Baird's signature advising GPG of the status of their applications. Yet no one checked the GPG nor Jaffer's websites during the evaluations?

          This is starting to smell a lot fishier than before. I would agree with your point (made earlier as well by Brian in my initial posting) but this goes well beyond someone showing up at your office, repeatedly, not just to chat- but to deliver specific project background/applications. At the least, laws/rules/procedures need to be tightened.

        • Perhaps an MP or civil servant should simply ask if the person is a registered lobbyist – how hard would that be.

          • Why? A lobbyist should represent him or herself accordingly.

          • Not sure that it would be in the nature of a lobbyist to act accordingly. ;-)

        • I agree. I'ts not up to the Parliamentary Secretary to ensure whether someone is registered as a lobbyist or not.
          It's also not their job to meet with applicants for funding. There are funding officers and analysts that applicants can and should be referred to.

          The ethical question remains, however: Why did the Parliamentary Secretary meet with these applicants? Why did he open the door and give preferred access to any lobbyist, registered or not? And why did the Minister refer the proposals to the PS instead of to the appropriate funding officer in his department?

        • I wasn't really thinking about fault or assigning blame…..I was more thinking about enhancements to improve what already exists.

          For example, what steps/procedures/policies could be applied to MPs/civil servants to help ensure that lobbying activities are completely transparent and open to public scrutiny. For example, is there a system in place that tracks meetings between members of the public (lobbyist or not) and MPs/civil servants? Or, as OT mentioned below, perhaps MPs/civil servants should be required to ask the simple question that OT suggested? Or is there room to do a better job of creating and/or enforcing a cooling off period that would have forced Jaffer to stay away from Parliament Hill.

          Perhaps many or all of these policies/procedures are already in place, and that info is just not being highlighted in the coverage of this saga by the media.

          • I thought it was system in place. I think Jaffer just was misleading people too and putting them in a bad situation.

          • I'm glad to hear that those other pieces of the puzzle are already in place, and that the only deficit relates to my knowledge!

          • Oh oh, just got back form AC's blog…looks like we might have been a bit premature in saying that the existing rules have no room for improvement.

            (I'm going to have to take my thumb up back ;-))

          • Hahaha, I checked his blog a while back and thought the same, it is hard to believe that there is not a good system in place. You know sometimes the Government in general (Liberals or Conservatives) is their own worst enemy, I can't believe they can't be that dumb!

            (I just gave you 2 thumbs up so we are even =D)

  2. Of course. Because the Ministers/Parliamentary Secretaries/Staffers that might have been lobbied by Rhaim Jaffer would have had absolutely no idea who he was. Go ahead. Pull the other one.

  3. If memory serves, in somewhat similar circumstances a few years back, when details about the involvement of some Liberals in the 'misappropriation' of Sponsorship funds, PM Martin responded with a statement that he was mad as hell and determined to get to the bottom of it, which he did, which cost him an election. Harper has no doubt learned that lesson well – don't ask, don't tell. Mr. Harper will have nothing to add to the discussion of this issue, ever. Continuing to ask about it in QP will serve no useful purpose – it's time to move on and let the authorities do the investigating.

    • Let's hope these authorities have access to the documents they need.

      What will those authorities do if the government tells them to go f*ck themselves, they way it did to the MPCC and the Commons Committee on Afghanistan?

      Also, just because Harper seems unlikely to bow to political pressure is no reason for the opposition to give up and stop trying. They're *doing their job* and they should keep doing it until Harper (like Martin before him) puts what's right for the country ahead of what's right for the party.

      Heck, even Nixon resigned when it came down to such a stark choice. Let's see if Harper can live up to Nixon's record.

      • Can't disagree with any of your points, but continuing to ask Harper about his government's involvement in QP is like doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. He's under no obligation to ever give a straight answer in QP. It's an entirely different matter if he refuses to provide the authorities with the information they require from him – documents can be subpoenaed, witnesses can be compelled to testify. It may take longer than most would prefer, but one way or another, we'll get some answers. I wasn't suggesting that the opposition 'give up' – their committee activities are what will produce results, not Harper's obfuscation in QP.

      • Yeah, that's it. Harper's worse than Nixon. Way to keep your perspective in check.

        Sometimes I think the only reason I visit this site is to see who can make the most ridiculous comparison of the day.

        Today, you win.

        • Ooops, I forgot. Harper ordred the secret, indiscriminate aerial carpet bombing of a non-belligerent country, resulting in the deaths of many hundreds of thousands of civilians. He also ordered the break-in and bugging of the psychiatrist's office of one of his political enemies, just so he could dig up dirt on the guy.

          And that's just for starters.

          My bad for forgetting about that.

          • I suppose some might find that a key issue…..

        • Slow down there, Orson. My point was that Nixon resigned rather than put the country through a wrenching impeachment process.

          I clearly stated that THAT was what I was talking about, not Nixon's entire reign ("Heck, even Nixon resigned when it came down to such a stark choice.")

          The only thing ridiculous here is your hyperventilating tone.

          • So what's your point? That Harper should resign over Jaffer/Guergis?

          • Did you even read my original post?

            I said: "They're *doing their job* and they should keep doing it until Harper (like Martin before him) puts what's right for the country ahead of what's right for the party."

            Harper needs to put what's right for the country ahead of what's right for his party. That would be my point, thought to be fair, its context extends beyond this Jaffer thing.

          • And what, in this circumstance, would amount to doing "what's right for the country"? You didn't specify.

    • subtle difference here, in the sponsorship scandal money changed hands, in this case none. how in that feeble mind of yours is that "somewhat similar"?

      • Somewhat similar in that both PM's learned about activities implicating members of their government in the possibility of wrongdoing. We have yet to learn the full details of the current issue.

        • You are saying that the vague possibility of catching a government official dispensing money to Jaffer or associates equates the millions of dollars gone from the public treasury in the sponsorship scandal? And you defend yourself by saying " we have yet to learn the full details" ….sounds like guilt by innuendo.
          I am not a great supporter of this government but this is really grasping at straws. You do a great dis-service to your cause
          "tis better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and thereby confirm it"

          • Please do not redefine what I am saying – at amounts to a strawman argument unworthy of response.

            somewhat: to some extent (i.e., not hugely, massively, not at all)

            You seem to be blissfully unaware that 'the vague possibility of catching a government official dispensing money to Jaffer or associates' not even on the radar at this point – he obviously received no government money so far as we know. However, questions remain about why it is that Harper & Co. had no problem with Jaffer promoting himself on the internet and in person with his government business cards as having privileged access to government funding until reporters started asking questions and getting answers, or how it happened that his wife wrote to a local politician urging him to support a company that Jaffer was associated with when she was a Cabinet Minister, or who are the Ministers Jaffer met with and when did they meet.

            If learning the full details of the current issue is your interpretation of 'guilt by innuendo' then you seem to think that there will be grounds for guilt in the details.

            Your obviously agitated state exemplified by your ad hominem attacks suggest that you're having difficulty coming to terms with the realities of this situation. You might consider getting a better grasp on the facts and finding a more productive way of using your words.

          • Why would Harper even care what the PRIVATE CITIZEN Jaffer did? Let alone keep track of his website and business luncheons….

            The full details are on the CBC website….3 proposals,
            all turned down, no money, no paper trail, end of story.
            2 of the companies did not even know about the proposals to the govt until they heard their company names on tv….funny no reporter called them first to get their story.

          • I agree with you, imagine if Harper or any other leader for that matter would be checking (spying) on all MPs or their Ministers, that's absurd!

          • If he did that, the Liberal trolls would be slagging him for being a control freak.

          • Your explanation of duties regarding the expectation of duties for Harper and co. seem a bit naive and patronizing. Do you seriously condemn Harper and co. for presumably not monitoring the website of an ex Conservative MP? Your casting about of suspicions based on this is truly an example of how desperate that you and others have become. Harper and co. showed leadership when they asked for and received Guervis' resignation. What else would you have had him do? Trying to suggest that Harper is automatically implicated because of the actions of one of his junior ministers and her spouse is quite a stretch.

            This Jaffer guy is just a blowhard jackass, who is trying to inflate his sense of self importance. Would you like to be reminded of some of the crackpots past and present in the other parties? Should their leaders be held accountable for them?

            My "obviously agitated state" stems from the attempts that you make to insinuate corruption on Harper who, although not sharing your party affiliations, is at least (unless proven otherwise) a person of integrity.

          • Bravo!!!

          • There's a difference between monitoring the website of an ex-Conservative MP and the improbability that no one in the party would have visited the website, even if only out of curiosity, and seen how Jaffer was promoting himself. It is neither naive nor patronizing to believe that nothing happens without Harper's knowledge and consent, so it seems highly unlikely that he would not have had any knowledge of the existence of Jaffer's website and what was on it.

            It's not my casting about of suspicions, it's the raising of suspicions among journalists and the general public, and it's not out of desperation but out of concern about the possibility of influence peddling. (BTW it's Guergis, not 'Guervis')

            Please refer to where I suggest that Harper is automatically implicated.

            What you think I am insinuating is once again redefining what I've said.

            You are entitled to your opinion about Harper's integrity, and I have my reasons for questioning it. It's interesting that you describe yourself as 'not a great supporter of this government', yet seem to be going to great lengths to defend it.

          • Stephen Harper, November, 2005

            When I become prime minister I will undertake an unprecedented overhaul of the federal government," he said. "That is my commitment to you."
            We must clean up corruption and lift up the veils of secrecy that have allowed it to flourish,(we are) promising to "replace the culture of entitlement with a culture of accountability."

            If integrity has anything to do with honesty, I beg to differ

  4. “Who,” Mr. Mulcair finally begged, “is going to take the fall this time for the government's sleaze?”
    He veritably hissed this last word.

    Mulcair and Rae's desperation is kind of poignant. In the end, the Opposition is confronted with the reality that Jaffer was, at worst, a wannabe influence peddler with zero influence, and the Government did nothing wrong. So many lurid sideshows, so many wasted QPs, all for naught.

    • we all know Jaffer is a wannabe……….what amazes us is that he was able to pull the wool over his old seat mates until his wife did her PEI dance . Sleaze follows sleaze is the operative phrase as an answer for your remarks.

  5. After 24 hours of sober second thought, I have changed my mind on who is to blame for this entire debacle.

    I propose that the well-intentioned but terribly misguided and misinformed voters in the riding of Edmonton-Strathcona are to blame for every single one of Rahim's transgressions. If they had favoured him with just 443 more votes, he would returned him to Ottawa in 2008 a happy and successful MP. He would not have been forced to stoop to the level where he had to grovel among the sweaty masses of Canada for a measly few million tax dollars.

    Shame on you, people of Edmonton-Strathcona!

    http://viableopposition.blogspot.com/

    • Oh, come on! That's like blaming the people of Calgary-West for inflicting the Conservative, Anders, on us, or the people of Ajax-Pickering for the Liberal, Holland.

      • Yes, satire it was. My apology to any voter from the Edmonton-Strathcona riding that might take offence at my apparently very weak, amateurish and well disguised attempt at political satire.

        I shall go back to printing my MP business cards. I hope that's within my very limited skill set.
        http://viableopposition.blogspot.com/

  6. After 24 hours of sober second thought, I have changed my mind on who is to blame for this entire debacle.

    I propose that the well-intentioned but terribly misguided and misinformed voters in the riding of Edmonton-Strathcona are to blame for every single one of Rahim's transgressions. If they had favoured him with just 443 more votes, he would returned him to Ottawa in 2008 a happy and successful MP. He would not have been forced to stoop to the level where he had to grovel among the sweaty masses of Canada for a measly few million tax dollars.

    Shame on you, people of Edmonton-Strathcona!

    http://viableopposition.blogspot.com/

  7. I'm pretty sure he was being satirical.

    • Thank you for noticing. I can't afford to lose any more thumbs up!

  8. There is no connection to hang on Harper,
    if you don't believe that, go to 6:20 mark on video, listen to the strategists:

    Power Play : April 22 : Carole Taylor, Jean LaPierre and Gerry Caplan http://watch.ctv.ca/news/power-play/april-22/#cli

  9. I love that picture of Bob Rae -is he dying? when?

    • Yes. Five minutes after you, Tony

  10. That picture of Bob Rae certainly underlines that he's not getting any younger. He'll be 62 in a few months and looks every one of those 62 years, and then some.

    Iggy, incidentally, will be 63 in a couple of weeks. He ain't getting any younger either.

    • And Lester Pearson was 66.
      How old is that in Troll years, Jarrid?

      • Yes, we need the youthful exuberance of a Rahim Jaffer or a Helena Guergis. I say bring' em back into the fold. The infusion of new blood should be refreshing.

  11. Live by having a big mouth, die by having a big mouth – There is no way this man should be employed by the CBC certainly not as a some sort of pseudo-scientific pollster.

  12. Rae just loves to have people listen to him. In fact his need to have an audience has been noted on many an occasions. it's rumored, that when he left politics he would often go to a local dog kernel where he would practice his oratory in front of mans best friend. And to ensure that they'd pay attention to him, he always had a bone in his pocket.

  13. This is the sort of thing journalism undergraduates write to satisfy their need to submit term papers. No further comment. You have rather spoiled your effort IMO by topping it with a full colour snap of Canada's aging if still pretty parliamentarian who has worn more hats than the late and great Queen Mum.

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