A teachable moment - Macleans.ca

A teachable moment


The Star explores the practice of unelected Conservative candidates turning up at government funding announcements. Not mentioned is candidate Denise Ghanam’s explanation when she appeared with Conservative MP Jeff Watson at an announcement in Essex County two months ago.

What’s the rush, I asked Watson; are Conservatives preparing in case the Liberal party decides in Sudbury today it needs to trigger an election? “These announcements take months to prepare,” Watson said, shaking his head at my suggestion.

Then why bring a Conservative candidate from a nearby riding to a funding announcement? “I’m still learning the ropes,” Ghanam says. “This is all about the economy.”


A teachable moment

  1. "This is one more example of abusing government resources to benefit the Conservative party," says Liberal MP Martha Hall Findlay (Willowdale).

    But all the other examples seem to be falling apart. The Citizen-Chronicle Herald just reported that, outside of Quebec. the Tories have about 60% of the seats and got 60% of the stimulus spending. So the accusation of systemic partisanship in spending seems pretty wobbly.

    And, out of 6,000 announcements, the Liberals have complained about 50-odd novelty cheques, of which 3 are actually suspect. So, 99.99% of projects have no complaint against them, and 99.994% have no realistic complaint against them.

    Still, it's good enough for another sensationalistic headline…

    • Clearly you have no problem with this at all. The PM argues debateably, as did Chretien, that it is ok for a sitting MP to take credit for funding or projects they helped to bring to the their riding. Not content with this[ arguably ok ] it’s also ok to take credit in ridings where Tories weren’t elected and promote unelected candidates, not to mention not inviting the actual MP. And all on our dime to add insult to injury. And you are ok with that! Are you a democrate at all by any chance? I suppose we are about to hear how all this kind of thing went on under Chretien – as if that made it ok now.

      • The article says the opposition MPs were able to participate, but also notes that some of them voted against the spending. I suspect this is another Liberal claim, amplified by scandal-hungry reporters, that will slowly deflate upon scrutiny – but the scrutiny and deflating won't make headlines. Hopefully, the New Democrats will respond by calling both parties out for wasting press space with silly stunts while real issues like pension protection are pushed aside.

        • Where does it say that the opposition members were able to participate? It lists a number of examples where the opposition MPs were specifically barred from attending.

          • The examples seem to be of opposition MPs that didn't attend events, with the assumption or implication being that they were excluded.

            The counterpoint is at the end – admittedly in a quote from a PMO spokesperson: But MacDougall, the PMO spokesman, said that at the Niagara event, "the mayor of Welland, Damian Goulbourne, regional chair Peter Partington, Liberal provincial cabinet Minister Jim Bradley, and the president of Niagara College all participated in the announcement in question.

            "The local New Democrat MP, Mr. Allen, voted against the EAP and its investment in Niagara College," MacDougall added. "However, just like other community leaders, he could have attended the event."

          • There's a big difference between participating and attending.

        • "The article says the opposition MPs were able to participate, but also notes that some of them voted against the spending"

          Yeah, the ivites were no doubt posted on the underside of the toilet seat at city hall. 'Some of them voted against the spending…" Why bother having opposition MPs at all? They were for, they were against. Same result. Tories get to annonunce, elected or not.

        • "Some New Democrat and Liberal MPs say they have only learned about funds going to their ridings when they looked in the local paper after the fact and saw unelected Conservative candidates prominently featured at government-financed events."

          Yes, it seems the opposition MPs are perfectly able to participate… all they have to do is travel back in time after they find out about the announcement in the paper. Well, except for this one:

          "This fall, Moncton Liberal MP Brian Murphy was barred from entry to an announcement by the Prime Minister at the Irving shipyards in New Brunswick."

          But I'm sure Mr. Murphy would have been welcomed with open arms to this announcement if he had simply crossed the floor to the CPC ahead of time.

          Nevertheless, perhaps you can explain why opposition MPs are not invited to these events, but Conservative hopefuls are? Not only that, why are these wannabes posing with the cheques? What did they do to get money to the riding?

          • That Irving shipyard event was the release of the third report on the Economic Action Plan, wasn't it? Perhaps he should speak to Mr. Ignatieff about why these reports weren't jointly unveiled by the Liberal and Conservative parties. After all, they were a Liberal idea.

            The other points, sadly, seem to reduce to "he said, she said" stuff. Is there any way to confirm whether PMO or those MPs is telling the full story?

    • During the sponsorship program, the federal government spent about $1 trillion. Of that, $40 million was allegedly misappropriated by members of the Liberal Party, or just 0.004%, leaving 99.996% spent appropriately. Therefore it was okay, by your calculus?

      • During the sponsorship scandal, the Liberal party took public funds and paid it under the table to itself and its friends. At the moment, the government is accused of using three inappropriate novelty cheques. The difference of substance far outweighs any similarity of scope. The point is the Liberals are claiming systemic parisanship in the stimulus spending, and comparing it to the sponsorship scandal to build the impression that the Tories are no better than the Liberals. But the underlying facts about the stimulus spending aren't holding up and the comparison makes no sense.

        • I'm sorry to say that the Liberal Party is not a person. The people involved have been reported on and punished, perhaps not to your liking but… Interesting to see how when it's your team's misappropriation of funds/accountability you prefer to talk hyperbolic history lessons. Wasn't it Churchill who said those who don't learn from history are going to repeat it?

          • The Conservative party and its members have not misapprorpaited funds. They are accused of directing public money to legitimate public projects in select ridings and using novelty cheques when announcing this. The Liberals who have been punished actually took public money and gave it to Liberal partisans who had no legitimate claim to the money. They used paper bags when hiding the money. The differences should be stark.

          • The Conservative Party has misappropriated taxpayers' money for partisan purposes in many ways; through their in-and-out scheme, by sending out countless ten-percenters to advertise their party, by putting their logos on government cheques against the Treasury board rules, by using government funding of projects to advertise their party, by sending out photos of Stephen Harper's ugly mug to the press and by plastering them all over the government websites which are intended to serve Canadians, not publicize a bunch of doughy Conservatives, and by wasting our money on an unecessary election.

          • Comparing holding an election to the sponsorship scandal is a stretch. None of these involve handing bags of stolen money to partisans with no legitimate claim to the funds.

          • You're right. They skipped the partisans and went directly to the ad agencies and printing companies that the partisans would have given the money to. That makes it so much better.

          • In the sponsorship scandal, the money was supposed to go to ad agencies but went to the Liberal party and its partisans. How does this compare to what the Conservatives are accused of? Your suggestion that paying ad agencies for advertising is somehow worse than this doesn't follow.

      • I really like the strategy of comparing this to the sponsorship program. First, most people know the difference between spending taxpayers money and trying to get credit for it and stealing taxpayers money so it comes across as completely desperate. Second, it reminds alot of voters of a big Liberal scandal. I'm sure the Conservative communications team appreciates your help.

        • Amazingly, it's a strategy adopted by arch-strategist Warren Kinsella: "I happen to think the Reform-Conservatives "Action Plan" is rigged to favour Conservatives, and Conservative ridings, and is actually more corrupt than the sponsorship program – because it is on a national scale, and it isn't just happening in one province."

    • There are over 200 cheques from over 60 MPs. http://www.flickr.com/photos/conservativecheques
      And those are just the cheques that were found. There are probably more that were used but never posted online.

      • Are there 200 ethics complaints?

        • Is that our most important measure?

          • Hopefully not, since it seems any MP can make an ethics complaint against another. We should probably focus on the number that are found to have broken a rule.

        • There is one ethics complaint for each MP involved.

  2. So there's not a word of truth to this? . . .

    Dangling the dollars – Where the federal stimulus money went
    By Glen McGregor and Stephen Maher, Ottawa Citizen and Halifax Chronicle Herald
    November 7, 2009
    ". . .the federal government has announced, on average, $32.8 million in infrastructure spending in each Conservative riding, $9.2 million more than in opposition ridings."

    • I assume it's true – that's where I got the "about 60% of the ridings and about 60% of the spending" numbers from, as well as the rationale for setting the Quebec numbers aside.

      • Besides repeating your CON talking notes, you should also catch on to the scheme behind the scheme… Quebec remains part of Canada and its taxpayers are Canadian taxpayers. But that's not to say they won't be getting their tory tips; Harper is playing them more judiciously, awaiting a 'closer-to-election-date' to start spreading our stimulus hoopla — a little late for the construction season, but still in time for the Ice festival. Bribing people with their own money never goes out of style, but at least your so-called leader has made it his own cause celebrity…

        • So, you;re assuming the people of Quebec would forget stimulus pork if it was spent too early…What's the Quebec motto again? I forget…

          • Stick to the Con talking points. You do better on-script.

  3. I assume it's true – that's where the "about 60% of ridings and about 60% of spending" numbers come from, as well as the rationale for setting aside the Quebec numbers.

    • what about this. . .
      "Including large transit projects in Ottawa, Vancouver and Toronto pushes up average funding in Liberal and NDP ridings, and has allowed Harper government ministers to correctly claim that select opposition ridings in these cities receive more money in infrastructure spending than other ridings."

  4. I sit back and laugh watching the once idealistic Conservatives twisting themselves in knots trying to justify all of this outrageous pork barrel politics.

    What they sought to destroy they have become– only far worse.

    • I wonder if Harper has a portrait up on the wall a la Dorien Grey? Hmm…i did hear somewhere there were a few?

  5. It's almost as fun as watching the Liberals and journalists twisting themselves up to create pork barrel scandals when the evidence cuts against them…

    • Sure the evidence cuts against them if you want to exclude numbers that don't fit your opinion (i.e. Quebec). I still don't buy that even excluding Quebec that it's 60% and 60%

    • "It's almost as fun as watching the Liberals and journalists twisting themselves up…"

      Indeed…but not nearly as much fun as watching you step up for your team with a rubber bat.:)

  6. It's in the Citizen-Chronicle Herald report. What do you find wrong with their work?

    • No it's not; if I recall correctly, you made up the 60% in some comment on these blogs and you have been dishonestly repeating your lie ever since.

      • It's from their numbers. You take their average per Quebec riding, multiply it by 75. That's about $1.1 billion. Deduct that from the $4.7B overall. Then use their statement that, excluding Quebec, the difference between the Conservative average and the opposition average is $3.3 million. That gives this equation, where x is total Conservative spending:

        Solve for x and divide by $3,600 million. That's about 60%. And the Conservative's 133 seats is about 60% of the 233 seats outside Quebec. Please let me know if there's something wrong with my math.

        • Yeah and there is also a code proving that Bacon was Shakespeare.

          • It's algebra, Holly, not the Da Vinci code.

  7. Oddly enough many pundits assumed that these cons would have lots of problems in Ottawa since many lacked experience. That may be true of individual MPs but what was forgotten was the party's experience in AB. I wouldn't be at all surprised to find that a lot of these skills were learned there in almost 40 years of monopolistic power[ excluding Lougheed who was/is a great Canadian]

  8. left off part of that quote from the article –

    "The project [York Subway Extension in TO] was first announced by Harper and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty in 2007."

  9. The stimulus fund includes $1 billion of fundng that's accelerated (i.e. broiught forward from future years). The explanation is in Budget 2009, which you can find at http://www.fin.gc.ca.

    • OK, that's what I'm not getting about the Economic Action Plan – I thought that this was new (borrowed) money for new projects. Projects that were approved under the Building Canada Plan to spend $18 million over seven years through the Gas Tax Fund and GST Rebate are now included in the Economic Action Plan. So how is it possible to calculate how much new money is being spent?

      • It should appear in the Budget language and tables.

        • Nope.

          • It's not obvious, but table 3.7 on page 160 seems to have the information. Anything that says "accelerating" would be money pulled forward from future years. There may be more of this than the two items I saw on the table though. Reading Chapter 3 with an eye out for similar language would turn that up.

          • Thanks, but now I get "Error 401" – need to have a username and password for http://www.fin.gc.ca.

            In any case, it's not so much what's been budgeted for, but what's actually being spent as either new (borrowed) 'Economic Action Plan' money, or 'accelerated' GST + Gas Tax Rebate 'Building Canada Plan' money that interests me.

          • That's the cash value in table 3.7. Also, whatever's reported in the quarterly reports. fin.gc.ca is a public site so you should be able to access it.

          • Ok, I can get on to the site now – must have been a temporary bug.

            But I find it all somewhat overwhelming. As an ordinary taxpayer not particularly skilled at interpreting federal budget documents, I would just like to know which projects are being funded by the Economic Stimulus Plan financed by unspecified future taxes, and which are being funded by the Building Canada plan financed by the GST and Gas Tax. Is that set out anywhere in a format that an ordinary taxpayer can grasp?

          • Doubtful – the budget wouldn't detail spending by project. Your best bet would be the quarterly reports or the EAP site, but that's not likely.

  10. Maybe – the two words seem to be used interchangeably by MacDougall. It's very likely the role the Conservatives would like the opposition MP to play would differ from the role the opposition MP would like to play. Not sure that supports the claims Hall-Findlay is making.

  11. Amazing how the Con supporters lower the standards when it comes to Harper.


    • Doesn't surprise me at all. The hypocrisy is what defines them. It revealed itself on day one, when Harper appointed Fortier to the Senate, then brought him into cabinet. The 180-degree turn on the part of the rank-and-file was pathetic.

  12. OT, but not entirely –
    Yesterday on QP Bob Fyfe talking about the Olympic Torch route and Conservative denials that they had anything to do with it, said that VANOC is stacked with Conservatives. While I'm inclined to take a lot of what Fyfe says with a grain of salt, if it's true, it would account for the 'impish' grins of those Conservatives who said they had nothing to do with it.