Bev Oda: Overconfidence

Why on Earth would Bev Oda behave any differently?

Ben Fisher/CP Images

A very large number of the Canadians who have voted Conservative for the last four elections in a row would be pleased if they could spend $16 on orange juice in a month. So don’t tell me there is no reason to raise an eyebrow over Bev Oda’s decision to walk out on a reservation at the Grange St. Paul’s and check into the Savoy instead, where by all accounts they serve the really good stuff with breakfast.

Last autumn I defended Peter MacKay for staying at a posh Munich hotel during a security conference. My entire point was that the hotel he stayed at was the conference venue. Security delays, and missed schmoozing in the wings, would impose genuine opportunity cost on any minister who stayed anywhere else. So what’s striking about Oda is that she didn’t rack up her bill staying at the conference venue: she racked it up fleeing the conference venue for someplace nicer. Incidentally, this is what a room at the hotel she fled looks like:

But here’s the interesting question: Why on Earth would Bev Oda behave any differently?

The most significant detail in Jennifer Ditchburn’s CP story is that Oda went on this little cross-town escapade in June of 2011.

Let’s travel into the head of Canada’s Conservatives in June of 2011.

They had just spent half a year being hammered in the House of Commons by — ah, nostalgia — the Michael Ignatieff Liberals for improper respect toward Parliamentarians and the Canadian taxpayer. One item of contention was the memo-writing habits of Bev Oda. She got to sit in her very comfortable chair for week after week after week while handy helpers — John Baird, Pierre Poilievre, sometimes even Stephen Harper himself — stood up to cover for her. It was sometimes written that Oda was “in hot water” over her actions. But this was comical. The water wasn’t hot. She wasn’t in water of any temperature at all. She didn’t even have to do her own standing. And when it was over, Michael Ignatieff pulled the plug on an election, and the voters of Canada descended on him like villagers with torches. The Conservative party was richly rewarded. Bev Oda’s share of the vote in her riding increased.

And two weeks after the election, everybody trooped off to Rideau Hall, where Oda, described by the CBC as “embattled minister” — embattled? What? She’s got the Prime Minister of Canada to do her standing up for her — got her old job back.

And two weeks after that, she didn’t like the Grange. Why would she have to settle? Why would she throw caution anywhere except to the wind? She did what she did and her party did better and she did better and the PM gave her her job back. There’s no orange juice too good to celebrate the way that must feel.