Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Alberta Politics, Scandals | 4 Comments


Back in 2008, myself and a couple of young Liberals launched ““, a mock website to poke fun at some eyebrow raising travel expenses by members of the Ed Stelmach cabinet. The list included Mark Norris’ $50,000 Vegas vacation, and Rod Stevens Hawaiian stop-over to “study their gambling system”.

If I hadn’t received a cheerful letter from the Expedia lawyers back in 2008, now would be a good time to launch “”, because Alison Redford is facing a barrage of criticism over her travel expenses.

The controversy started with a $45,000 flight back from Nelson Mandela’s funeral (plus $3 for headphones), and has since spread. The latest revelation is that Redford invited along a friend of her daughter’s on a few government trips. Redford has said that “upon reflection” this wasn’t an appropriate use of taxpayer funded dollars, to which taxpayers have responded with a collective “duh”. For Redford, this is yet another scandal she has no one to blame for but herself.

After what happened with online polls in Alberta last election, I feel guilty even quoting numbers here, but Leger has the PCs free falling to 25% support – 13 points back of the Wildrose Party. What’s most interesting about these numbers is not the Wildrose lead, but that the Liberals and NDP are both up substantially since the last round of polling, and since the last election. Clearly, many Alberta progressives who lent Redford their vote in 2012 are feeling burned.

Whether or not they go back to her in 2016 remains to be seen. But with each passing scandal, asking them to do just that will become a more and more daunting proposition.

Cone of Silence

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Federal Politics, Scandals, Toronto Municipal Politics | 10 Comments

ford harper

Rob Ford and Stephen Harper are about as different as two politicians can be, but the one thing they have in common is an uncanny ability to brush off scandals before they stick. Harper entered the 2011 election facing a “controversy of the day” – from Bev Oda’s orange juice, to Bruce Carson’s fraud charges, to Jason Kenney’s use of government resources to target “very ethnic” voters, to “in and out”, to a historic contempt of parliament vote. What did all that get Harper? A majority government.

If I tried to list all of Rob Ford’s blowups here I’d run out of virtual ink, but despite being one of the most controversial politicians in Canadian history, his approval rating stood at 49% just last month.

However, this past week we’ve seen holes form in both Ford and Harper’s teflon and, in both cases, they have no one but themselves to blame.

It’s been nearly a week since claims surfaced of a Rob Ford crack video, yet the Mayor has refused to respond, beyond calling the allegations “ridiculous” and blaming it on a Toronto Star witch hunt. He’s cancelled his weekly radio show and has dodged reporters, to the point where even the Toronto Sun has joined the witch hunt, demanding he clear the air.

In Ottawa, Harper has been equally evasive when it comes to Nigel Wright’s $90,000 gift to Senator Mike Duffy, letting his enforcers take questions in the House before fleeing to Peru. In his lone public speech on the topic, Harper refused to admit anything wrong had happened, painted himself as the victim. More troublingly, he did not offer any sort of compelling explanation or solution.

Both Harper and Ford appear content to plug their ears and hope these latest scandals gently fade away, like so many scandals have before. However, by failing to offer any sort of consistent or coherent explanation as to what happened, the public has been left to assume the worst.


Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Federal Politics, Scandals | 14 Comments

The first charges in the Robocon Scandal have been laid against Michael Sona.

Most interesting in this, is that Sona’s lawyer has signalled they intend to shift the blame to the Conservative Party:

Neither Mr. Sona or I will be making any public statements beyond the following statement at this time.

Although the charge is disappointing, it represents an opportunity for Mr. Sona to finally address the allegations in a court as oppose to in the media and resolve it permanently. I cannot help but comment, that if the government was interested in the public being fully informed and the issue of robocalls being properly addressed, a Full Public Inquiry would be called, rather than a charge laid against a single individual who held a junior position on a single campaign and who clearly lacked the resources and access to the data required to make the robocalls. I am confident the public agrees.

Norm Boxall
Counsel for Michael Sona
Bayne Sellar Boxall

I continue to believe this scandal has the potential to stick, and be an issue come 2015. Stay tuned.

Smoking Gun

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Alberta Politics, Scandals | 5 Comments

Somewhere, Daryl Katz wonders “where’s my kickback?”

Fresh off the Daryl Katz scandal, Alison Redford is again in hot water:

The issue centres on a giant lawsuit launched by the province against the tobacco industry. The province is seeking $10 billion from tobacco manufacturers for the healthcare costs caused by smoking. The suit was announced in May, and was to be handled by a group of local legal firms that stood to gain $2 billion in contingency fees, according to Wildrose. One of the firms includes Redford’s former husband, Robert Hawkes, among its partners, a fact the opposition parties maintain is a conflict of interest. Further, they say Redford misled the legislature when she informed it the choice of law firms hadn’t been hers.

As has become typical of Alison Redford during her short time as Premier, it’s not so much the scandal but her handling of it that has landed her in trouble. The “no meet” committee would have been a non-issue had she simply apologized and ordered MLAs to return their cheques as soon as she found out they were being paid to sit on a non-existent committee. Instead, Redford defended the committee, attacked the opposition for “grandstanding”, lamented that she “couldn’t change the past”, and said voters were too stupid to understand the issue, before finally, after a month of controversy, relenting. It nearly cost her the election.

When she found herself in trouble for accepting $430,000 in donations from Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz, Redford’s response was again all over the place. She admits she talked to Katz after the election but doesn’t remember what they talked about. We still haven’t gotten a clear answer about whether or not Katz paid with a $430,000 cheque, and why this didn’t raise any eyebrows.

And now, Redford is again making life more difficult for herself than it needs to be. There’s a very valid defense to be made that every law firm in Alberta is going to have some connection to the PC Party, and that she likely wasn’t thinking about her ex-husband when she made the decision. However, Redford has again chosen the Sargent Schultz defense, claiming she had nothing to do with the decision – even though there are documents indicating she did:

Redford left cabinet to run for the party leadership in February 2011. She insists the final decision on the law firm hadn’t been made by then. But correspondence obtained under access to information laws indicate otherwise: A Dec. 14, 2010 memo signed by Redford, says: “the best choice for Alberta will be the International Tobacco Recovery Lawyers,” which included her ex-husband’s firm. A Dec. 22, 2010 email indicated that letters had gone to “unsuccessful candidates” informing them of the choice. And a January 2011 briefing note to the deputy minister says: “Shortly before Christmas, Minister Redford selected the International Tobacco Recovery Lawyers.”

The fact that she’s being forced to argue “Redford selected” didn’t actually mean “Redford selected” shows how entangled in a web of lies she has become. For all her strengths as a Premier, “scandal management” has not proven to be one of them.

Which is unfortunate for Redford, given that she’s now on her third major scandal, after just over a year in office.

For those sick of blog posts on Alberta politics…

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Federal Politics, Scandals | 1 Comment

Bev Oda paid $16 for a glass of orange juice. In fairness, it was a really good glass of orange juice.

The Six "S" of Scandal Stickiness

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Scandals, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

This time last year, the Tories found themselves engulfed in scandal – Carson, Contempt, In & Out, Oda… The opposition parties were licking their chops at the prospect of bringing the government down.

We all know how that turned out. The scandals didn’t stick, and the result was a Tory majority.

With the Nixonian references flying fast and furious around Ottawa, the question now becomes whether Robocon will prove to be Harper’s Watergate, or just another soon-to-be-forgotten scandlette?

From my experience, there are 6 keys to a scandal “sticking”, so let’s see how Robocon stacks up.

1. Simplicity: The rule of thumb used to be that everything in politics had to be explainable in a “30 second elevator pitch”, but that’s probably down to 10 seconds (or 140 characters) these days. The Carson scandal may have had hookers, but good luck explaining lobbying improprieties to anyone.

Robocon passes the simplicity test in flying colours – “the Tories lied to voters about polling stations moving, to prevent them from voting“. Done, with 56 characters to spare.

2. Shock: Is your 10 second explanation met with shock or a shrug? Harper missing a photo op or pocketing a communion wafer is a simple story, but it’s not going to leave many people aghast.

Widespread voter suppression? It does. Canadians tend to be rather apathetic about democracy, but it’s hard not to find what is being alleged reprehensible.

3. Story: Does the scandal fit in to a larger narrative or can it be dismissed as an isolated incident? Adscam worked because it struck to the larger issues of corruption and wasting taxpayer dollars, two things which matter to voters.

Harper has enough strikes against him on the “undermining democracy” front that it’s easy to tie this in to a larger narrative. I’d suggest the Tory track record here, including the Cotler incident, also leaves voters a lot less likely to give them the benefit of the doubt.

4. Sexiness: Is the scandal attention grabbing? Despite its name, “in and out” was the definition of “unsexy”, dealing with spending limits and accounting loopholes. Yawn.

Robocon has recorded calls, burner cellphones, and Pierre Poutine. Yeah, it’s not cocaine and busty strippers, but conspiracies sell movie tickets, and this one could turn out to be a conspiracy.

5. Sustainability: Can the scandal sustain itself for months or years, or will it burn out quickly? The Gomery Commission gave Adscam the legs to fight two elections over it.

While Harper will be reluctant to call an inquiry, the RCMP, Elections Canada, and journalistic investigations will drag on, and they’re likely to be followed by a trial. This one isn’t going away anytime soon.

6. Seriousness: Simply put, how high does it go? Watergate is the grandaddy of all scandals because it went to the very top. As entertaining as Maxime Bernier losing his briefs was, it said little about Harper.

This is really the one question mark that will make or break this scandal. If Robocon was the creation of a few rogue volunteers in Guelph, no one is going to be talking about it come 2015. If it looks like the national campaign was involved, then the Tories are in trouble. If Harper knew, it’s game over.

Robocon has more potential to inflict damage on Harper and the Conservatives than anything they’ve faced during their 6 years in power. Whether or not it does will depend on who exactly was involved.

October Surprise

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2011 Federal Election, Federal Politics, Scandals | Leave a comment

Outside of the NHL’s playoff schedule, we haven’t had many outside events impact this election. Until today:

Tories misled Parliament on G8 spending: Auditor-General

The Harper government misinformed Parliament to win approval for a $50-million G8 fund that lavished money on dubious projects in a Conservative riding, the Auditor-General has concluded.

And she suggests the process by which the funding was approved may have been illegal.

The findings are contained in a confidential report Sheila Fraser was to have tabled in Parliament on April 5. The report analyzed the $1-billion cost of staging last June’s G8 summit in Ontario cottage country and a subsequent gathering of G20 leaders in downtown Toronto.

Even though all four parties have called for the final report to be made public, as per procedure, it cannot be released until Parliament resumes post-election.

John Baird assures us that the second draft he’s seen is glowing in its praise of the Harper government. That must have been one heck of a re-write – my guess is Baird is either full of it, or he read the draft after Bev Oda had been through with it. After all, if there’s a draft out there that praises the government, I can’t for the life of me imagine it not getting leaked.

As for what it means to the campaign, it’s hard to say. It certainly gives Ignatieff ammo heading into the debates, and gives him an entry-point to revive the G20 waste issues. Whenever Harper talks about being a prudent fiscal manager, all Ignatieff has to do is point to million dollar fake lakes and gazebos.

Beyond that, I’m skeptical this is a game-changer. After all, we already knew the G20 was a boondoggle and this hole election was triggered because the Tories misled Parliament. This isn’t new. Still, a scandal about wasting taxpayer dollars is a lot more relevant to voters than who or what Bruce Carson may have been doing after leaving Harper’s inner circle.

Stay tuned.

Canada’s Silliest Scandal – The Polls Are Now Open

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Scandals | Leave a comment

In honour of the wafer waffle making the New York Times, nearly one month after it may or may not have occured, I’ve opened up a poll to crown Canada’s silliest scandal – a scandal or faux-pas that generated way more media attention than it deserved. Voting will be open until Friday evening, at which point the top 2 vote getters will be invited to duke it out over the weekend for the title of Canada’s Silliest Scandal.

Thanks to everyone for the suggestions – I’ve narrowed the field down to 17 nominees. While most of these entries are more recent, I prefer to chalk that up to history wisely discarding the silliness from our collective memory, rather than the death spiral of irrelevency Canadian politics now finds itself in.

Wafergate: Stephen Harper may have eaten a cracker. Or not. No one really knows. Yet this story consumed the media’s attention all summer long.

Camcordergate: Yeah, the Liberals really fuddle duddled that one up. But, really, should one bad tape have sunk the coalition and forced the Liberals to forego a proper leadership race?

Startovergate: A reported asks Stephane Dion a poorly worded question with mangled verb tenses. Dion asks for clarification. This showed he was not a leader.

Berniergate: Yes, yes. There were some serious allegations. But, c’mon, would anyone have cared if it wasn’t for a certain low cut dress?

Scantily-clad-womangate: NDP MP Irene Mathyssen catches James Moore looking at somewhat revealing pictures on his lap top. She raised a stink, then sheepishly appologized when Moore explained they were pictures of his girlfriend.

Doangate: The BQ questions the naming of Shane Doan as Team Canada’s captain. And other parties, believing this is a good idea , jump in.

Handshakegate: Stephen Harper shakes his son’s hand, instead of giving him a bear hug on the first day of school. Asshole bloggers have a field day with it.

Strippergate: Anyone want to guess how much media attention this would have gotten had the campaign worker in question had been a teacher, rather than a Romanian Stripper?

Warm comfy furgate: AKA Gurmant Grewalgate. Ahh…the naivete we all felt in 2005, long before before secret tape recordings became routine political news, and before David Emerson made everyone look at floor crossing differently. Sure, offers may have been implied, tapes may have been edited but, really, the whole thing was a tad silly.

Reptiliankitteneatergate: What was clearly a tongue-in-cheek press release calling Dalton McGuinty an evil reptilian kitten eater from another planet became a multi-day story. And people say elections aren’t about issues.

The billion dollar boondogglegate: If nothing else, the opposition deserves credit for branding this one. Only problem is, the “boondoggle” in question wasn’t even remotely close to a billion dollars. Or a million. Try 85 grand. And Jane Stewart’s career went down in flames over something which didn’t even happen on her watch.

Shawinigate: It was undeniably a messy situation, but does anyone besides Conrad Black really think this was worth the obsesive coverage it garnered in the Post?

Tunagate: Brian Mulroney endured dozens of scandals, most of them well deserved. But, if the scandal involves bad tuna and no one ever gets sick from bad tuna…well, that’s a little silly, isn’t it?

Lost luggagegate: An airline loses Joe Clark’s luggage. And, somehow, this made him not suitable to be Prime Minister. Him and everyone else who has ever flown Air Canada.

Footballgate: Robert Stanfield drops a football. Something Randy Moss does a few dozen times a season. Again, this made him not suitable to be Prime Minister.

Fuddle Duddlegate: Trudeau dropped an F-bomb. Everyone knew he dropped an F bomb. And yet, debate swirled over what he’d actually said.

Sexgate: Alberta Premier John Brownlee goes down in defeat over a Berlusconi-esque sex scandal, with his UFA party completely wiped out – one of 3 government changes in the province’s history. Only problem is, most historians have concluded the charges were mostly bogus.

What was Canada’s silliest scandal?
Warm comfy furgate
The billion dollar boondogglegate
Lost luggagegate
Fuddle Duddlegate
Sexgate free polls

Munsinger Deux

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Scandals | Leave a comment

L’Affair Bernier’s Briefs, as I think I will hereafter call it, has certainly proven to be a far sexier scandal than Cadscam, the In & Out scandal, or even Mulroney-Schreiber. It was front page news for the third consecutive day in Canada, and has been grabbing international headlines, including a front page story in Italy.

The latest highlights:

1. The Liberals are alleging that CSIS met with Harper about Bernier and Couillard weeks ago.

2. The NDP are alleging that Bernier carelessly left his briefing files out on an airplane.

3. Don Martin floats the bizarre theory that Bernier was “set up” (to take the blame, not with Couillard).

4. Chris Selly at Macleans is trying out “the leave-behind affair” as a possible name for the scandal. He also finds this gem of an article from Peter Worthington:

“Supposedly, the cabinet documents contained data about Afghanistan. Big deal,” Peter Worthington scoffs in the Toronto Sun. “It’s a challenge to imagine anything about our role in Afghanistan that could be damaging.”

5. The Globe has the latest Cabinet Shuffle speculation, indicating it will be a “small” shuffle then talking about the need to replace Bernier, Toews, Emerson (at Trade), and Guergis, while promoting Jason Kenney, a Quebec MP or two, James Moore, and James Rajotte. Which is just cruel to the last two – why get their hopes up yet again, only to have Harper crush them?

Scandals Everywhere!

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Scandals | Leave a comment

New York governor Eliot Spitzer is in hot water after spending $15,000 on prostitutes, in what Jon Stewart has dubbed ****gate:

The prostitute, identified only as “Kristen,” worked for the Emperors Club. The group charged between $1,000 and $5,500 an hour and operated in New York; Los Angeles, California; Miami, Florida; London, England; and Paris, France, according to court papers.

A thousand dollars an hour? Holy crap! I don’t even think Julia Roberts charged that much in Pretty Woman.

Now, I generally find these sort of scandals more interesting when they involve gay Republicans but, as far as sex scandals go, this is a good one. It also, yet again, raises the question of why Canada doesn’t really get any sex scandals – since the Munsinger Affair over 40 years ago, our scandals have generally involved things like charging chewing gum to an expense account.

But that’s not to say we don’t have scandals. The “please call it anything but NAFTAgate scandal” is now being investigated. This one probably won’t turn into much of anything – I seriously doubt there was any intent from the PMO to destroy the Obama campaign. Worst case scenario is someone being a little too loose lipped and a scapegoat being fired (now, if that scape goat is Ian Brodie, then it becomes big).

The sleeper pick in March Scandal Madness right now is the Baird-O’Brien scandal (BO scandal?) which I will not comment on, because it seems everyone who comments on Tory scandals winds up getting sued.

And, that brings us to the big one – Cadscam. With shifting stories, and the Tories reluctant to flat out deny an offer was made, this one smells fishy. Greg Weston floats an interesting theory today but, regardless of the Tory explanation, there are two certainties they can’t spin away:

1. Harper is on tape saying an offer was made.
2. Cadman’s entire family are sticking to the “million dollar life insurance policy” story. And, considering his wife is running for the Tories, there is no logical explanation for her to be making this up.

I doubt anything will ever be proven so this won’t knock him out, but those two facts above are going to leave Harper with a black eye on this one.

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