Mulroney’s Waterloo

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Coming this spring to CBC, the explosive sequel to “Gomery” takes a no holds barred look at the Brian Mulroney Airbus Affair. The excitement of the Gomery Inquiry will be re-lived and, while the cast is different, like any good reality show we’ve got the same endearing stereotype cast you’ve come to know and love – the ex-PM out for revenge, party infighting, envelopes of cash, shady businessmen, splashy headlines, an opposition out for blood. Who knows how it will end? Who will get voted out this time?

Wow. It’s been a busy few days. When we last left you, Stephen Harper was set to call a probe to investigate if an inquiry into the Mulroney-Schreiber affair was necessary.

Then, late Monday night, Mulroney himself came forward demanding a full blown inquiry. I know Mulroney wants to clear his name and is probably looking forward to a chance to settle some old political scores but it’s hard to see how this ends well for him. There was a great 22 Minutes skit after the Airbus settlement. When asked to explain the 2 million dollars that were “wasted”, the “mounties” answered “when I think about the look in the eyes of the average Canadian at the thought that maybe, just maybe, Brian Mulroney would be going to jail – well, you just can’t put a price tag on that kind of happiness.” We all saw how the Gomery inquiry, which found no wrongdoings by Martin or Chretien, stuck to them; Even if Brian is cleared, between his reputation and the fishy business of cash transfer, it’s impossible for his reputation not to take a personal hit.

Following this, on Tuesday, Harper stunned everyone by calling the “extremely dangerous” inquiry he had warned against just a week prior.

As one might imagine, there’s a ton of coverage on this in today’s papers. Maclean’s has a good round-up of the Mulroney/Harper friendship, the QP fireworks, and the media coverage. The Globe has a series of articles where we learn, among other things, that “Because Mr. [Frank] Moores is dead, he can’t be a witness at the public inquiry.”

The big news today is that University of Waterloo President David Johnson will draft the terms of reference for the inquiry.

So, the big question is, will all this help or hurt Harper? Well, it certainly won’t help him, that’s for darn sure. Given that the Conservative Party has disintegrated and reformed itself since these events took place, it really shouldn’t be impacting Harper, but one imagines he’ll take a hit on this, in the short term at least. The Liberals are certainly going to try and use this to burn the bridge on the ethics issue since it’s one of the areas where the Tories currently have the upper hand on them. With the “in and out scandal” going nowhere, this might be their chance to neutralize the CPC on ethics. There are enough open questions about letters to Harper that, at the very least, they can try to drag him and his party into it.

That’ll Buy A Lot Of Gucci Loafers

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Mulroney adviser asked Schreiber to transfer Airbus funds, affidavit alleges

I think it’s important to remember that these are just allegations…by a very shady individual. But it’s certainly going to have the opposition shouting even louder for some sort of re-opening of the file. Because if it’s true…wow…

In far less sexy news but probably a lot more relevant from a public policy perspective is this story:

OTTAWA – More than 12,000 refugee claimants are stuck in a steadily growing backlog as the Harper government continues to dawdle on filling vacancies at the Immigration and Refugee Board.

Despite a flurry of recent appointments, the IRB reports that there are still 43 vacancies in its 127-member refugee-protection division, which adjudicates claims for asylum.

The backlog of claims is swelling by about 1,000 each month and reached 12,414 by the end of September.

Each claim is taking an average of 14.3 months to process.

When Prime Minister Stephen Harper took power 21 months ago, there were only five vacancies on the board and the backlog of claims had effectively been reduced to zero for the first time in a decade.

Yup, the questions in the House will be all about Brian on Monday but I’d sure like to see Diane Finley try to explain why her government has dropped the ball on this.

[Hat Tip: EFL]

Billion Dollar Boondoggle

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2008 Alberta Election, Alberta Politics, Scandals | Leave a comment

Alberta’s Auditor General brought down a scathing report today that contained almost half a dozen scandals inside of it. If you closed your eyes and imagined yourself in federal politics, or any other province, you’d have to see this as a fatal blow…because this is right up there with the worst reports Sheila Fraser has delivered. Kevin Taft has already called for an election and this report will certainly shift the focus away from Stelmach’s impending decision on the royalty review. Because the question is no long whether or not Stelmach will implement the full report – we all know he’ll make major changes. That’s a no brainer at this point. And I don’t mean “no brainer” in the sense of “it’s a no brainer for anyone but Ed Stelmach” – even Ed will pull this one off. He’ll try to spin it as standing up to the oil industry but, by this point, there isn’t a politician alive who wouldn’t make major oil royalties changes in Alberta. It’s not really “leadership” when any brain dead primate would make the same decision.

The real question Stelmach needs to answer is why a government he was a Cabinet Minister in failed to act. He needs to explain why Ralph Klein and Greg Melchin repeatedly said government studies showed Alberta was getting its fair share, when the opposite was true. You want a billion dollar boondoggle? How about this:

The Alberta government knew as far back as three years ago that Albertans could collect at least another $1 billion a year from the oil industry, provincial Auditor General Fred Dunn said in his annual report.

The report, released Monday, paints a damning picture of lax accounting and accountability in the province’s energy ministry, years before the release of a royalty review panel report last month that concluded Albertans are not getting their “fair share” from oil and gas development, and should be collecting another $2 billion annually in royalties.

The principles of transparency and accountability, I believe, were not followed,” Dunn said. “I’m not impressed.”

Dunn said the province has had all the information it needed to harvest another $1 billion in royalties for years without harming the oil industry, but kept that information to itself.

“Neither this information nor the reasons why changes have not taken place have been made public,” his report said.

Despite this, Stelmach is still backing Greg Melchin. Now, by itself, lying to Albertans to cheat them out of several billion dollars is bad. But there’s more:

1. Remember the fuss over golf balls at the federal level? Well, Tory MLAs have been spending up to $50,000 a year on gifts including “including golf balls, fridge magnets, books and watches.” One wonders if Santa’s gift budget is that high…

2. MLAs have been claiming exorbitant bonuses:

Some MLAs have collected surprisingly high monthly living allowances, or have given huge bonuses to their constituency staff, Auditor General Fred Dunn said today in his annual report.

In one case, a part-time constituency aide earned $18,000 a year, but received a bonus of $21,500. Three other MLAs doled out bonuses of more than $15,000 a year.

“The current guidelines that allow for unrestricted lump-sum payments to be made to employees are counter to the goal of equity and put the integrity of the system as a whole at risk,” Dunn writes in the report.

Out-of-town MLAs are using “needlessly complex” rules to simultaneously tap several different pools of cash for their living expenses in Edmonton.

In March 2007 alone, one MLA claimed $5,425 and three others claimed $5,075 for a month for which a monthly capital residence allowance was $1,750.

3. A Mark Norris aide spent $50,000 on the government tab over three years without submitting any receipts. Norris himself racked up $10,000 in undocumented expenses on his own.

All this coming after what amounted to nearly weekly patronage and spending scandals throughout September.

Considering how loudly right wing Alberta screamed against the federal Liberals for similar transgressions, one wonders how much longer they’ll put up with this.

Conservative Adscam

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I wish I could take credit for that title term but it appears John Ivison coined it first.

Regardless of what you call it, this certainly strikes me as a newsworthy issue. For those unfamiliar, Jason Cherniak has a fairly detailed breakdown, complete with snazzy graphs and everything. The short of it is that the Tories had some fun with the accounting books, by shuffling money from the party to the local ridings, allowing them to break the spending limits and get larger refunds from Elections Canada.

Predictably, Conservatives have lept forward to defend themselves, the most common line appearing to be “it’s not as bad as Adscam“. I love this one since it’s pretty much akin to saying “the last guy who held my job was fired for fraud, so I should be allowed to take a piss in the lunchroom“. Hell, why didn’t Martin just bring up the Pacific Scandal during the good old Liberal Adscam days to explain things away?

Another fun arguments I’ve heard is “it’s just like Tim Hortons!” Because, you know, like, all the individuals chains, like, pay for those national inspirational ads about fathers and sons and soliders and puppies bonding together over Tim Hortons. Which is a valid point, because I can’t remember Elections Canada ever going after Tim Hortons for breaking the election financing laws.

Now, in fairness, making fun of the arguments put forward by Tory bloggers isn’t really fair – I should be looking to the official party position. Pierre Pollievre has brought forward the case that it’s a freedom on speech argument. Basically, the Conservative Party is admitting they broke the rules but that the rules are unfair because there shouldn’t be spending limits during campaigns. Yes, this from the party that brought you an Accountability Act with donation limits of $1,000 per person. An Accountability Act that was completely quiet on spending limits. Hmm

Now, from my perspective, a few things seem fairly obvious:

1. These were obviously national ads. I’m sorry, but font size 3 white writing on a yellow background at the end of the ad, does not make it a local ad.

2. This danced around the rules. At least in the eyes of Elections Canada it did and they seem to be the ones best suited to judge this.

3. Even though this may not be the most sinister conspiracy ever perpetrated on the Canadian people, it still looks dirty to me and the Tories deserve to get some flack for it. And, yes, even those evil Liberals who brought you Adscam should be able to criticize them for it.

4. Had it been the Liberals who had done this, they’d have been crucified by Ivison, Pollievre, and the media as a whole. That’s just the way it is and the double standard is reversed when it comes to things like abortion comments, but it’s still there.

Trust Restored

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After a year long investigation it seems the infamous income trust investigation has finally run its course:

A top official at the department of finance has been charged in connection with the income trust scandal that erupted in late 2005.

According to CTV, Serge Nadeau, the director general of analysis at the tax policy branch of the finance department, is accused of criminal breach of trust.

Because charges have been laid, it clearly wasn’t a witch hunt started for political opportunism (OK…maybe it was started for political opportunism, but there actually was a witch, it appears). At the same time, the Liberals get to save face by being cleared of any wrongdoing. So…start your spinning!

The NDP has called for an apology from Goodale and the Liberals for “[insisting] nothing was amiss with income trusts.”

“[W]e now know that the RCMP have a different view,” NDP MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis said on Thursday.

The RCMP income trust investigation exonerates the Liberal Party of Canada and shows that the Conservative and NDP allegations of a politically-motivated leak were false. The Prime Minister should immediately ask that his party withdraw their French attack ad that smears the reputation of the Honourable Ralph Goodale.

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