Thursday, September 29, 2011

PMO Meddling in Ontario's Provincial Election

Two members of the PMO have made the news this week for interfering in the Ontario provincial election.

Nigel Wright
Stephen Harper's chief of staff, Nigel Wright, hosted a fundraiser for a Toronto PC candidate in his Toronto home. Oddly enough, it was Wright who authored the memo from the PMO urging members of the Conservative caucus to avoid "becoming the story" in the 4 provincial elections that are underway this fall.

Dean Del Mastro, Harper's parliamentary secretary, actually commissioned a poll in his Peterborough riding. While Del Mastro claims that his poll wasn't conducted with any intention of affecting the election in his riding, it's pretty hard to believe that a politician isn't aware of the impact that polls can have on the voting process. The two questions posed in Del Mastro's poll were undeniably partisan:

Dean Del Mastro
“Given that jurisdictions like the United States and Europe have invested billions of dollars trying to create green jobs with disappointing results, do you believe that the $7 billion Samsung deal will create 16,000 jobs in Ontario?”

“Given that families and seniors are struggling today in Ontario, do you support eliminating HST from energy bills as well as income-splitting for families to reduce their provincial tax burden?”

In addition to his poll, Del Mastro has appeared at numerous functions in support of Peterborough's Conservative candidate. He has also attacked the Liberal Party of Ontario's platform on his Facebook and Twitter pages. 

Stephen Harper and Rob Ford
on August 2, 2011
Clearly, the PMO doesn't practice what it preaches. Harper himself set the stage for these egregious interferences in political politics when he attended a barbecue hosted by Rob Ford in August. After applauding Rob Ford's "accomplishments" as mayor of Toronto, and patting himself on the back for cleaning up the "left-wing mess federally", Harper expressed his hope to "complete the hat trick" in the October 6 Ontario provincial election.

What really bothers me is that Harper didn't advise his caucus not to involve themselves in this fall's provincial elections. He basically told them to interfere all they wanted - just to be sneaky about it to avoid "becoming the story". So much for that, eh?

Parliament's Most Frequent Flyer Award Goes To...

Peter MacKay
Peter MacKay, our Minister of National Defence, likes to travel in luxury. He just doesn't like to pay for it.

Since 2008, MacKay has cost taxpayers $2.9 million for his use of Challenger jets. He's used the jets more than our current and former Ministers of Foreign Affairs, and even uses the jets more than Jim Flaherty, our Minister of Finance, who has to travel around the globe pretty frequently to attend economic meetings.

MacKay's spokesperson defended MacKay's use of the military jets, stating that 50% of his flights were taken to attend to the returns of fallen soldiers. MacKay has used the jets on 35 occasions since 2008. Of those 35 occasions, 25 were for travel within Canada. Reports show that MacKay used the jets 9 times to attend to the repatriation of fallen soldiers. In my books, 9 out of 35 uses equals something more like 25% than the 50% that MacKay's spokesperson is claiming. Then again, Tories seem to practice a different form of mathematics than the rest of us.

A Challenger jet
I get that being an elected official comes with some perks. Don't get me wrong - I'm not entirely against these perks. But I don't think that any politician, other than our PM, needs to be using military jets to travel within Canada. Cabinet ministers are supposed to use commercial flights whenever possible.

The rules, however, don't seem to apply to MacKay. He is also under fire for violating conflict of interest code for a vacation he took in the summer of 2010 to the Burnt Rattle Fishing Camp. MacKay refused to disclose the identity of the camp's owner, but it later surfaced that the camp is owned by Rob Crosbie, chairman of Marine Atlantic, a Crown corporation. The cherry on the cake - MacKay commissioned a Cormorant search-and-rescue helicopter to pick him up from the camp and deliver him to the Challenger jet he then used to return from his vacation.

Update: Harper himself has now defended MacKay in the House of Commons, citing the same erroneous statistics that MacKay's spokesperson cited. Using fallen soldiers to hide behind...pretty classy.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Stephen Harper - The Anti-Robin Hood

Tony Clement and Stephen Harper
Tony Clement's slush fund is once again making a splash in the news. After days of refusing to answer questions during Question Period in regards to the $50 million that was misspent in his riding of Parry Sound-Muskoka for the 2010 G8 Summit, Clement has announced that he will field questions in a parliamentary committee. Let's forget for now that the committee consists of 7 Conservatives, 4 NDPs, and 1 Liberal. What I want to talk about is Stephen Harper.

I've been hearing a lot from Conservative supporters that this $50 million isn't that big of a deal. After all, remember AdScam? I do. $3.75 million in misappropriated funds. Doesn't seem like that much money compared to $50 million. Harper rode the AdScam wave all the way to the PMO. Remember his cries for transparency and integrity in government? Where are they now? Paul Martin launched a full inquiry into the sponsorship scandal. I don't see Harper following suit and giving Canadians the transparency and honesty that they deserve, or that he promised.

"Oh, but every riding received stimulus money to help weather the recession." True. The average riding received between $15 and $20 million in stimulus funds. In addition to the $50 million in G8 funds, Parry Sound Muskoka received $42 million in stimulus funds, over twice the national average, for a grand total of $92 million in government funding in 2010 - over 4 times the national average.

Now, let's look at the amount of money that other cities have received in summit funding in the recent past. In 2002, Kananaskis, Alberta hosted a G8 summit. The city received about $5 million in funding. In 2001, Quebec City hosted the Summit of the Americas and received $4.5 million in funding. So why, then, did Parry Sound-Muskoka need $50 million? Plain and simple: it didn't. Parry Sound-Muskoka is a riding with a very healthy tax base. Cottages costing millions of dollars tend to contribute nicely in the form of property taxes. 

Just a small part of Muskoka's "Millionaire's Row"
The fact is: this $50 million could have been spent in a riding that truly needed the help. But Harper chose to take taxpayer's money and funnel it into a friend's riding that is already wealthier than most in Canada.

Harper's Economic Action Plan: Take from the poor - Give to the rich.