Received in my inbox this afternoon from a Conservative Member of Parliament (published with permission):
When we formed govt the crats stopped bringing cheques to announcements & we were FORCED to cough up the $ to buy our own. Specifically, at [a government department I was involved with] the crats used to like to be in the photo ops giving out chqs, as though it was coming from them. They detested Conservatives being photographed handing out chqs, so they stopped bringing the chqs – when they even bothered to show up for announcements. They’ve screwed up dates for announcements so badly (trying to schedule announcements while the House is in session) that we don’t even bother to include them, thereby saving taxpayers thousands of $s in travel claims from the crats.
Thanks for the email, [name withheld]! MPs and anyone else are always welcome to send tips.
This issue is a bit of a tricky one when measuring political impact. Yes, Stephen Harper ran on accountability with respect to public money going to public interests. And while he hasn’t allowed public money to be funneled into the pockets of his friends — unlike the Liberals — the Grits are crying foul that partisanship is too closely linked with government.
And yes, they do have a point. On one cheque. Yes, that cheque; the one handed out by Gerald Keddy.
However, I think the Liberals have overplayed their hand. Having made a small crack with Keddy, they’re trying to ram through 181 other “examples” of cheques which actually pass the sniff test.
Stephen Harper or MPs may have signed the cheques, but they have done so in their respective roles as the Prime Minister and as MPs — not as Conservative candidates.
And therein lies perhaps my biggest disagreement with wire reporter turned opinion maker Bruce Cheadle. The CP reporter argues that the Prime Minister is a partisan entity. In his story about the Economic Action Plan website, Cheadle argued that Harper’s mere image connotes “Conservative Party of Canada”. I would suggest that the office of the Prime Minister (and its occupant) supersede partisanship and he his first and foremost the Prime Minister of Canada (and therefore an agent of the government). Likewise, Members of Parliament act in the same capacity: as government representatives.
Again, the only lapse was the logo on that one cheque.
If we are to take Cheadle’s argument further, the Prime Minister’s presence at international gatherings such as the G20 and the G8 are merely expensive Conservative Party photo ops. Further we’d presume from Mr. Cheadle that Members of Parliament have no official role at all, they are merely hucksters for their own party brand. While this may be the opinion of some, it is not the constitutionally-outlined fact.
The Liberals did score a bit of a coup last night when they were able to wedge that one cheque to make an argument for their 181 cheque slideshow on the CBC’s National. Yet, some reporters are taking note. This cheque affair reeks of opportunism; Keddy’s of course, but also by the Liberals who not only mastered the process of taxpayer-backed partisanship, but now also make a 181 photo mountain out of a 1 photo molehill.
As we all throw mud at each other in our Ottawa sandbox we occasionally look up to see how we’ve done in the eyes of Canadians. So, how does this show play out on Main Street? Canadians will be disappointed in Keddy’s lapse to be sure. The Liberal partisans may become a bit more partisan. And the conservative ideologues never loved fiscal stimulus anyway. But Liberal partisans and conservative ideologues represent a minority of Canadians. As for the 99.99% of Canadians that don’t think of politics more than 7 seconds a week, how do they feel about the issue?
Their perceptions of Stephen Harper and of Michael Ignatieff matter most. Let’s take Ignatieff out of the equation because he’s removed himself from jockeying on this issue. For Stephen Harper, this incident takes a bit of the shine off of the “accountability” image he won upon in 2006. However, for those that listen to the Liberal complaint that the Conservatives aren’t doing enough to stimulate the economy — that the money isn’t getting out of the door fast enough — the Liberals are banking on the sustained outrage of Canadians over one bad cheque, while hoping that Canadians ignore that Conservatives are satisfying any complaint of sluggish stimuli demonstrated by those other 181 cheques.
This is will be difficult as the Liberals have created a slideshow. After all, wouldn’t it be terrible for Conservative electoral chances if every local paper printed up their local MP’s photo with a big cheque with a headline that read: “SCANDAL: local MP spends your money on you in your community”?