I got up early this morning for the Conservative policy announcement. Perhaps it was a little too early as we packed the committee room at 8:30am. Stephen Harper’s announcement is a positive and timely message to be sure. A big surprise was the complete ban of corporate and union donations to political parties. I think that this is a great idea that will surly connect with the average voter who gets that generally ill feeling when they think of how things work in Ottawa. Perhaps the greatest strategical brilliance of the announcement is that the Tories have presented their active gameplan for reform, while the Liberals are now stuck in their passive approach of waiting to be told what to do by the judge that labelled them guilty of corruption this week.
I’m not entirely sure about what the plan is for jamming the revolving doors on lobbying. Senior staffers, and ministers are forced to cool off for 5 years in the document, however I don’t understand the harsh words for Hill staffers. Is it not fair for a coffee pouring low level staffer to make connections with parliamentarians in order to eventually advance the position of a future client in a future career? If lobbying is still legal within the proposed Conservative plan, why does Stephen Harper make a blanket condemnation in words?
Speaking of throwing around the lobbying label, Minister of Public Works Scott Brison came out against Mr. Harper for being an unregistered lobbyist for the National Citizens Coalition and brings out not only a red herring, but a red herring that is factually incorrect. Mr. Harper didn’t register as a lobbyist because he was doing no such thing as President of the National Citizens Coalition. Harper was neither an advocate for a profession, trade, nor product but rather a proponent of policy and ideas. The NCC wasn’t “charged” six times for violating the Elections Act, but rather they presented six court challenges to the law.
In fact, watch and listen (turn up your speakers and go to the last 20 seconds) to reporters complain about Scott Brison’s weak challenge to Harper’s policy proposal and to his red herring attack on the Leader of the Opposition.
The lobbyist policy in the Conservative announcement today was of course inspired by David Dingwall, the former Liberal cabinet minister who became an unregistered lobbyist soon after. Senior Conservatives tell me that the policy is more about punitive action than prevention (we all hope that the threat of the former takes care of the latter). While clever law breakers will always find a way of circumvention, when they get caught, the Conservative policy will not pay severence but insist on a sentence.
Today’s policy announcement is sure to score well for the Conservative Party.
The party has spent a lot of time condemning the corruption of the Liberal Party. Now, it has something to offer Canadians with the aim of cleaning up the mess.