…make a lovely light:
1) March, 2005. Donation hanky-panky. Delegates to the Conservative Convention pony up $600 each. Treasury Board President John Baird, the Harper government’s ethics guy at the time, admits this should have been reported as political donations. The Conservative Party, however, failed to do so.
In September, 2006, Chief Electoral Officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley criticized the Conservatives failure to disclose up to $1.7 million in donations in connection to the convention . Despite Kingley’s requests for documentation concerning the disputed funds, Elections Canada confirmed, that Conservatives had for months not disclosed the information.
After months of heated denials, in December of 2006 the Conservative Party of Canada quietly admitted it had failed to publicly disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of donations, and filed a revised financial report for 2005 with Elections Canada.
2) November, 2005. The Allan Riddell Affair.
The Conservative candidate for Ottawa-South, Allan Riddell, is persuaded to step aside so that whistleblower Allan Cutler could run in his place—and was later stiffed. There had been a deal in place to cover off his expenses, which the Conservatives failed to honour. Harper lied, claiming there had been no such deal, but an email from CPC Executive Director confirmed: “there is now a binding agreement between Mr. Riddell and the Conservative Party of Canada.”
In January 2007, Ontario Superior Court Justice Denis Power ruled there had in fact been an agreement between Mr. Riddell and the Conservative Party of Canada. Ordering the Conservatives to pay a fine, Justice Power wrote in his decision: “In my opinion, the crux of the matter between the parties was that Mr. Riddell, the leading contender for the nomination, agreed to voluntarily step aside in favour of Mr. Cutler in exchange for which he was to receive some financial compensation for expenses.” Compensation paid to Mr. Riddell was said to be about $50,000 to recover his nomination expenses. In another court ruling in July 2007 the Conservatives were ordered to pay Riddell $118,000 in legal costs.
3) November, 2006. Running interference. Harper Minister John Baird helps out political ally Ottawa mayoralty candidate Larry O’Brien by cancelling funds for light rail transport.
4) February, 2008. The Flaherty Express.
Here’s an account of a budget morally off the rails:
It only got a small mention in Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s Budget Speech of February 27, 2008 - a proposal to re-establish passenger rail service between Peterborough and Toronto on an existing rail line - but it caught federal bureaucrats off guard and caught the attention of national media.
Soon after budget day, reports surface that federal transportation and other government officials were mystified. They had not been consulted on the proposal and the idea ranked among the lowest of priorities. The budget itself gave no details except that the money was to come from $500 million allocated across Canada to public transit capital infrastructure.
Commentators immediately noticed that the rail line happened to pass through Flaherty’s Whitby-Oshawa federal riding, the same provincial riding for which Flaherty’s wife, Christine Elliott is the Ontario MPP. The rail line would also pass through Peterborough, a city of about 80,000 held by federal Conservative Dean Del Mastro.
5) May, 2008. The case of the unsecured documents. Maxime Bernier, a well-endowed biker moll, and sensitive material. All the ingredients required for a cheap “Pulp Fiction” type thriller, and I do mean cheap. Except for Bernier’s suits, of course.
6) August, 2008. Listeria and the cold Conservative cuts. Cuts to meat inspection, that is: and Health Minister Gerry Ritz’s lame and tasteless joke aside, he and the rest of the government can’t say they hadn’t been warned.
8) December 2008. Prorogue I. When the going gets rough, the Harper Government™ thinks democracy can use a time-out. Our elected MPs are sent off to chill.
9) June, 2009. Lisa Raitt. She had a chequered financial past, but it was the “cancer is sexy” quip, and her dissing of Cabinet colleague Leona Agglukkaq, that grabbed public attention. She pulled a Bernier as well, leaving sensitive documents in a public place—but by well-established Conservative practice, a staffer took the fall. Harper kept her on.
10) December 2009. Prorogue II. Political life was once again getting a little hot for the PM, what with the Afghan detainee issue and all, so he sent home our elected representatives again. Sometimes democracy just gets in the way.
11) April, 2010. Even ex-MPs have their privileges. Another lurid tale: former Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer (married to soon-to-be-former Conservative MP Helen Guergis), busty hookers, and an oddly timid Crown Attorney. Do these folks get a lifetime supply of Teflon?
12) April, 2010. And speaking of Helen Guergis. Having aides posing as private citizens write flattering letters to newspapers about her; an unethical mortgage transaction for which she was fined by the normally docile Mary Dawson, Parliamentary Ethics Commissioner; possibly letting her office be used by her entrepreneurial husband; and let’s not forget the famous Charlottetown Airport meltdown. Finally there was too much baggage even for the wide shoulders of Stephen Harper. Out she went.
13) April 2010-present. Afghan detainees. The government refused to turn over documents about our questionable treatment of captured Afghans as Parliamentary privilege requires, was cited by the Speaker of the House, and since then has been doing a slow waltz with the suddenly bashful Liberals. To date, nearly a year later, not a single document has seen the light of day, despite Liberal assurances, as month followed month, that release was imminent.
14) February, 2011—March 25, 2011. A NOT-y Minister. Bev Oda is in the news for her clumsy mishandling of a CIDA request for funding by the venerable church group KAIROS. She escaped being found personally in contempt of Parliament by the skin of her teeth: the government fell just a tad too soon.
15) March, 2011. Jason Kenney and his letterhead. Raising funds for your party using MP stationery isn’t on. But Kenney talked his way out of that one, and eventually an aide duly fell on his sword.
16) March, 2011. Bruce Carson. Another senior Harper advisor gains unwanted headlines, and so does Harper. Our PM sure knows how to pick ‘em.
BONUS TRACK: Thirty reasons not to vote for Stephen Harper: good in 2008, and just as good right now.