The good news is that Nova Scotia’s four Conservative MPs say they are not going to waste taxpayer dollars sending constituents their national party’s mudroom-generated, bottom-feeding Justin Trudeau mauler-mailers.
The bad news is that not one of them — Peter MacKay, Gerald Keddy, Scott Armstrong, Greg Kerr — seems prepared to denounce either their bullying content or their flagrant abuse of public funds.
The publicly-funded mailers, which are intended to allow local MPs to update their constituents on what they’ve been doing for them in the House of Commons and alert them to programs or issues of local significance, have been hijacked by the national parties — mostly but not exclusively the Tories — to fund partisan federal muck-tossing.
Consider the latest, which is scheduled to “blanket” the country June 1. Using every cheap font and design trick from a 1970s graphic designer’s handbook, it flanks side-by-side photos of Trudeau (dated, wispy beard, jacket over his shoulder, bathed in sparkles) and Harper (current, formal, larger, surrounded by what one wag called an “angelic glow”). Above the photos, the ad features a series of fact-maligning, decontextualized, bullet-smearing points intended to contrast the two men.
Perhaps our Nova Scotia MPs should read them more carefully.
“A famous last name,” mocks the mailer, “is not enough to run Canada’s economy.”
How about Canada’s defence? Consider Peter MacKay, whose admittedly more modestly famous last name smoothed his own entrée into federal politics and whose resumé is sprinkled with the fairy dust of semi-glamorous liaisons with semi-glamorous celebrities… Is having his semi-famous last name really enough to justify botching the purchase of a fleet of untendered fighter jets?
In the mailer, the Tories mock Trudeau’s supposed inexperience by highlighting the fact he was once — horrors — a “drama teacher,” a “camp counselor” and “white water rafting instructor.”
Should Scott Armstrong’s next campaign flyer begin with the embarrassing boast he was once a kids’ baseball coach? Should Gerald Keddy confess he is — as his bio attests — an “avid… outdoorsmen(sic)?” Should Greg Kerr own up to the fact he, like the unqualified Trudeau, was once — oh no! — a school teacher?
Or should our MPs finally stand up, tell their leader enough is enough, and demand an end to the gutter politics that demeans us all?
So federal justice minister Rob Nicholson isn’t the tiniest bit curious/concerned/appalled about what went wrong, and why, and what needs to be done to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Last week, the Supreme Court of Canada threw out Fenwick MacIntosh’s 2011 conviction on 18 charges of sexual assault and gross indecency, not because he didn’t do terrible deeds to at least four boys back in Port Hawkesbury in the 1970s but because the federal justice department, Canada Customs, Passport Canada, the department of foreign affairs, the RCMP and Nova Scotia’s Public Prosecution Service botched his case so badly MacIntosh’s rights had been violated beyond the possibility of a fair trial.
The minister sees no need for a public inquiry.
After the boys came forward with their allegations as adults in the 1990s, the RCMP investigated. Officers laid charges in December 1995. By then, however, MacIntosh had left Canada for a job in India.
It took the Mounties a full year and a half to alert Canada Customs to watch for him. It took another year for Nova Scotia’s prosecution service to ask Ottawa to ask India to send him home to Canada for trial. And then another five years — yes, five, count ’em! — for Ottawa to prepare the extradition request. And — hold it, we’re not even half done yet — another three years for Ottawa to deliver the request to New Delhi.
During this time, MacIntosh, a known fugitive from Canadian justice, got his passport renewed twice. When Passport Canada turned down one application, MacIntosh appealed. Passport Canada didn’t show up at the hearing and a federal court judge “temporarily” overturned its decision. Passport Canada apparently never followed up.
In fact, MacIntosh traveled back and forth between India and Canada on at least three occasions without even being questioned by authorities.
And yet, Rob Nicolson doesn’t believe there are any lessons to be learned from a full public airing of how this travesty of justice happened?
Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter has promised an “eyes wide open” inquiry into the province’s role in all of this, which is welcome. But given all of the federal agencies involved, it isn’t nearly good enough.
The proposed $66.6 million payout to McInnes Cooper for its successful legal work in the veterans’ benefits case is—in the words of Defence Minister Peter MacKay—“excessive and unreasonable.”
Topped, of course, only by the excessively excessive and unconscionably unreasonable seven-year battle MacKay’s federal government has waged against disabled veterans.
The issue—which dates back to 1979 and involves clawbacks of benefits paid to 7,500 retired Armed Forces veterans who also received disability pensions—was only finally joined in 2006. That’s when Dennis Manuge, an injured former soldier, showed up at McInnes Cooper’s Halifax office.
McInnes Cooper (full disclosure: I once wrote a commissioned history of the law firm) agreed to take his class action case on a standard contingency basis. If the firm won, it would take home 30 per cent of the final settlement; if it lost, it would get nothing.
Since then, the firm racked up more than 8,500 hours of potentially unpaid work, much of it, of course, fighting Ottawa-funded lawyers who steadfastly opposed certifying the class action and threw up all manner of procedural roadblocks.
The good guys ultimately won last spring when the federal court sided with the soldiers. Soon after, Ottawa cried uncle and negotiated what is now an $887.8-million settlement.
That would have translated into a $266 million payday for McInnes Cooper. Because of the size of the settlement, however, the firm agreed to reduce its percentage to 7.5—a still-huge $66.6 million fee for services rendered.
Which is what brought MacKay’s minions to a Halifax hearing last week to argue against the fee, claiming it could damage public perception of the legal profession.
Ironically, MacKay himself had insisted he needed the “considerable legal and judicial oversight” the drawn-out court battle provided to “clarify” how his government should treat its disabled veterans. “As a result of that court action, we are now moving forward out of fairness and respect for those veterans,” he explained.
Which doesn’t explain why his government couldn’t have done the right thing in the first place instead of forcing poor disabled veterans to hitch their fate to the hail-Mary of a contingency court case in order to get justice. And therefore creating that “excessive and unreasonable” legal payout of which he now complains.
The old Young Mike Duffy would have been all over it.
A Senator playing fast and loose with parliamentary rules of residence, claiming as his full-time home a modest bungalow of a summer cottage that hasn’t seen a snowplow in a year’s worth of winters.
A Senator pocketing more than $30,000 for the inconvenience of residing in rustic, rural Cavendish, P.E.I., 1,333 km (as the Google crow flies) from his Senate workplace at 111 Wellington Street in Ottawa—while actually bedding down in a comfortable Ottawa suburb.
Not to forget the spectacle of a Senator—having been caught with his fingers in the fudging and futzing jar—applying for a fast-tracked Prince Edward Island health card in order to make wrong appear right.
The former Mike Duffy would have been in his element.
One has to—almost—feel sorry for the old New Mike Duffy, now being brought low by all those new Old Mike Duffys.
Young Mike Duffy launched his career in the mid-1960s as a deejay—the “Round Mound of Sound”—at Amherst radio station CKDH. After discovering his nose for news, Duffy moved on to then-Halifax station CHNS where his gleefully non-partisan, neither-fear-nor-favour scoops from City Hall and the provincial legislature earned him an enviable reportorial reputation, which earned him a position in CBC’s parliamentary bureau, which earned him his own star billing at CTV, which…Well, that’s where things soured.
Duffy began to believe his own publicity hype—and in his own self-worth. He lobbied for his Senate appointment and, when he landed it in 2008, assumed himself entitled to his entitlements. Including $900 a month to live part of the year in Ottawa where, of course, he has lived virtually all of the years since the 1970s.
New Mike Duffy, of course, is less than amused by his latest turn of misfortune, chiding reporters after a speech in Halifax last week to do some “adult” work instead of bothering him with trivial matters about where he lives and how much he claims for not living there.
Sorry Mike. Those who live by the microphone sometimes get hit on the head with it on their way out the door.
So long, Senator.
The idea for this past weekend’s fourth annual Halifax International Security Forum, Peter MacKay told the Globe and Mail, was born because our defence minister “got a little tired” of traveling to other global security conferences in places like Munich where the discussions were all “Europe-America, Europe-America.”
Voila the Halifax Forum.
MacKay’s “brainchild”—as another media report described it—is a chance for more than 300 of the world’s most self-important politicians, generals, security experts and assorted media celebrity hangers-on (CBC’s Peter Mansbridge, Global’s Tom Clark, CTV’s Kevin Newman, CNN’s Jeanne Meserve) to get together for “two days without distraction to focus on pressing security issues, conduct bilateral meetings, and network.”
To talk, in other words, about Europe-America, Europe-America—but in Halifax.
And thus make the world more safe and secure…
Four years in, we can see how well that’s working out.
But let us pass, for the moment, on the relevant discussion of the real value of these echo-chamber discussions—with subjects like “Mischief or Miscalculation? China and the Rise of Confusion-ism,” “The Good Guys? The Special Burden of Democratic Nations” and “Learning from Israel,” all featuring speakers and listeners of similar hues from a narrow ideological spectrum— and focus instead on the economic optics of the gathering.
Consider first that the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (Peter MacKay, real proprietor), has gifted organizers $3 million a year for the last four years—making it one of the agency’s largest individual funding recipients—so they can stage MacKay’s two-day annual gabfest.
That’s $10,000 per participant, or $125,000 per hour of face time.
And then consider that ACOA’s overall grants—which are supposed to “create opportunities for economic growth in Atlantic Canada by helping businesses become more competitive, innovative and productive”—fell by more than 25 per cent last year. With more Harper-mandated cuts to come.
While the 20 local restaurants where delegates dined at our expense Saturday night—and the downtown bars where they probably “networked” after—are no doubt delighted by their one-day business boost, it is difficult to understand how any of this makes us “more competitive, innovative and productive.”
But then—like making the world more safe and secure—that was never the point.
Copyright 2012 Stephen Kimber
Why is Peter MacKay still in the federal cabinet? I mean, really.
Let us traipse through the potato patch of what should have been the meteoric down and down, and down some more career trajectory of our man in Ottawa, a man most famous for his love life, his entitled-to-his-entitlements adventures on our dime and his—let’s be kind—fudged public pronouncements.
Let’s start at the apogee of his political life—winning the leadership of the Progressive Conservative party on May 31, 2003. He only won because of a secret-handshake “gentlemen’s agreement” with rival David Orchard in which he promised, among other things, not to merge the party with Stephen Harper’s right-wing Canadian Alliance.
Less than five months later, MacKay hopped into bed with Harper.
The train wreck has been gathering downhill momentum ever since.
When MacKay isn’t being called to account for publicly referring to his former girlfriend, Tory-turned-Liberal Belinda Stronach, as a dog—a charge he denied—he’s being accused of lying about the seven-times-more-than-he-claimed cost of Canada’s mission to Libya (denied), the true cost of the government’s planned F-35 jet purchase (denied), the...
Does anyone see a pattern here?
Or in the fact that MacKay racked up close to $3-million worth of flights aboard government VIP Challenger jets over four years, more than any other minister except Prime Minister Harper, who must fly government planes for security reasons. Other ministers are supposed to take commercial flights whenever possible. Peter MacKay apparently didn’t get that memo.
Even more troubling is MacKay’s take-no-responsibility-blame-the-opposition-blame-the-media-blame-the-bureaucrats petulance whenever he gets caught.
According to recently released emails, for example, his aides even chastised Defence department officials about their “lacklustre” defence of his indefensible use of a search-and-rescue helicopter as his private taxi back from a remote fishing camp vacation in 2010.
MacKay, as usual, had offered several self-serving, choose-your-own adventure explanations for his behaviour.
The wonder is that Stephen Harper—who can hardly be counted as an ideological or social soulmate—keeps MacKay in his cabinet?
Secret handshake? Interesting question.
Copyright 2012 Stephen Kimber