Percy Bysshe Shelley, Queen Mab
What a week in “Ottawapiskat”! In Canada’s capital city the embattled government of Stephen Harper is facing one scandal after another, topped yesterday by the very public exit from the CPC caucus of MP Brent Rathgeber. Mr. Rathgeber represents the riding of Edmonton – St. Albert, in the heart of Harper Conservative country. Mr. Rathgeber tweeted yesterday:
My decision to resign from the CPC Caucus is because of the Government’s lack of commitment to transparency and open government.
On his blog, the former CPC backbencher elaborated (boldface added):
Recent allegations concerning expense scandals and the Government’s response has been extremely troubling. I joined the Reform/conservative movements because I thought we were somehow different, a band of Ottawa outsiders riding into town to clean the place up, promoting open government and accountability. I barely recognize ourselves, and worse I fear that we have morphed into what we once mocked.
I am reminded of a conversation I had with then-Conservative President (now Senator) Don Plett during the middle of the Liberal sponsorship scandal. The sponsorship scandal, which Harper has been getting political mileage out of for nearly a decade, was caused by the Liberal government’s mishandling of millions of dollars of taxpayer’s funds that was earmarked to promote federalism in Quebec but ended up lining the pockets of some unethical and unaccountable PR firms with ties to the Liberals. The scandal has permanently tainted the Liberal Party’s reputation inside and outside Quebec. But I digress. In the name of full disclosure I should admit that Mr. Plett is part of my extended family – we both hail from the same small prairie community where almost everyone is related (or was, back in the day when I was a child). It’s not a connection that I shout from the rooftops, and if Don is aware of the fact that his cousin’s daughter is a climate activist and blogger I’m sure he’s not publicizing it widely either.
But back to 2004, during the middle of the sponsorship scandal. I was on an Air Canada flight and during a stopover in Calgary I overheard a person seated near me engaging in a very animated conversation about the scandal, clearly from an Ottawa-insider perspective. When I looked closer, I realized it was Don Plett, whom I hadn’t seen in decades although I was aware of his rise from local plumber to the one of the most powerful positions in the Reform/CPC ranks. After greeting each other, we discussed the scandal. Don was rubbing his hands in glee at the prospect of the Martin government falling because of its financial malfeasance. My response was that if the Conservatives were elected I expected the same thing to happen, the idea of which he protested against very emphatically. But once again, the old adage is proved correct – power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Meanwhile Greenpeace Canada is having some fun at the expense of Mr Harper and his government’s $16 million budget for pro-oil sands advertising. Yup, our taxpayer dollars hard at work imperiling our children’s air, water, and climate!