Saturday, May 1, 2010

 

THANKS! RAHIM

If as goes the saying, the best defence is a good offence, then Infrastructure Minister, John Baird, is on track comparing Rahim Jaffer's lobbying attempts with the Liberal sponsorship scandal.

It's to be remembered that the sponsorship kick-backs uncovered by the Auditor-General in her damning 2005 report hastened Jean Chretien's departure from politics, and crippled Paul Martin's efforts to hold-on for the Liberals.

What is being exposed by the endless list of revelations related to Mr. Jaffer's alleged preferential treatment over questionable business proposals is the sordid, sleazy underbelly of Ottawa politics, regardless of which Party wields power.

Though it seems true that Mr. Jaffer and his partners..."got no grants, no money" as a result of any of his meetings with politicians or bureaucrats, it's also clear from documents tabled with the House of Commons committee which has been looking into the matter that some of his requests were "prioritized" by government officials.

In addition to the documents tabled with the Parliamentary Committee, scores of others are also in the hands of the Federal Ethics Commissioner, and the Federal Lobbying Commissioner; and most likely as well with the RCMP who have been called-in to investigate "unspecified" allegations against Mr. Jaffer's wife, Helena Guergis, the Harper Cabinet Minister who was turfed from her job and the Conservative Party caucus.

It may have taken the Federal Liberals the better part of twenty years to end-up wallowing in sleaze so bad it cost them their government's reputation. The Conservatives appear to be quick studies and perhaps on the verge of a wretched downward slide into the abyss.

During Question Period, members of the Opposition have implied that the Conservatives purposely created a "loophole" in the Federal Lobbying Act that allows parliamentary secretaries to ministers to meet with lobbyists without filing reports of their encounters - A practice it seems Mr. Jaffer and acolytes were following on their schedule of meetings along the corridors of the House of Commons. Meetings, which at least in some cases, were arranged right from (and into) the Office of Minister Guergis herself after Mr. Jaffer suffered his own Parliamentary defeat in the election of October 2008.

This past week, the Conservative Government was ordered by the Ethics Commissioner to stop dressing-up over-sized photo-op Federal stimulus cheques in partisan colours, logos and slogans. And, it came under heavy fire for appointing a Judge to the Quebec Superior Court who, as a lawyer in private practice, once represented the Hell's Angels biker gang. For a party twice elected on a platform of accountability, openness, transparency and a "tough on crime" agenda: The criticisms' gotta sting!

The reluctance of the Liberal Party to exploit more fully these opportunities speaks of their own lingering vulnerability over the much maligned "sponsorship scandal," and the weakness of its Parliamentary leadership. Maybe everyone will catch a breather this week if tensions ease because of the Prime Minister's absence from the House to attend meetings and commemorations in Europe.

So far about the only thing that has gone right in the imbroglio is former Minister Guergis' silence over the "unspecified" allegations and accusations which hang over her head. Once she accepts the Parliamentary Ethics Committee's invitation to testify, or the RCMP break their own silence; who knows where all this may be heading?

It may be tempting to manufacture an issue to trigger a snap election (Afghan detainee documents perhaps?), before the other shoe - In this case Helena's much maligned PEI boots - drop to the floor!

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