Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Dead minister walking

If you'd asked me in February to place bets on who would be the first Conservative minister to walk the plank I'd have probably put my money on Stockwell Day, or maybe David Emerson.

Now, however, with his health minister mired in scandal the question seems to be how much longer will it be before Stephen Harper votes Tony Clement off the island?

The pressure would seem to be mounting on Tony, the former Mike Harris health minister in Ontario, and one third of the dynamic field of candidates that captured the imagination of Canadians in the exciting 2004 Conservative leadership race.

His troubles began two weeks ago when it was revealed the health minister holds a 25 per cent stake in pharmaceutical manufacturer Prudential Chem. Seem like a potential conflict of interest for a health minister? I'd think so. Tony, however, said he talked with his good friend the ethics commissioner (you may recall the Conservatives respect him so much they want to fire him) who said it's cool, so leave him alone.

Here's how Harper's communications honcho was talking about the commissioner in March. Now, though, he's the bees' knees.

"The Prime Minister is loath to co-operate with an individual whose decision-making ability has been questioned, moreover who has been found in contempt of the House," said Sandra Buckler, the prime minister's director of communications.

Back to Tony, he met further media questions with a "none of your business," thereby demonstrating that higher standard of accountability the Conservatives promised…or not. Perhaps he should have just referenced his entitlements, and his entitlement to them.

I like how the Montreal Gazette put it in an editorial:

Imagine yourself, newly arrived in Ottawa, as the freshman Minister of Cheeseburgers. Before moving into your office, might you be inclined first to divest yourself of your personal interest in Harvey's? Particularly if your interest amounted to a whopping one-quarter ownership of the company?

Clement even throws out the requisite "the Liberals did it too" defence that I'm sure Canadians just love, as days of repeated questioning start to get to him. It's the grown-up version of "but he started it!"

"I'm not responsible to the Liberal opposition to conduct myself ethically, especially considering that Liberal opposition. So forgive me for being hot under the collar, but this is a nonsensical witch hunt that has nothing to do with reality."

Still, while his behaviour flies in the face of years of Conservative proselytizing about morality, higher standards of accountability and ethics (even Paul Martin selling CSL AND recusing himself wasn't good enough for them while in opposition) he probably could have rode the storm out.

The other shoe has dropped on Mr. Clement, however, with the news this week he hired a senior campaign staffer and long-time crony to his department on a $25,000, un-tendered contract for 33 days of work. Coincidentally, the maximum amount allowed for un-tendered contracts. He got $125/hour. Hey, I wonder where the Conservatives are on raising the minimum wage for ordinary Canadians?

Anyway, said the Toronto Sun:

Haugh has also played a leading role in several of Clement's political campaigns, including his leadership bids for the federal and provincial Conservatives and the January election.

Was he rewarded with taxpayer dollars for services rendered to the party and to the minister? I don't know, but I think we can agree this smells pretty darned bad.

But wait, there's more. The fellow is also head of the Canadian International Pharmacy Association, a lobby group for the Canadian pharmaceutical industry. Say, which federal ministry do you think they're interested in lobbying?

That's three strikes on Tony; so when is Stephen Harper going to call him out? It's time for you to do the Dear Leader a favour Tony and resign. Go with the "I want to spend more time with my family" line, that's always a winner.

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Hammering Jow said...

Great post - and great picture!

This is becoming a huge blight on the Tory Government, and turing Ruby Dhalla into a superstar.

Zac said...

Awesome post Jeff.

Clement has got to take the walk.

ottlib said...

Considering Tony Clement won his seat by less than 100 votes his constituents may vote him off the island before Mr. Harper does it.

After this Mr. Clement will not be able to claim to represent "Accountable Government" with a straight face.

As well, if the Liberals can use this to remind Ontarians about the stupidity and incompetence of the Harris Tory government ministers then Mr. Clement may not be the only Conservative cabinet minister in electoral difficulties.

The Rat said...

to be fair - "even Paul Martin selling CSL AND recusing himself"

To his sons. He still had an interest in his children, didn't he? And what about that order of magnitude error in CSL's favour?

I'm not gonna defend Tony. If the ethics commish said it was OK, then Tony is technically in the clear, but given Shapiro's past decision Tony should have known better. It's a conflict and he should divest, or blind trust or whatever it is he should do.

Mike said...

As a life-long Ontarian, all I can say is it couldn't happen to a nicer guy!

Clement was a twit when he was a Harris cabinet minister and he is a twit now.

He seems to have forgotten he won by 9 votes.

A BCer in Toronto said...

To his sons. He still had an interest in his children, didn't he?

Well, I don't talk to my father. But then, he hasn't sold me a shipping company. And on the last Christmas card I got from them the Martin clan seemed close enough.

So, fair enough, but I think my point was still valid.