Thursday, September 27, 2007

Two Tory scandals that aren't going away

There are many reasons why, pronouncements to the contrary, Stephen Harper is likely eager to have Canadians trek to the polls this fall. Beyond the obvious motivations, there are also two lingering scandals that’d he’d rather not have erupt before the campaign.

*The first is a real ticking time bomb, and it’s the Conservative election advertising “in-and-out” scandal. It may have slipped out of the headlines but this situation is still developing, and is far from over.

Conservative uber strategist Tom Flanaghan, who is to Harper as Karl Rove is to Bush, is flogging a book and so has been all over the media, saying lots of interesting things. Today, he talked about the alleged ad laundering scheme:

Tom Flanagan says it was only a shortage of money in 2004 that kept the Tories from employing the "in-and-out" money transactions that were used by the party in the 2006 election and are now under investigation by the federal elections commissioner.
He adds:
"It looked to me as if this is in conformity with legislation, but I don't claim to be an expert on it."
No, Tom, you’re not an expert. You know who are experts on election legislation? Elections Canada. The guys your party have taken to court for refusing to sign-off on your little scheme.

This line from the same article was also of note:
Three of the candidates have told the Citizen they believed the payments to the party were for national advertising, and one former candidate has said his campaign was compelled by party headquarters to join in.

So, while Conservative apologists continue to maintain these ads were local and all is above board, three of the candidates have admitted the obvious: these were national ads. Which blows the Conservative defence right out of the water. The fact national campaign was pressuring ridings to participate in this scheme is also troubling.

Speaking of candidates, the LPC has released a list of the 66 Conservative candidates they allege were potentially involved in the ad scheme. There are 17 elected MPs on the list (and five cabinet members), namely:
Dick Harris, Ron Cannan, Jim Abbott, Stockwell Day, Colin Mayes, Jay Hill, David Anderson, Patricia Davidson, Maxime Bernier, Sylvie Boucher, Daniel Petit, Steven Blaney, Jacques Gourde, Luc Harvey, Jose Verner, Christian Paradis and Lawrence Cannon.

Quite a few on the list are from Quebec. Wouldn’t help Harper’s promised Quebec breakthrough to have this scandal explode between now and a spring election, now would it?

*The other lingering issue the Cons have been able to sidestep without Parliament sitting, and would likely be able to keep on the backburner if the throne speech triggers an election, is the suppression of information by DND relating to Afghan detainees.

If you haven’t been following, the government’s mishandling of the Afghan detainee was one of the final nails in the defence minister Gordon O’Connor, now put out of his misery in the revenue portfolio, where he may never be seen again.

Likely looking to save the government, and DND, further embarrassment CDS Gen. Rick Hillier decided all detainee information would henceforth be classified for highly dubious “national security reasons” denying the public’s right to know. Not one Conservative elected official has yet come forward to support or condone what would appear to be a decision outside of Hillier’s purview. O’Connor dodged it until he was put to pasture, I’ve not heard a peep on it from McKay.

I was reminded of this issue again the other day reading this story:
Canada is still unable to account for at least 50 prisoners it captured and handed over to Afghan authorities, keeping alive concerns that some detainees could have been subject to torture.

This issue isn’t going away. The Liberals were out on front on this when it broke, and the NDP threatened to recall the defence committee over it, although they didn’t follow through on that threat.

If parliament were to resume this fall however and not be quickly dissolved for an election, I have no doubt the freedom of information issue will be the subject of heated hearings by the defence committee, which would no doubt call Hillier, O’Connor, Ward Elcock (since shuffled out of DND) to get an explanation into this mess, and figure-out just whom was running the show at DND. It would be an unhealthy media spectacle to say the least.

Two reasons why, no matter what he says in public, Harper may more than be happier to go to the polls this fall.

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1 comment:

900 ft Jesus said...

Helen Sterzer of Winnipeg has also been implicated in the Conscam. Winnipeg Free Press, Sept. 27, 2007

http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/story/4046478p-4654030c.html

article also says the Libs this week releases a list of 129 CPC candidates "implicated in court documents."