The revelations, rumours and innuendo are swirling about so quickly these days in the drama of Helena Guergis and Rahim Jaffer that I think it’s about at the point where we need to step back, let the investigation proceed and, when all the facts are in, consider the results.
I will make some comments though, now that we apparently know the allegations that led the PMO to accept Guergis’ resignation and remove her from caucus, as broke by CTV and the Toronto Star:
The central allegation Snowdy presented is that Gillani, an accused fraudster, claimed to Snowdy that three offshore companies in Belize – a tax haven – had been "reserved" to hold cash for Guergis and Jaffer. Snowdy said he also told the Tory lawyer that Gillani boasted that he had cellphone pictures of Jaffer and Guergis partying with high-class escorts when cocaine was being snorted.
As was reported last week, the issue here is the possibility of a minister of the crown facing the threat of blackmail. That’s a very serious issue that does need to be investigated in full. That goes above and beyond the moral and comparatively minor potential legal issues of alcohol, drug use and association with dodgy characters to possibly calling the integrity of the government (as an institution, not the governing party) into question. When it received those allegations, the PMO was absolutely right to act swiftly.
Let me say though that, now that we know the source of these allegations: allegedly Gillani, via a private investigator hired by one of his alleged victims posing as a potential business partner, let me say that, while they must be investigated, I find it hard to give these allegations too much merit. Given what we’ve read of Gillani, I wouldn’t be surprised if these were just flamboyant boasts designed to impress a potential business partner with no more basis in reality than Jaffer’s alleged boasts of access to the PMO. I could be proven wrong. We’ll see what the investigation reveals. But the original source doesn’t inspire confidence, and in fairness I think we need to wait for the results of that investigation.
Anyways, the allegations are swirling so thickly like smoke now that we’ll have to wait for it all to settle. What we do know however, and what is abundantly clear, is that at its core this is all about judgment: that of both Helena Guergis and Stephen Harper.
Even if these latest accusations prove to be groundless, at the very least it’s clear that Guergis made some very poor choices about who she has been associating with, as did Jaffer. A person’s character isn’t always readily apparent, and politicians certainly do have all kinds of people trying to develop relationships. And they can't read minds. But for a minister of the crown a degree of discretion is in order, and for a normal person all kinds of alarm bells should have been going off here.
And while Harper moved swiftly when he learned of these latest allegations, the fact is he shouldn’t have put her into cabinet in the first place, and certainly shouldn’t have stuck with her until this bitter end. While these explosive allegations may have been news, there was an encyclopedia of information that should have made it readily apparent for some time that Guergis lacked the competence or the judgment for the job.
He couldn’t have known it would end up like this, but there was enough reason to seriously doubt her judgment. The fact that Harper stuck with her anyways, for what seem like purely political reasons, until he had absolutely no choice but to act, raises serious questions about the judgment of our prime minister and what guides his decision-making in any number of areas of fundamental import to this country
Those are important points that should be made. On a final note though, were I plotting Liberal strategy (perish the thought) I’d step back from this, and spend more energy on the economy and jobs, on health care (I agree no to user fees, but what IS the answer?), on pensions, on more substantive issues.
The media will keep pursuing this story anyway; better to step back and let the investigations proceed unless more information emerges. Polls are a dime a dozen, but one does show this morning that the Guergis affair may be hurting the Conservatives. That’s unsurprising. It’s not going to help the Liberals however, so let’s not worry about it.
People may briefly be willing to consider alternatives. As I’ve long been saying though, the only way they’ll consider the Liberals is if we actually offer one. So let’s build on the work that has been done, from Canada at 150 to the cross-country tours to the roundtables, and take this opportunity to put some ideas out there. That needs to be a long-term, ongoing process.
Frankly, even just BEING SEEN talking about substantive issues at a time like this would be an effective contrast.
Such a focus would be far more productive for the Liberals – and welcome by the Canadian people -- than all the ethics and conflict commissioner referrals, committee hearings and question period bluster in the world.Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers