Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Et tu, Joe?

Besides being the right thing to do, sometimes doing the principled thing can be good politics too.

I had that thought today when I read a story about how the Harper government refused to accept amendments to its "Accountability" Act last week that would have restricted donations from minors, much to Joe Volpe's dismay.

The irony of course is that Harper made great hay over the Joe Volpe campaign's acceptance of over $27,000 in "kiddie donations" to his leadership campaign, donations which he later returned without admitting he'd really done anything wrong or showing much remorse. It was and is a black-eye for the Liberals.

The argument can be made that it is quite hypocritical for Harper to make political hay out of the practice on the one hand, and refuse measures that would stop it on the other. There's an attack to be made there…but by Joe Volpe? That's the theatre of the absurd.

While Joe is the worst possible Liberal to point out Harper's hypocrisy on this issue, the fact is there aren't any other Liberals that can make any traction on the issue either. That's because the party leadership as a whole refused to call Volpe to account on the kiddie donation issue.

If he had been harshly chastised/kicked-out of the race, then we would have some standing to say we took action, and when we tried to bring in rules to prevent it from happening again Harper refused. But because we didn't take action then our belated action now rings doubly hollow.

The moral being the Liberal leadership should have done the right thing in the first place on this issue and kicked Volpe out. It was the right thing to do, and now time has shown it would have been the politically right thing to do as well. Instead, Harper gets away with his cake and the eating thereof.

But politics aside

That's the political strategy at play here. Policy-wise, I'm not sure I agree with the Liberals on this one. It must be snowing in hell because I actually agree with Pierre "F-Bomb" Poilievre, who made the point that the problem isn't with youth donating money, but with parents funneling donations through their kids, something that is already illegal.

Pierre said the solution for that is enforcement, and he's right. As an aside, it would have been nice (and politically prudent) for the Cons to have proposed measures to beef-up enforcement.

Generally though, he's right. An outright ban on donations by those under 18 would be unfair and a gross over-reaction to the Volpe mess. Youth should be able to donate their own funds to a political party if they so choose. And this isn't just donations; it's also attending fundraisers and conventions that would be impacted by an outright ban.

What's needed is the enforcement of rules already on the books, a little discipline and brains from campaigns and some leadership from the leadership, not an outright ban on donations by youth.

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