Liberal MPs claim Stephen Harper 'addicted' to political patronage
By David Akin, Canwest News Service
OTTAWA — Liberal MPs accused the Harper government on Wednesday of using the perks of government to advance their own partisan interest.
The Liberals say the government is abusing the political appointments process and is violating federal government advertising guidelines.
Liberal MPs Wayne Easter and Marcel Proulx presented the results of some work by Liberal research staff which showed that, in the last six weeks, three dozen government jobs were handed out by Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office to individuals with close Conservative connections.
"It's a startling illustration that Stephen Harper is addicted to the political patronage he promised to prevent," said Easter.
Harper first won office in 2006 on a platform that included a promise to de-politicize the appointments process. He offered to do that with a new public appointments commission, an arms-length body that would review the thousands of appointments the federal cabinet makes each year to government corporations, agencies, and tribunals.
The opposition parties agreed with the idea and were set to implement it but balked when Harper wanted energy executive Gwyn Morgan — one of the most generous financial supporters of the Conservative party, its predecessors and conservative movements generally — to head up the commission.
One Liberal MP scoffed at the idea that Harper was proposing to clean up cronyism by appointing a crony to clean up the system. "This is another promise broken by this government," said Easter.
The Liberals Wednesday zeroed in three "all-in-the-family" patronage appointments.
Doug Finley, the husband of Human Resources Minister Diane Finley, was appointed to the Senate; Judy Dreeshen, the wife of Alberta Conservative MP Earl Dreeshen, was appointed to a Canada Pension Plan Review Tribunal; and Kelley Sherwood, the wife of former PMO communications director Kory Teneycke, was re-appointed to the pension plan review tribunal.
Sherwood was initially appointed three years ago, before Teneycke joined the PMO.
The Liberals also accused the Harper government of violating federal advertising guidelines in cheque presentation ceremonies — the "grip-and-grin" media events where a local MP hands over an oversized cheque to a local group.
The Liberals say they have more than 50 examples where a Conservative MP hands over what Easter called "Government of Canada cheques disguised as Conservative cheques."
In one case, B.C. Conservative MP Colin Mayes hands over a cheque with the Conservative Party logo on it and his own picture on the cheque.
Nova Scotia Conservative MP Gerald Keddy also put his party's logo on a $300,000 cheque for a hockey rink upgrade but Keddy went further and signed the cheque himself.
In Ontario, Conservative MPs Scott Reid and Larry Miller dispensed with party logos but put their own names in large print in the top left corner of cheques they handed out, making it seems as if the cheques were drawn on the personal accounts of Reid and Miller.
"These are the tax dollars of Canadians. They're not Conservative dollars and they're not Gerald Keddy dollars or Conservative MPs' dollars," said Easter. "They're tax dollars of Canadians that are supposed to be spent on government programs . . . and not just to be used for the Harper propaganda and messaging machine."
© Copyright (c) Canwest News Service
Imagine, our Prime Minister saying one thing and then doing another.