Polygonic

That weren't no DJ, that was hazy cosmic jive

MacKay: We’re just as dodgy with our accounting as Sponsorship-era Liberals

Duhhhhr! Ooonnggg... errrrggg....

Out of the mouths of babes.

It’s been an awkward delight watching Conservative spinmeisters trot out Plan A through Plan W in their Catalogue of Flimsy Excuses over the F-35 affair. Blaming bureaucrats didn’t cut it, even blaming the other parties hasn’t cut it. One waits with bated breath for Harper to find a new Guergis-figure he can throw under a bus and hope to be done with it.

Until then, Peter MacKay’s latest delicious position is that the $10 billion difference in Tory cost estimates and actual cost comes down to a simple “difference in accounting” between the DND and the government.

A difference in accounting. Ten. Billion. Dollars. The very act of stringing these words together with a straight face ought to be grounds for dismissal. What is gross misconduct if not forgetting to count Ten Billion Dollars? Or worse yet, remembering to, but not caring?

You just can’t square the idea that “sober stewards of the economy” can shrug off Ten Billion Dollars as a blip in accounting practices, and MacKay knew it. The argument was more than simply flimsy, it was damaging.

And, what’s the Conservatives’ default damage control strategy again? Oh yes. Blame The Liberals.

Sometimes, it works. Sometimes, it leaves the Opposition enfeebled and dumbstruck. But, this time, the strategy has the ring of the truly surreal. Peter MacKay has been marched in front of national television to argue that, because the Liberals once excluded staff, maintenance and fuel costs in procurement of military equipment, the Tories are in their rights to do it too.

The Conservatives, in turn, pointed to a 2004 Liberal government announcement about military helicopters as proof that excluding salary and fuel costs has been common practice for years.

This is precisely how low the Conservatives have sunk. In the midst of ballooning scandal, Peter MacKay has had to come out and announce, with a certain air of righteousness, that his government maintains the same accounting principles as the Liberal Party. And not the Liberals of today – but the Liberals of 2004.

The Liberals of 2004 who, like the Conservatives of 2012, found themselves subject to a damning Auditor General’s report. A report that ultimately vaporised any remaining public trust in the government, liquified the Liberal Dynasty and ushered in The Republic of Harperland.

What did Sheila Fraser say in 2004 again, when the government “wasted money and showed disregard for rules, mishandling millions of dollars”?

“I think this is such a blatant misuse of public funds that it is shocking. I am actually appalled by what we’ve found.”

“I am deeply disturbed that such practices were allowed to happen in the first place. I don’t think anybody can take this lightly.”

In 2004, the Liberals’ proclivity towards subterfuge and black-box budgets were enough to fuel and fan the Conservative rise.

In 2012, though, the Liberals’ proclivity towards subterfuge and black-box budgets seems to mean there is a perfectly acceptable precedent for the Tories to do the same.

Precedents being precedents, though, it’s becoming difficult to see how Harper can ever fully reclaim the trust of a public he has taken for stupid for far too long.

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Filed under: Canada, Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Son of Sponsorship?

Conservatives love to talk about “adscam.” A decade old, the scandal may be, but it’s fresh in the minds of anger-addled Cons who just can’t think of much else to say when the heat’s on them.

So to learn that Harper spent $130 million on advertising in 2009-2010, a 64% increase on the year before – how might the grassroots react?

Of the $130 million, more than a third was spent on Economic Action Plan signs and billboards (unsurprisingly), some of which were erected literally in the middle of nowhere. Moreover, economic stimulus is reported to have been denied to communities or groups which refused to erect these signs.

For now, it’s just one more example of CPC partisan vanity, of mismatching the priorities of government writ large, and of the Conservative Party itself. Another big example in the long list of superfluous, profligate, and frivolous spending items by a government with its roots, purportedly, in fiscal conservatism.

But for this proto-scandal to really erupt into something full-blown, I await news about who builds the Action Plan signs and hoardings. Hum. Perchance there are a Conservative Party donor or two involved? “Son of Sponsorship”?

Ignatieff and Layton – don’t let this stuff slip! Harper is gifting you with the hammers with which to beat him.

Filed under: Canada, Politics, , , , , , ,

The Liberal obsession

Imagine Obama dealing with the Gulf oil spill by saying “Dubya handled Katrina much worse than this.” Would Americans accept that as an answer? Is that the language of leadership, or of someone who actually wants the job? Because it seems to work for Stephen Harper.

Here we are in the year 2010 – the future is indeed upon us. Yet, you open the newspaper to find that the Conservatives are still trotting out the bogeyman of the “sponsorship scandal” in their vast arsenal of anti-Liberal talking points. It begs the question: how do we explain Conservative obsession with the Liberal Party?

Perhaps both wings of the modern Conservative movement have inherited their own unique reasons. The Progressive Conservative wing (such that it is) were effectively destroyed by the Liberals in the 1990s. The humiliation of going from the party of government to unofficial party status in one fell swoop is certainly enough to breed a lust for vengeance as powerful as any comic book villain.

The Reformers were always a party of opposition – not only regarding their status in the House of Commons, but at the core of their manifesto. Like the Bloc, they were a regionalist, anti-establishment party. So, you oppose, you moan, you criticise, and you do so without any of the cumbersome responsibilities of ever aspiring to represent more than your base, of ever being the establishment.

Now add those humiliated Red Tories from the PC days to the froth-mouthed anti-everything Reformers, and you have a party populated by people who’s primary unifying feature is their obsessive hatred for the Liberals. Not by a common vision for the country that they seem to share – but by a dark, angry desire to squeeze the pride out of their vanquished enemy for its own sake. It’s bloodsport, not simply as a political means, but as a political end as well.

After four years in government, though, it doesn’t really do for the Conservatives to continue behaving like an opposition party. When facing challenges over political interference in appointments of public officials, which is a charge Harper’s facing this week, the PMO can’t simply change the channel and talk about Liberal mistakes of a decade ago. When, in a time of fiscal restraint, they blow $10 billion on super-prisons to lock up fictional criminals, they can’t simply accuse the Liberals of softness on the crimeness. They talk as if Ottawa’s the problem – without admitting that they are Ottawa.

Attack ads work, and negativity works. Sad but true – paint your opponent as a monster and some of that shite will stick. But the point’s going to come when Harper loses out through this negative obsessive anti-Liberal strategy as he increasingly comes off as someone with nothing very positive to say about his own party, and someone whose reactive, contrarian language betrays a desire to just go back to being an opponent again. Well Steve, as ever, we’re happy to help.

Filed under: Canada, Politics, , , , , ,

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