Grits spin tale in dog days of August

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by L. IAN MacDONALD
Sun Media, Friday, August 27, 2010

This just in: Tories name friends to patronage posts.

Some of them even gave money to the Conservatives. This is about as surprising as the prime minister appointing his bagman to the Senate, which has been going on since the time of Sir John A. Macdonald — as it’s famously been said, from a thankless task to a taskless thanks.

An Ottawa newspaper, citing “Liberal analysis of Elections Canada records,” reported 20 appointees “named this month gave a total of more than $25,000 to the Conservative party or its candidates.”

A total of 386 Tory loyalists received patronage plums in the last year. There are thousands of Order-in-Council appointments in the pleasure of the Crown.

This is known as opposition research, or “oppo research” for short, and while it’s perfectly legitimate, not to mention taxpayer funded, it helps to consider the source.

After the Liberals leaked the story, headlined: “Review of patronage appointments shows long list of Tory donors,” they then called a news conference to declare how shocked and appalled they were by it.

This is called a twofer — getting two days coverage out of a one-day story.

The Grits wheeled out Wayne Easter, one of the shrillest voices in the House, to denounce Stephen Harper for “another case of the PM having broken (his) word.”

The word being that in his Reform-Alliance days in Opposition, Harper was always quick to denounce the Liberals rushing to the trough, promising to reform the appointments process if he formed a government.

Welcome to the NHL, Wayne. That was then, this is now. Or as Robert Bourassa once put it in a similar context in Quebec: “What, you expect us to do business with our enemies?”

Easter represents a Prince Edward Island riding, and on P.E.I. there is an old saying: “If it moves, pension it; if it doesn’t, pave it.”

Easter likes to work with props to make his case.

He once had his picture taken with a doorknob at a newser whose purpose was to illustrate waste in an upgrade of a government building.

This was a bad career move. The Hon. Member from Doorknob.

At his press conference denouncing Tory patronage, he awarded Harper and cabinet colleagues little trophies with smiling pigs on top. Clearly, it was no time for subtlety.

To be clear, the $25,000 donated to Tory coffers by Conservative appointees was within the individual limit of $1,100 per year under the Harper government’s 2006 Federal Accountability Act.

No law was broken, and no appointments were bought.

And if a couple of future judges once made donations to the Tories, or were party activists while in private practice, it is hardly a first for lawyers, and hardly constitutes buying seats on the bench. Applicants for judgeships have to pass a peer review before their names make a short list. That’s how it works, and generally speaking, it works very well. Imagine, lawyers in politics. Shocking.

The real story here — it’s August, which mercifully is nearly over.

 
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