When Stephen Harper was running in the 2006 general election he rallied against the Liberals for the ‘sponsorship scandal’ and the first line of the Conservative platform claimed “the time for accountability has arrived”. Six years later the lack of accountability is glaring.
Canadians have lived through Peter McKay’s vacation helicopter trips, Tony Clements $50 million gazebos and Bev Oda’s expensive orange juice. We have witnessed perhaps the most extensive attempt at election fraud in Canadian history with the ‘robo-call’ scandal. But in the last few weeks it’s only gotten worse for Harper.
MP Paul Calandra, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, appears to have broken Harper’s own conflict of interest guidelines. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) guidelines say “Ministers, ministers of state and parliamentary secretaries must avoid conflict of interest, the appearance of conflict of interest and situations that have the potential to involve conflict of interest.” That’s from a section of the PMO guidelines called ‘fundraising and dealing with lobbyists’.
But despite the guidelines, Calandra attended fundraisers attended by operators of radio stations bidding for new radio spots that require approval from the regulating agency that falls under the purview of Canadian Heritage. Although he claims to have done nothing wrong, Calandra was quick to return donations he received at these fundraisers when the issue became public.
Then we have Stephen Harper’s former senior advisor, Bruce Carson, who Harper hired and brought into his inner circle despite a long record of fraud charges, who has now been charged by the RCMP with influence peddling for using his government connections.
Now elections Canada is investigating Cabinet Minister Peter Penashue for exceeding election spending limits in 2011 and for receiving a questionable loan for election expenses from a company whose CEO was his brother in-law.
And finally who can forget Harper’s Parliamentary Secretary, Dean Del Mastro, who has been the government’s mouthpiece in the House of Commons defending his colleagues when questioned about their questionable practices. Del Mastro himself is under investigation by Election Canada for exceeding spending limits in the 2008 election campaign and for a donation reimbursement scheme. Under the scheme, Del Mastro’s cousin told his employees and their families to make donations to Del Mastro’s campaign, and then he reimbursed them.
Harper’s pledge of more accountability has become a joke.