Abuse of power may haunt Harper

In covering the Liberals a decade ago, I kept a file entitled “abuse ofpower.” Over the years it grew in size. In it were reports ofopposition Conservatives lambasting the Grits every step of the way —and promising a new way.

In covering the Liberals a decade ago, I kept a file entitled “abuse of power.” Over the years it grew in size. In it were reports of opposition Conservatives lambasting the Grits every step of the way — and promising a new way.

Today I keep an abuse of power file on the Conservatives. It doesn’t have the same heft as the Liberal one, but it is growing rapidly, making unimaginable gains. Unimaginable because these same Tories watched the Grits fall from power largely because of corruption-related activities and promised the cleanup.

The cleanup? Let us behold this last month for example.

There’s the revelation of Conservatives putting their names or party logos on stimulus funding cheques — cheques from taxpayer money, not their own.

There’s the revelation they engaged in blatant favouritism by directing the great bulk of stimulus funding to their own ridings. Example: Peter MacKay’s Conservative riding in Nova Scotia got $87 million in stimulus grants, more than all five Liberal ridings in the province combined.

There’s the revelation that in making a recent economic update the Tories spent more than $100,000 to turn it into a campaign-style rally for the party.

The disclosures are not entirely surprising. The Conservatives began to abuse power before they even came to power. It was discovered that during the 2006 campaign — while Stephen Harper was pledging a new era of accountability — his political machine was operating a sly in-and-out scheme that camouflaged expenditures so as to allow his party to spend more than entitled under election regulations.

Many examples of abuse of power followed. But the Conservatives didn’t suffer much. They could always point to the Liberal record. That’s what Transport Minister John Baird did in the Commons yesterday — You guys did it, so it’s all right for us to do it.

Charming.

If the Harper machine didn’t have anything to hide, it wouldn’t hide it. But reporters trying to get detailed information here are being stonewalled.

Back in Jean Chrétien’s day, there was a similar stimulus spending controversy over a program called Transitional Job Funds. It led to Jason Kenney calling Chrétien “the king of pork.”

History stunningly repeats itself. It isn’t as bad in that the Harper machine has nothing as serious as a sponsorship scandal on its hands. But it’s just as bad, if not worse, in that this is the prime minister who promised a new way.

He may well be haunted for hypocritically giving us the old.

 
 
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