The new kings of pork?

Back in the days of Jean Chrétien, conservatives had your proverbial field day cutting up the Liberals for the way grant money was distributed.

Back in the days of Jean Chrétien, conservatives had your proverbial field day cutting up the Liberals for the way grant money was distributed.

They would, quite correctly, point to large percentages of the funding going to Liberal-held ridings while very little went to the constituencies of opposition members. Very interesting, they said — and what a sham! The Grits were feathering the nests of their own supporters. Chrétien, said Alliance MP Jason Kenney, was “the king of pork.”

The Conservatives vowed, of course, that, once in power, they would never do that kind of thing.
But now we have some news. It’s been revealed that in regard to a $45-million program for disabled Canadians, Conservatives shovelled no less than 94 per cent of the funding to Conservative-held ridings.

The other three parties, the Liberals, the NDP and the Bloc Québécois, divvied up the remaining six per cent.

The figures were released by Liberal MP Michael Savage, who examined the program, which is called the Enabling Accessibility Fund. What’s going on is “pretty blatant,” he said.

Human Resources Minister Diane Finley denied there was any favouritism involved in the process. “The awards are based on applications and the quality of those applications.” In other words, she was suggesting it was just a coincidence that almost all the handicapped people in need just happened to be in Tory-held ridings.

Yes, Finley — and Elvis Presley is not only still alive, he’s giving a concert in Moose Jaw tomorrow night.

Given how bitterly partisan the Harper government has shown itself to be, no one should be surprised that this kind of thing is going on. The question is the extent of it. If it is so rampant in respect to one program, in how many others is it going on as well? If the Opposition can prove it is widespread, we may have new kings of pork.

The Liberals have difficulty scoring points on such issues. Given their record on the sponsorship scandal and Shawinigate they get beaned any time they complain about anyone else. Indeed, Finley remarked last week how rich it was of them to raise it.

But that shouldn’t stop them — and the other opposition parties should be all over it. The Finley analysis would appear to suggest that if another government did it, so can we. But, of course, one of the reasons the Conservatives were elected was to clean up the previous government’s act.

Judging by this file and several others dealing with clean government — secrecy, one-man rule, patronage, the Cadman affair, the in-and-out controversy, etc. — they have failed the test.

 
 
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