After much prodding by other bloggers, I set this up for my own writings. The name is in honour of the two women that mentored me throughout my life on politics and intelligence issues, as well as being wonderful family members, now alas deceased. I hope to live up to their standards at this site.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Do they not grasp the inherent contradiction they are embracing when they cite Liberal precedents for Fortier's uneccesary appointment to the Senate?

Something I have noted today while watching both Politics on Newsworld and Mike Duffy Live is how the CPC voice on each show when defending the Emerson/Fortier decisions by Harper is the amount of reliance on Liberal precedents to justify these decisions. Doesn't it even occur to these people (the paid professionals, I am talking about those defending this on the TV, not bloggers) that after spending literally years condemning the practices of Liberals as unethical, sleazy, crooked, etc, it is not going to help your case any that you are any better ethically than the Liberals when you cite their precedents to defend the contradictions between Harper as PM from Harper as Opposition leader/election campaign? I'm not trying to be flippant here either I really mean this. Consider just how dissonant that has to be to the average voter when they hear this defence, after literally years of hearing about how bad/corrupt/unethical/sleazy all of these practices the Liberals used and defended as being in the "best interests of the country" to hear the exact same defence to justify Emerson crossing into Cabinet at the very first opportunity after the election that cost him his Cabinet post in the outgoing government.

After hearing how a Harper/CPC government would govern differently then those sleazy, unethical, and corrupt practices, especially in things like appointments to the Senate of party bag men/loyalists/organizers (Fortier) to reward them for their service. Then on day one of the government Fortier is appointed Senate and Cabinet Minister of pork/patronage aka Public Works. Then regarding accountability/transparency, especially in regards to Public Works aka the Sponsorship Ministry and the traditional Cabinet post for pork and patronage in our country's history, having that same Quebec leadership chair and the last campaign organizer become the unaccountable to the House of Commons Minister of P.W. where he can issue contracts to his heart's content to help rebuild the old PCPC political network for the CPC in Quebec. Yet we are supposed to not only trust that Fortier will resign his Senate seat for the next election on the basis of his word alone, but that he will not abuse the position of being the chief government contracts awarder for partisan political purposes unlike every preceding government in our history despite his not having to answer to the elected opposition in the House unlike say Scott Brison had to throughout the Gomery investigation?!?! Riiiiiiiiiiiiight, nothing to wonder about here, move along, move along, or so we are being told by the CPC defenders of this decision anyway. Somehow though I think there is something here needing examination and I have no intentions of moving on.

Trying to defend Fortier's appointment as the only man that can root out Liberal scandals has got to be one of the more common defences of this appointment I've seen from the Harper defenders. That he is the only CPCer that can be trusted by Harper to run this department without problems is another. It hasn't even occurred to these so called principled Conservatives that were so against pork and patronage that Fortier fits the bill of a partisan patronage awarder and awardee in the "best" or rather worst traditions of Canadian political governments/history. No, they can only see the good side, cite Liberals appointing Senators (although that traditionally is when the government had no seats in a Province, which was not the case for the CPC in Quebec) to defend this Senate appointment. I also wondered if Fortier had to be a Senator to be put in Cabinet, and from what I can see it was unnecessary, so why did Harper do so? Fortier is still unelected so it doesn't help him get around his promise/pledge (the fact it was in French does not change its reality) to not have unelected members of his Cabinet, so why is Fortier appointed to the Senate if it was not to make him eligible for Cabinet? Now that is a question that I think really needs to be answered!

Seriously, if Fortier can be in the Cabinet without first being an elected MP or Senator, then why was it necessary to appoint him to the Senate in the first place? The idea that he represents Montreal is ludicrous, especially since the Senate seat he got does not have Montreal within its borders. He could look after Montreal's interests in the Cabinet as an unelected non-Senator could he not? For that matter it isn't like another Quebec CPC MP couldn't look after Montreal like Peter MacKay looks out for PEI, right? So what was the underlying need to appoint a party organizer to the Senate in complete contradiction to all Harper and the CPC had said about abusing the Senate to reward party hacks? In complete contradiction for that matter regarding the evils of appointed unelected Senators and only appointing elected Senators? Why was it so important for Fortier to be a Senator from day one in this new CPC government when there is no compulsory need for it to be in Cabinet, nor that to represent Montreal?

No, the more I think about this appointment the more I think we are missing something important here. As I said from day one I thought the Fortier appointment was the most stinky one of all of the scandals from the Cabinet choices made by Harper. However, there has been a lot of spin and rationalizations for Fortier in Public Works, but what I have yet to discern is the necessity for Fortier to be a Senator. Incidentally, claiming that his word that he will run in the next general election is sufficent that so many defenders of this decision have done might have carried a little weight if Fortier had not made clear that he did not run this time out was because he did not want to. That his job and kids were more important than facing an electorate. So if he didn't want to run when the perfect storm for the CPC was happening with the best chances of a CPC government being elected, does anyone really believe he will resign to run next time out, especially if it doesn't look like the CPC are going to be reelected? I somehow doubt it.

I think it is important for all of us to try and figure out why Fortier had to be appointed to the Senate, of all the decisions made regarding the Cabinet it is the only one I cannot make any sense of from all the public explanations provided to date by the CPC. Emerson, yes. O'Conner yes. While I take issue on the ethics side of them at least I can see rationales for them. Fortier's appointment to the Senate though makes no sense to me at all. It doesn't change he is unelected and in Cabinet, it doesn't change the fact it completely contradicts what may be the thing Harper is best known for, the need for elected Senators and to stop the practice of appointing party loyalists as a reward for service, yet that is the only reason I can even remotely see for Fortier's Senate appointment. Putting him in charge of PW makes sense if one wants to rebuild the CPC patronage machine in Quebec to increase seats in the next election. It is the Senate appointment itself that I cannot make any tactical or strategic argument for, and that bothers me. I do not like it when I can find no rational that makes sense from any perspective for such a serious decision made by a PM, especially one with the public record Harper does regarding Senate appointments. If anyone has any theories, please feel free to leave them in the comments I am really interested in figuring this aspect out.


Here is a page at the government's website listing all the members of Cabinet that were neither MPs or Senators at the time of their appointments. Here is a page showing the last time a Senator was Public Works Minister was 1922. So while not unprecedented certainly not something we have seen in the last 84 years, and that tenure was just over two months it appears. So one really has to wonder what Harper's true motives are for this decision to make Fortier a Senator given the clear evidence that it was not a prerequisite for Cabinet, and the reality that it has been close to a century since the last time a Senator was made Public Works Minister, well before true self government took place after the Act of Westminster in what 1936 I think it was? So this was a very unorthodox decision all in its own right, and had the Emerson flap not happened I am certain this would have been the major surprise story of the first Harper Cabinet/day. So why again was it necessary to make his campaign manager from Quebec a Senator? Why did he need to so clearly contradict himself regarding the evils of the Senate being used for party patronage appointments and do this? After all, this is not just another Conservative politician being rewarded, this is a man that has not won election previously as I understand it and chose not to run this time out because he didn't want to.

That I think is what bothers me so about this appointment, I cannot see any rewards outside of some fairly sinister/sleazy ones to explain it. To Cabinet, yes I could see that, even designated within Cabinet to look after Montreal's needs. It is the making him a Senator part that I am having particular trouble with, and the more I look at it the more I come up with more questions. While I also have problems with the appointment of him to P. W. I can see reasons for that appointment even if I disapprove of them. I have seen Fortier seen as someone that will be able to dig through looking for Liberal scandal and corruption in the file, however the problem with that notion is that Harper has to govern forward not backwards and he has to understand this. However the using of P.W. for patronage to reestablish political links within Quebec and a Conservative government in Ottawa is one I can understand and see being done, so that can be explained to me. That after all is traditional politics as usual in our political culture, whatever one thinks about the ethics of it or whether it is a good/bad thing. Not though the new way of governing Harper was telling Canadians the CPC and him would represent if given power.

The Senate though simply keeps hitting the tilt meter for me, it makes no real sense and was almost certainly going to aggravate a significant number of his base. It also countered one of his oldest and most consistent stated beliefs where the Senate was concerned from throughout his career, and something that had become associated with the man over the years by the wider public. So why do it? People always have reasons for what they do no matter how odd or mundane those reasons can sound to others. So far I haven't been able to come up with a good reason beyond rewarding a loyalist for this decision, and if anyone else had done it I might not be having such trouble with it, after all, it is hardly unheard of in our history. However, so is the condemnation of such by our new PM, and this is something that really can be pointed to as classic patronage sleaze and used against Harper and the CPC not just in the next election but for years to come thanks to it being done as one of the very first acts of the very first CPC government in history on its very first day. Can Harper truly be so limited in his political vision/perception to not understand just how damaging this can be for the long term, especially if any scandal ever touches Fortier now that he is in government? If so, then he is far more dangerous than I gave him credit for to our country, which isn't something that I was hoping to see.

I really would have liked to have been pleasantly surprised by Harper and be shown that my concerns were groundless about his willingness to place expediency before principle, no matter the principle. I accept the inevitability of pragmatism and the need to recognize there are times in governing such is necessary, the question is the judgment used to determine when it is appropriate. I don't see that here, nor do I think most Canadians that have given this any matter of thought and are not blind CPC loyalists/partisans. There needs to be significant gains for the sacrifice, and simply saying that Harper is playing chess while everyone is playing checkers is just another way of saying trust in the Harper because the Harper is good. Sorry, but that kind of open ended trust is not something just given right away, it does tend to need to be earned by example first. For a man that could only get this weak a minority despite having a near perfect storm working in their favour against the Liberal to be expecting such from Canadians on the fundamental issue of the election (ethics in government/leaders) to make such decisions and then defend them as he has done does not inspire one to imagine he is playing chess but something else, and not something to be proud of either. That being playing Canadians for fools.


Anonymous Dana said...

I've been mulling this one over too - or more accurately mulling over all of it and trying to piece each within some kind of whole context.

One far flung, dark night of the soul idea I've briefly entertained is that Harper made these moves deliberately to provoke an uproar in order that after a decent interval he could step forward and undo them. Wouldn't that just show him as an honourable respecter of democracy though?

I've rejected that as too conspiratorial as well as too, shall we say, intricate.

Another is that he just wants to rub our noses in it. Kind of a nyaa, nyaa, nyaa, your mama wears army boots.

I've kind of settled on Fortier as simply being the first of several appt's he'll be making to the Senate in order to balance the place more to his liking. Which he's already complained about. Each is almost certain to be an *unelected* Conservative because he won't take the chance on someone other than a Con winning an election to the Senate. Perhaps doubly so now. We already know he doesn't care a whit about how it looks to his supporters so I expect him to do more of it. Of course, as I type I realize that he may have done all of this right off the bat to get his supporters used to the idea that they're going to have to learn to scrape together rationales at the drop of a hat. Anybody's hat.

I listened to some of Bill Good today on NW and heard the Spector making the case you cite. He didn't bat a radio wave eye. It's as though they're celebrating this demonstration that they're just like the Liberals.

The thing with Fortier might also be a way for him to start clearing his caucus and more widely, the party, of those who are less than 150% willing to spread 'em for Dear Leader.

Watch for Moore to lose his Secretary gig the first time he fails to blow just the right smoke for Fortier.

Mon Feb 13, 09:58:00 PM 2006  
Blogger JD said...

The Liberals need to play "man on man defence" wrt Fortier's appointment. They need to act like "private eyes". The Liberals need to hire someone to do a "background check" on him which leaves no stones unturned. It's time for the Liberals to to get "streetsmart" and "extract some revenge". I sure hope that Graham "has what it takes".

Mon Feb 13, 10:34:00 PM 2006  
Anonymous Dana said...

Scotian, I wanted to make sure you saw Andrew Coyne's piece about this. Forgive me if you've read it.

Mon Feb 13, 11:09:00 PM 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Tue Jan 05, 07:40:00 AM 2010  

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