There were a flurry of releases from the Liberals yesterday, most of them should have begun with the words “A ha!” The point of them was to call the Conservatives out for their hypocritical positions.
The first was an open letter from Liberal finance critic John McCallum to the Finance Minister, which pointed out that while Flaherty has said that the recession is not over, Stockwell Day just wrote an op-ed in his local paper that indeed it is. Which version is correct, McCallum asked. At a scrum after their caucus meeting in Ottawa, Day wouldn’t repeat the comments, just saying that there were still challenges ahead. So was that a retraction? Or just a non-retraction retraction?
Next up was an “In their own words” release, stuffed full of past quotes from the Conservatives that are deemed offensive to aboriginal Canadians. Why is this important? Because the Conservatives spent the day before patting themselves on the back for setting up an “Aboriginal caucus” within the party – despite their usual avoidance of these kinds of niche groupings. (After all, there is a whole battle going on within the party right now over the creation of a Youth Wing, which the brass doesn’t want precisely so they don’t have to cater to every other group, like women or seniors).
The last release was possibly the hardest hitting – pointing to John Baird’s apparent reversal of his position on just how accountable the minister is for infrastructure spending. After all, Baird told The Canadian Press yesterday that it wasn’t the federal government’s job to closely monitor how the money intended for infrastructure was actually spent. Contrast this to previous statements when he was Treasury Board President about how it was his job to ensure that taxpayer dollars were being spent properly, and so on. When the contradiction was pointed out, Baird’s spokesperson said they did their due diligence up front. Really? That’s not the story that’s been told, with the one-page forms that are being rushed through. It seems to me that this is but one more example of the party that was going to be whiter-than-white, more-accountable-than-thou, and all of that, is having a great deal of difficultly living up to that promise.
But that wasn’t even the most damning revelation of the day. No, that came at the end from Maclean’s intrepid liveblogger Kady O’Malley, who cast her eye to the home renovation tax credit that the Conservatives are pushing. Pushing with Harper making a photo op at a home renovation centre, and with a bombardment of taxpayer-funded advertising. It turns out that the tax credit hasn’t actually been passed into law yet – they weren’t even planning on introducing the bill until autumn. You know, when we’re likely to have an election (especially with the antagonism around the EI “working group” getting even more ratcheted up).
Isn’t there actually a House of Commons rule about spending public money to promote legislation that hasn’t yet been passed as though it’s a done deal, since it’s sort of abrogate-y of the role of Parliament? Didn’t the Mulroney government have its knuckles rapped by the Speaker for doing pretty much exactly the same thing by running ads before the GST had actually gone through?
And once again, Harper behaves as though the rules don’t apply to him. Yes, we know that it’s for the purpose of blatant electioneering, and that Harper will rattle his sabre, telling Canadians that those evil Liberals want to take away their tax credits (forcing Ignatieff to either guarantee that he’ll honour it, thus opening up accusations that he’s just like the Conservatives on policy, or he’ll back down from his election threat, thus opening him up to more Stéphane Dion comparisons). But for the love of Cher, it’s called the Rule of Law! You’d think that the freaking Prime Minister could actually, oh, respect it? Maybe, just possibly? I know it’s a lot to ask, but we spent all those centuries stripping power away from absolute monarchs for a reason, and that reason wasn’t just to hand it all to a Prime Minister.