5 min

Manufactured outrage and odious allegations

As a member of the media, I feel torn by some of what cropped up yesterday morning – more media-generated outrage at MPs, this time for an investigation into their Ottawa housing situations. The intrepid duo have already caught out Judy Sgro for apparently entering into an inappropriate rental situation with a condo she turned over to her children, but that is apparently the “tip of the iceberg.” I’m especially not sure I’m comfortable with the idea of publishing the photos, property values and locations of all these MPs' homes in Ottawa, or simply outing them for the fact that they own a home in Ottawa.

So much of this smacks to me of the old Reform Party notions that they should stay in cheap motels here rather than get homes or apartments when they’re going to be spending years – even though most will argue that buying a place will be cheaper in the long run. But what is the end of this? Are We The Media trying to pander to some faux-populist notion that all MPs should dress themselves in sackcloth and ashes to satisfy the Canadian Taxpayer’s Federation? Or worse – are we pandering to this patently false notion that all politicians are crooks, simply because it sells papers?

There is blood in the water, and one of the intrepid duo wrote a rather odious editorial over the weekend that implied that MPs are using their hospitality budgets to “take escorts to fancy restaurants,” but we’ll never know the truth because they won’t open up their books. My first reaction was of course they’re not taking escorts out to fancy restaurants – this is Ottawa, and nobody has sex in this town because “people will talk.”  But in all seriousness, this is basically the new “when did you stop beating your wife?”

Political life is already denigrated in the public eye, and these kinds of stories don’t help. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t call out MPs who break the rules – absolutely we should. But are we doing this as part of a witch-hunt to paint all politicians as crooks because those are the kinds of headlines that sell papers? Or are we genuinely holding politicians to account in a way that is transparent and will further public discussion, because the issues are all on the table and put in context? I don’t see a whole lot of context about what it is we’re asking of MPs when we start accusing them of being overpaid grafters. And it’s a lot harder to hold them to account when we start from that place of suspicion than one of understanding what their jobs are really all about.

Over in the House of Commons yesterday, Question Period began with Michael Ignatieff asking somewhat substantive questions about the spare agenda for the G8 and G20 summits – nothing on climate change, no bank reform, nothing on safe abortions in the developing world. So just what were we accomplishing? John Baird defended it by saying that Canada was proud to host the world. Um, great. Mark Holland followed up on the mounting costs of the summit, including news of a “$2 million fake lake” for the media centre. Noting that $20 million is being allocated to dancers, fiddlers and flowers, Holland wondered if instead of hosting world leaders, maybe the government should consider party planning for Lady Gaga? Lawrence Cannon assured Holland that Canada was proud to host the world.

Gilles Duceppe followed up on the lack of climate change in the released draft of the G8 statement, and Christian Gagnon the lack of mention for safe abortions. Jack Layton also mentioned the lack of attention to climate change, and the escalating costs.

But the questions continued from the Liberals – the steamboat that wouldn’t be ready on time, the toilets 20 km away from the site – to which Tony Clement said that we should be proud of our regions. The Bloc shifted the attention to the issue of the Shell refinery closing in Montreal, and the international inquiry into the Israeli attack on that aid flotilla. Later questions involved the requirement for security deposits for offshore drilling, the procurement process for the replacement of our CF-18 fighters, the proposed national securities regulator, NGOs being defunded when they criticize the government, the lack of services for pregnant Inuit women, and the need for funding for experimental MS treatments.

Sartorially speaking, snaps go out to Kirsty Duncan for a tailored white jacket with black and blue square patterns. As well, Lisa Raitt was back to her Glamazon self with a brown jacket and skirt with a beige top and killer gold heels. The style citations go out to Christian Paradis for his sack of a suit jacket (it’s called a tailor – look into it), and Mark Warawa for his inappropriate choice of a bright teal shirt with a dark brown suit. And the Megan Leslie outfit watch reports a lovely plum dress with a fetching deep v-neck, and while the emerald heels matched the bag, I’m not sure they quite went with the dress.

Elsewhere, Jane Taber publishes the Liberal talking points on the decision to kill the immigration bill.

At least I’m no longer the only one calling out Shelly Glover – her hometown paper is finally in on the action.

Harper may claim that he’s all about maternal and child health, and yet he can’t show up in Washington for a women’s health summit. Oh, wait – that’s because he only plans to pay lip service to maternal and child health, rather than do anything substantive on the issue. Governing by photo op and press release, remember. How silly of me to have forgotten.

There are further delays to the Chalk River reactor that produces medical isotopes. Not that this is a surprise, but the government persists in not only refusing to honour the commitments that Canada made to the world in terms of the next generation of isotope production (as in, the MAPLE project, which the engineers on the project previously told Parliament was a mere four months away from finishing work before the plug was pulled), but they also repeat the false claims that not a single isotope was produced in those reactors (which was false – isotopes were produced in the test runs).

The Canadian Press continues their examination of the Message Event Proposals this government uses to control their messaging. In this installment, they examine the government’s messaging around Afghanistan, and the way that they’ve tried to spin it more for the peaceful development elements rather than the actual combat component.

And I have to wonder if this isn’t a giant f-you, but Her Excellency is being sent on a state visit to China during the Queen’s visit, and she’ll be spending Canada Day at the Canada pavilion at the Shanghai Expo. I just hope that with the Queen present, Harper won’t try to make any other presidential-esque breaches in protocol during the Canada Day celebrations.
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