A question of questionable politics

Political shenanigans abound in municipal, provincial and federal goverments across Canada

Carolyn Grant

It’s been quite a week , indeed year, for politicos in Canada and the common theme seems to be ethics — or the lack thereof.

From coast to coast, from all three levels of government, we are reaping a bumper harvest of political shenanigans.

Over in Toronto, hard on the heels of the Argonauts trouncing the Calgary Stampeders, asserting the dominance of East over West, we have the spectacle of Mayor Rob Ford being ejected from office by a judge for conflict of interest violations. That’s right, he has to resign and so far there is no sign he will go graciously.

Ford of course, has a long history of public scandal in his short time as Toronto Mayor. From calling the police on Canadian comedy icon Marg Delahunty from This Hour Has 22 Minutes to admitting to reading while driving (!) to his considerable attempts to circumvent the system for his football team, Ford has not had an easy go of it in the ethics department. In October, there was considerable kerfuffle over Ford tossing paying customers off Toronto Transit buses so said buses could go pick up his football team. In the end it was the same team that took him down. The issue was Ford using city staffers to procure over $3000 in donations for the football team’s foundation. When Council was to vote over whether to absolve Ford from having to repay the donations himself, Hizzoner did not recuse himself but voted against sanctioning himself.

An Ontario judge found that Ford violated conflict of interest rules, and rules that his seat on city council is to be made “vacant.” Don’t let the door hit ya, Rob Ford. Of course he says he’ll run again.

In the meantime, not wanting the east to walk away with all the glory, Alberta has stepped in. CBC News has found that Premier Alison Redford, while justice minister, personally chose her ex-husband’s law firm for a government tobacco-litigation contract worth potentially tens of millions of dollars in contingency fees.

That one is still playing out and we await the outrage, or lack thereof, from Alberta voters.

Perhaps Alberta’s voters will be distracted by their continued outrage over two-year old remarks from Liberal leadership candidate Justin Trudeau. Trudeau made the questionable decision two years ago to say that he would prefer Quebecers in Parliament rather than Albertans. Canada is in trouble because Albertans are running the country, the Liberal hope said. He has since apologized, and also clarified that he was more referring to Prime Minister Stephen Harper rather than every Albertan MP.

Still it stung in the west, especially since Albertans have still not forgiven anyone named Trudeau for the National Energy Policy, though it was enacted over 30 years ago.

Meanwhile in Quebec, the probe into the construction industry’s link to politicians is racking up the casualties, among them Premier Jean Charest, Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay and Laval Mayor Gilles Vaillancourt.

In B.C. political scandals have been legion over the years, but at the moment, we are in the position to tsk tsk sadly at the other provinces. But we shouldn’t crow too loudly lest someone point out that Wikipedia has 38 pages of political scandals in British Columbia. 38 pages!

The question that arises from all of this is, do we care whether our elected officials are ethical or not? Or do we simply shake our heads at their perfidy and forget all about it when confronted with the ballot at the next election? Do we consider politics such a dirty business that a certain amount of ethical elasticity is a job requirement? Have we, as a people, become so accustomed to political misbehaviour that we are more surprised at an honest politician than a dishonest one?

Shouldn’t we expect more?