Saturday, January 20, 2007

On useless advice

The CP reports that while Wajid Khan's stint as an advisor to PMS looks dubious from the standpoint of those who would expect such a position to have some meaning or responsibility, it fits in far too nicely with how the Libs handled similar positions in the past:
Liberals may be basing their skepticism about the value of MP Wajid Khan's report to Stephen Harper on their own experience with special prime ministerial advisers.

Onetime Liberal MP Sarkis Assadourian says he never did a day's work after being appointed a special adviser to former prime minister Paul Martin...

"They put out a press release and he said to the media and the nation with a straight face I was working with him as (his) adviser on the south Caucasus and Middle East," Assadourian said in an interview.

"The whole thing was a lie . . . I never a single day worked in his office. I was never paid a single penny."

At the same time, Martin named MP Sophia Leung as a special adviser on international trade and emerging markets. She stepped aside in her Vancouver riding for star recruit David Emerson, who later defected to the Tories.

At the time, a Martin spokeswoman said that Assadourian and Leung would not be paid for their advisory roles as long as they remained MPs. Whether they'd be paid after the election was to be "decided at that time."

Assadourian said that after the election, Martin's office wouldn't even return his phone calls, although he ostensibly remained a special adviser.
Now, it's hard to see how the Cons seem to expect to gain any political mileage from the Libs' history. After all, it's not as if the Cons look any better for following that pattern. And indeed the claim that Khan's advice is somehow important enough to merit total confidentiality seems all the more dubious given the trend of past advisors contributing absolutely nothing.

Of course, both parties are doing their best to distinguish the respective treatment of the advisors - the Libs by highlighting the fact that their non-productive advisors also cost nothing, the Cons by pointing to the supposed report as evidence of something productive. But in truth, it's all too likely that Khan's appointment ultimately reflects nothing more than Harper's continuation of the Libs' culture of patronage. And neither party should be the least bit proud of that reality.

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