Friday, January 19, 2007

Poor excuses

I'm amazed that the Cons' latest attempt to weasel out of a campaign promise even made it onto the party's well-worn Wheel of Excuses, as Jim Prentice tries to claim that a promise of compensation for students who attended the Île-à-la-Crosse residential school was merely a "mistake":
It's "extremely unlikely" Ottawa will keep a Conservative campaign promise to compensate students at a northern Saskatchewan residential school, the federal Indian Affairs minister says...

Prentice now says his party made a mistake and didn't have all the facts when it made the original commitment. That means the court-approved settlement deal that would pay some 80,000 former residential school students an average of about $25,000 each won't apply.

"The school doesn't qualify," Prentice said. "The ad, to the extent that it had a different assumption, was in error and that's unfortunate."
In fairness, Prentice's claim might be relatively plausible if the promise had been the result of an off-the-cuff response to a request to lump Île-à-la-Crosse in with other residential schools. But let's expand on the "ad" from his quote and take a look at where the promise actually came from:
During the campaign a year ago, Conservative leader Stephen Harper said in a radio commercial that if he were prime minister, former students from the school would be compensated.

"We'll provide full compensation for residential school survivors, including those attending the Île-à-la-Crosse school," Harper said in the advertisement.
Needless to say, Prentice's explanation can only suggest gross incompetence on the part of not only whoever wrote the commercial and decided that the promise should be made, but arguably Harper himself for failing to ask just why Île-à-la-Crosse should be singled out for specific treatment.

Meanwhile, the effect going forward is to offer just one more example of how the Cons' supposed commitments ultimately stand for nothing. After all, if "we didn't bother checking the facts" is supposed to be a valid excuse for breaking promises from the past campaign, there's no reason to think that PMS won't suddenly discover an entirely new set of "facts" to justify breaking a new set of promises. And the mounting evidence that the Cons' word isn't worth a thing should be one of the key facts which voters take into consideration in deciding whether to leave Harper in charge.

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