Monday, May 26, 2008

On alternatives

Leftdog highlights a pattern within the Cons where one MP hires a family member of another MP for constituency or ministerial work using parliamentary funds. And it's worth wondering whether the apparent nepotism is based more a desire to provide additional public funds to MPs and their families, or instead on a lack of other qualified members to fill the positions. Either way, though, the part of the story which most deserves to be pointed out is that at least one federal party doesn't allow the same type of practices within its ranks:
The hiring of family members is not a new phenomenon on Parliament Hill. In the early 1990s, two Progressive Conservative MPs were found to have employed each other's daughters, effectively skating around the prohibition of directly hiring children. An RCMP investigation cleared them of wrongdoing. More recently, then-Liberal prime minister Jean Chretien was accused of nepotism when his daughter, a lawyer, was appointed to a federal position on a 2010 Olympics organizing committee - an allegation his office rejected.

In Opposition, the Harper Conservatives railed against patronage and cronyism they claimed was endemic in the Liberal governments.

"They've been touters of public virtues and they do have that burden of having to be purer than Ceasar's wife," said Parliamentary expert Ned Franks, professor emeritus at Queen's University...

Manitoba New Democrat Pat Martin said his own son landed an eight-week summer job for another NDP MP in 1998. Two years later, then-leader Alexa McDonough intervened to stop an MP from hiring a colleague's relative and created a party policy against the practice, Martin said. He says he agrees with the approach.

"Nepotism and patronage are two of the same species," he said. "It's that who-you-know kind of politics that makes Canadians gag." While hiring other MPs' relatives may be allowed under House rules, it "doesn't pass the smell test," he said.
In other words, while the Cons railed against the Libs' cronyism in opposition, they've once again lost any concern for the misuse of the spoils of power now that they stand to enjoy them. And indeed at least a couple of their supporters have tried to draw specious distinctions as to why Con nepotism is entirely appropriate, or even criticize the fact that the story was even reported.

But while anybody hoping the Cons would do better than the Libs in the ethics department may have reason to be bitterly disappointed, that doesn't mean they have to be resigned to that level of politics.

After all, the NDP hasn't only pointed out the problems with funneling money to family members when other parties have done, but has also set the bar for itself at the level which it demands from its competitors. Which means that Canadian voters rightly cynical about the Cons and Libs can take heart that one federal party both stands by its ethical principles, and does more than than the bare minimum to keep its operations clean.

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