Thank You, Mr. Prime Mini$ter

In his weekly Point of View, Rex Murphy looks back and finds that Ottawa's self-serving spending habits, exposed this week, aren't exactly new.

Read the transcript of this Point of View

Rex Murphy Point of View

October 15, 2009

Long, long ago – in the 1960s – or about the time the Pharaohs were conducting environmental reviews on the pyramids – and Joey Smallwood, was Pharaoh  - Premier - of Newfoundland – people driving across my province would see a sign. 

It was about the then – to be built – Trans Canada Highway.  It read:  We’ll finish the drive in ’65 – thanks to Mr. Pearson.  Prime Minister Pearson wasn’t actually building the TCH – operating the heavy equipment, tapping down the asphalt or anything – but he was a Liberal PM and Joey was a Liberal Premier, and in those antique days – one good Liberal would chew steel to do a favour for another good Liberal.

I mention this to show how venerable the tradition of political parties – trying to take personal credit for spending your money is. 

Politicians are ravenous when it comes to taking credit for things – plastering their faces on every handout and brochure whenever they’re rolling out the money – as if they were a combination of Santa Claus, the Salvation Army and the Rockefeller Foundation.

Which brings us to Gerald Keddy, here seen holding a toboggan – no a cheque for 302 thousand dollars for a rink in Chester, Nova Scotia…the Conservative logo is just beneath his right hand – and his name is at the bottom.

Now it isn’t his loot and it isn’t his cheque:  – water will freeze on the rink but no thanks to Mr. Keddy’s personal stash.  The Conservative logo is a diversion and a lie.   The Conservative Party isn’t paying for anything – the government of Canada is paying for everything. 

When this made the outraged news Mr. Keddy said  " …he never noticed … the large Conservative Party logo in the top left corner, or his signature at the bottom."  I hope he doesn’t drive, or mend watches for a living.  Because if he didn’t notice that logo or see his own signature on a cheque the size of a 70 inch plasma TV, or the blade of a heavy-duty snowplow – there isn’t much Mr. Keddy can be noticing.

Having thought things over, the next day he said it all a horrible mistake, "inadvertent" "inappropriate" and he "would never (ever) do it again."  I guess it’s the old "once stricken, twice shy," either that or a classic case of Spotlight Repentance.

But the bleats of various Liberals over this ‘outrage’ should be turned down a notch.  There is no bunch in Canadian history who have furthered the art of pushing their own brand – of taking credit when no credit was due – than the Liberals.  They were the high pioneers and virtuosos of slush funds and party promotion.

But they do have a point when they flail Mr. Harper for such things – because in opposition Mr. Harper was a one man Spanish Inquisition on such practices. Preaching when you’re out of power – is not a passport to sinning when you’re in.

Keep up this kind of stuff – and it will take more than a Beatles tune and a startled cellist to convince Canadians that there’s a hair’s breath of difference between the two of them.

Or that there ever has been – from Lester Pearson and Smallwood’s day long ago right up to the present minute. 

The cheques are fatter; the game remains the same.

For the National, I’m Rex Murphy.