Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Drip, drip, drip

If you could wish one punishment on this Conservative government, what would it be? What would be the absolute worst fate that could befall them? Given their obsessive penchant for information control, media manipulation, secrecy, silencing of MPs, etc., you would have to think it is exactly what is occurring now. Audio recordings of a cabinet minister that are spilling full on into public view. It's got to be the PMO's worst nightmare and the reason there was quite the effort made by the ex-aide (all by her lonesome, of course) to suppress the tape. The latest morsels arriving this afternoon from the Chronicle Herald that give another window into what is going on, far from our public view: "Wind money given to oil producers instead, Raitt tape suggests."
Money earmarked to support wind energy producers was diverted to research and development in the oil patch in backroom budget wrangling, the minister of natural resources said in a conversation with an aide in January.

Lisa Raitt told aide Jasmine MacDonnell that she suspects Environment Minister Jim Prentice took the money for wind power and redirected it to his Clean Energy Plan – a $1-billion fund for research and development in the oil sands.

The revelation is likely to intensify criticism of the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper as unfriendly to the environment.
I'm sure there will be much more of the yawning by some, as in, you know, all politicians naturally talk about such matters, there's a natural competition among cabinet ministers to get their projects funded, we're all really being so silly to think that other parties aren't doing this too. But the "we all do it" defence is ringing a little hollow and is irrelevant here. It's the motivations and politicking that are being disclosed that confirm the true opportunistic and cynical nature of the Harper government. That's what's relevant. And we have every right to speak about it and criticize it and not give in to the efforts to minimize it.

It's already been pointed out that this revelation speaks to the Harper government's environmental priorities. It reinforces the current perception. And that's important. As is pointed out in the report, the U.S. is investing in such alternative energy measures, we're falling behind. More boffo environmental stuff from the Conservative brain trust.

So, what else is going on here?

How about a fixation on the prime minister's scorn that is likely to erupt given that the Wind Energy Association has somehow gotten wind (pardon the pun) of their funding being pulled at the last minute in Harper government budget moves and shifted elsewhere?
“Someone in Finance talked,” says Ms. Raitt. “Am I going to get blamed for this?”

Ms. Raitt was worried about the prime minister's reaction to the fact that CanWEA was somehow aware of budget talks, which are supposed to be kept in confidence.

“I certainly didn't know the fact that it came out late in the process,” she said.

“I would have no way of knowing that. I understand that's what happened. My suspicion is, what I told you, that Jim took the money for his clean energy plan. They said 'Ah, they don't need it.' There should never have been any choice. No one asked my opinion on it. If they had, I would have lobbied. Maybe that's why I'm invited to P and P (priority and planning, a cabinet committee). Oh, the prime minister's not going to like that.”
How much of this government's movements become beholden and skewed to such concerns about the Prime Minister?

There's also Raitt's admission that she doesn't "have that pull. Period..." in terms of being able to swing such a funding re-direction or commitment for the wind group. Says that she's "on the team," going along to get along. She pushed for the funding but not hard enough. Raitt perhaps trying to have it both ways with the wind people, enjoying that Natural Resources perhaps indicated to them she was on board with it, but she didn't at the end of the day fight hard enough for them ("I didn't push it hard at the table though.”). That, as well, should do nothing to help the minister's credibility going forward, beyond this episode.

Spare us for enjoying the immensely gratifying retributive justice of it all...

For more on this topic, see: Blog Post Index: Medical Isotope crisis & Chalk River shutdown.