Monday, November 09, 2009

Our money, their friends: the ongoing series

1. First point, still on the federal by-elections today...who needs spending limits when the public till is at hand?
Popular Tory candidate Bernard Généreux could win an upset in Montmagny-L’Islet-Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup.

The race is expected to be tight and the Conservatives announced Friday up to $242 million to widen a highway in the region.
The message of bringing home the pork has been amplified by the candidate:
"Being in power makes all the difference," Généreux told a local Radio-Canada reporter this week. "There's money available to create projects, but right now this money is not coming into the riding. So I want to get the maximum that the population should and can expect from a Conservative government right now."
What timing, $242 million the Friday before the election to help the candidate out, message well sent. One more reason why, as stated last night, it should not come as a surprise at all if the Conservatives win this riding.

2. Second point, the Star report today on various stimulus spending announcements across the country where future Conservative candidates are participating yet sitting MPs of opposing party stripes are excluded. There may be a question here for Elections Canada to weigh in on:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his government have been using taxpayer-funding announcements to boost the fortunes of unelected Conservative candidates, critics charge.

While Conservative allies and would-be MPs are welcome at public announcements to splash taxpayers' money around Canada, opposition MPs say they've been pushed to the sidelines and even left in the dark about funding announcements taking place in their ridings.

Some New Democrat and Liberal MPs say they have only learned about funds going to their ridings when they looked in the local paper after the fact and saw unelected Conservative candidates prominently featured at government-financed events.

Liberals believe that if Elections Canada looks into the practice, Conservatives could be held in violation of strict laws intended to keep partisan and government spending separate.

"This is one more example of abusing government resources to benefit the Conservative party," says Liberal MP Martha Hall Findlay (Willowdale), who is in the midst of filing multiple official complaints to the Treasury Board and Elections Canada over the government's advertising and promotional practices. "This is another attempt to buy Canadians with their own, taxpayer money," she said.
Our money, their friends, how much clearer could the point be? There's a pretty blatant portrayal in the article of how the Conservatives are treating their candidate in Edmonton Strathcona as virtually the MP out there, undermining the present NDP MP. He's participated in five government announcements in the past few months, she has been excluded from them.

So is this more "whining" from opposition parties, to be shrugged off as just one more thing that all political parties do? Certainly we'll hear that from the usual suspects and those who are being worn down by reports of such repeated partisan abuses. But it isn't just about opposition MPs wanting to get into photos themselves.

Think about what the public is seeing, what message they're getting when a Conservative candidate appears so regularly in publicity from these announcements. The candidates are gaining good will and p.r., valuable commodities without having to spend any money themselves. The candidates also benefit from the announcement event itself, many of which are highly produced affairs. Again, they don't have to pay for holding an event on their own, they coattail on the taxpayer dime. These are all tangible benefits to the candidate's campaign that the government is conferring.

It's more boundary pushing from Conservatives, more of that blending of party/government that's not supposed to be happening. It doesn't appear that these incidents are "one-offs," either. Seems to be a well-planned effort.

It's a special time to be a Conservative in Canada, that's for sure.