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Photo: pmwebphotos. Used under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.
Stephen Harper loves Tim Hortons. He’s just like every other coffee-loving hockey mom and dad – or so goes the Conservative government's story line.
So when news leaked out (kudos CTV News) that the public purse picked up the $6,650 tab (plus a 23% service charge!) for coffee for a few hundred business executives in New York City, it just smells bad. It’s also a giant rip-off.
Let’s do the math. Say 300 people were at the event "hosted" by the Canadian American Business Council. That’s over $27 per cup of coffee. Who knew a $16 glass of orange juice was such a bargain for the taxpayer?
It gets worse. For people back home watching the news about Harper’s NYC trip – the folks who spend less than a toonie for a double-double – it really looked like Harper was a guest at the event.
Guests don’t usually pay for the coffee – or for the room. And yet, the Conservative government doled out $33,500 (plus a 23% service change!) for the room rental. Another $14,709.15 was needed to cover audio-visual services to spread Harper’s aggressive push for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. His view: “you don't take no for an answer.”
Here’s a question: how do coffee-loving hockey moms and dads tell Stephen Harper there are better ways to invest over $65,000?
Photo: laqos. Used under a Creative Commons BY-SA 2.0 licence.
In the classic children’s book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, nothing goes the main character's way. Alexander wakes up to discover gum in his hair. From there, his day just keeps getting worse, ending with a serving of lima beans for dinner.
Stephen Harper's run of late has looked a lot like Alexander’s day.
1. After weeks of bad headlines about misbehaving senators, Harper prorogued Parliament in September to avoid questions about the Senate spending and ethics scandal. But fresh allegations of unethical behaviour continued to trickle out. We still don't know what happened between his former Chief of Staff Nigel Wright and Mike Duffy. But we do know even more senators have been dragged into the muck, including Harper’s former spokeswoman Carolyn Stewart Olsen.
2. Harper’s “you don’t take no for an answer” line on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline is about as childish and pouty as Alexander's hatred of lima beans. So, for that matter, is refusing to sign a U.S.-backed international arms treaty to keep our domestic gun lobby happy.
3. Harper’s new ministers have found new and creative ways to speak out of turn. Whether it's the new environment minister casting doubt on climate change or a fundraising letter for the science minister casting scientists as "radical ideologues," the new Cabinet leaves much to be desired.
All told, Harper has had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad run. Bring on the Speech from the Throne.
As we settle in to listen to the Speech from the Throne on Wednesday, it’s worth remembering a few things from the Conservative government’s last go-around. What they said they’d do in the 2011 Throne Speech didn’t always jive with what they did. Here are some of the highlights.
What they said: "Helping seniors make ends meet."
What they did: Cut public pensions by raising the age of eligibility for Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement from 65 to 67, affecting all Canadians born after April 1, 1958. The Harper government spun the surprise in the 2012 budget as necessary to deal with the coming demographic bulge of older Canadians. The Parliamentary Budget Officer set the record straight by confirming the programs were sustainable in the long-term.
What they said: "Addressing the barriers to social and economic participation."
What they did: Do meetings count? In January 2012, there was a Crown-First Nations gathering to address poverty and long-term economic prosperity of Canada’s aboriginal peoples. By year’s end, the Assembly of First Nations complained Ottawa had failed to uphold its commitments and responsibilities. The Idle No More protests were in full swing. Harper defused the growing unrest with yet another meeting. Fast-forward to today. The UN’s special envoy on the rights on indigenous peoples was just in town, pointing out a “crisis when it comes to the situation of indigenous peoples of the country.”
What they said: "Promoting integrity and accountability."
What they did: Presided over ethics scandal after ethics scandal. You know the names well: Peter Penashue, Patrick Brazeau, Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Dean Del Mastro. And don’t forgot about Nigel Wright, who served as Stephen Harper’s Chief of Staff until word got out that he had cut a personal cheque to Duffy to cover over $90,000 of questionable expense claims. Allegations of a cover-up in the Prime Minister’s Office continue to swirl.
Photos: mosmancouncil and marygkosta. Used under Creative Commons licences.