Thursday, May 30, 2013
If the government is serious about this new initiative, we should soon be seeing the following performance review for our country’s top federal employee:
NAME: Stephen Harper
POSITION: Prime Minister
GOALS: The incumbent set certain goals for himself over the last few years including the following:
(1) To oversee the nation’s finances and ensure that the annual budget is in surplus thereby reducing the national debt
(2) To implement and enforce stringent ethical guidelines thus ensuring the effective and efficient deployment of government resources
(3) To eliminate patronage in the federal appointments process
(4) To efficiently oversee Canada’s military and reign in unnecessary expenditures
(5) To reverse the previous trend to ignore democratic traditions and to instead honor and abide by fair democratic principles and procedures
(6) To effectively delegate various responsibilities to ministers of the Crown in order to effect a more efficient federal public service
ASSESSMENT: The incumbent has failed to meet the basic requirements of the job. As for his specific goals:
(1) When the incumbent assumed his position, there was a significant annual budgetary surplus and the national debt was on a downward trend. In short order, he managed to convert that surplus to an ongoing annual deficit thereby increasing significantly the national debt. The incumbent has repeatedly assured his employer that this matter would soon be rectified but no sensible fiscal solution appears to be forthcoming.
(2) The incumbent initially made a strong commitment to the creation, implementation and enforcement of strong ethical guidelines for himself and all others at the federal level. Unfortunately, he has failed to match that commitment with commensurate action. In fact, he appears to have surpassed his predecessors in appointing his friends and allies to the Senate and all manner of boards and tribunals.
(3) (see no. 2 above)
(4) The incumbent has failed to reign in military expenditures. If fact, he appears to be engaged in an ongoing military hardware shopping spree that is costing the Canadian taxpayer countless billions of dollars. In particular, the incumbent entered into an untendered sole-source contract to buy F-35 fighter jets and his delegates misled the public as to the real cost of that contract.
(5) The incumbent has been successful in publicly stating his faith in our democratic institutions. Again, however, he has failed to match his actions to his faith as evidenced by his willingness to prorogue Parliament for his own personal political gain.
(6) Delegation has not been the incumbent’s strong suit. Rather than truly delegate various of his functions to his ministers, he has retained almost all decision making powers and reduced his ministers to powerless minions. His preference for micro-managing has damaged not only his position but has also undermined the authority of dozens of ministers thereby limiting the flexibility and accountability of the government as a whole.
RECOMMENDATION: In summary, the incumbent’s performance is unsatisfactory. Given that he has been given numerous opportunities to meet his goals but has still failed to fulfill them, there seems little point in prolonging his current probationary status. Rather, it is time to terminate the incumbent and replace him with a younger, fresher, more flexible face.
(Note to the incumbent: You have the right to have this assessment reviewed at the next level. In this case, the next level comprises the Canadian electorate. You are free to “call an election” at any time and ask the Canadian public to overturn this review’s recommendation.)
Saturday, May 25, 2013
Now that it’s clear that the ongoing Senate shenanigans are not just a one-week wonder, it’s time to give this scandal a name. After all, if we’re going to be reading about this stuff for the next few months, we’ll definitely need a shorthand way to refer to it.
Rule no. 1: Don’t give it a name ending in “-gate.” Although it’s tempting to simply add that suffix to the latest wrongdoing, it’s a lazy approach. So unless it involves wrongdoing by Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, no more “gates.” Plus, Watergate was an American scandal. There’s no need to debase our Canadian political screw-ups with “gate”-suffixed designations. Does any Canadian take pride in Tunagate or Shawinigate? If it’s a scandal that has legs and one that we value at all, it’s deserving of its own unique moniker. Thus, no Senategate, Puffstergate or Troughgate. We’re Canadian and we deserve our own homegrown names for our own homegrown scandals.
Rule no. 2: Don’t focus on just one person. It might be tempting to center on the biggest and most entertaining target and name the whole affair after Mike Duffy as in The Puffster Affair or The Duffy Scandal. But unless your name is Gerda Munsinger or Monica Lewinsky or there’s sex involved, limiting things to one person is shortsighted and inefficient in the long run. After all, we already have several other potential players like Pamela Wallin, Patrick Brazeau and Mac Harb. Since there are more than a hundred senators, chances are that at least a few more may be ensnared by the illegal expenses net before this thing has fully played out.
Rule no. 3: Don’t be too specific in naming the scandal. It’s tempting to assume that this one is all about the Senate and that a moniker like The Senate Scandal or The Red Chamber Affair will suffice for the duration. But we’ve already witnessed the involvement of a non-senator in the person of Nigel Wright , Prime Minister Harper’s chief of staff. That’s not to say that Mr. Harper himself was also involved but it’s not proper scandal-naming etiquette to rule him out completely at this stage. Scandal naming demands inclusivity because you just never know how far reaching a scandal will become.
Rule no. 4: Identify the geographical or corporate nexus of the wrongdoing. Watergate, the sine qua non of modern day coverups, was named after the Washington, D. C. hotel where Republican operatives broke into Democratic Party headquarters. But Watergate wasn’t the first to be guided by this principle. The Teapot Dome scandal of the early 1920s got its name from the Wyoming oil field that was the subject of illegal leases, bribes and kickbacks. Iran/Contra and Whitewater both described the geographical loci of the alleged crimes. Canadian political scandals have also generally followed this rule as evidenced by the Pacific Scandal, the Airbus Affair and Shawinigate.
Rule no. 5: Keep it simple. Sure, it might have been more accurate for the media to describe Richard Nixon’s troubles as the Post-break-in White House Cover-up Scandal but, let’s face it, Watergate was a lot punchier. And wasn’t last year’s Robocall Scandal catchier than The Robotic and Telephonic Voter Fraud Affair? If you want a scandal to last, give it a short name that folks can remember.
By following these five simple rules, we can find a name for this latest malfeasance that Canadians can embrace with enthusiasm and pride. For starters, how about The PMO Affair, The Expense Claim Debacle or The Entitlement Scandal? I suspect there are even better candidates out there waiting to grab tomorrow’s headlines. How about Harper’s Troubles or even Pork Plus? Just remember; if they can do it, we can name it.
Saturday, May 18, 2013
Given his extensive reportorial career, Mike Duffy has apparently been hired by his old bosses at CTV News to get to the bottom of the latest Senate scandal:
“Good evening to you, too, Sandie, and thanks for having me back on the evening news. As you might imagine, I’m a little strapped for cash right now and payment for tonight’s report will be very helpful indeed. However, if it’s all the same to you, Sandie, I’d like to get paid in cash. It’s not that I have anything against personal cheques but my lawyer tells me cash would definitely be preferable at this point in time.
“As for this latest story concerning the Canadian Senate, I’m pleased to say that it is nothing more than a tempest in a teapot and certainly not a bull in a china shop as some have characterized it. Thankfully, I happen to be an actual, honest-to-goodness senator so that gives me an insider’s perspective on the matter.
“Some folks have claimed that a Senator Mike Duffy falsely claimed out-of-province living expenses for his Ottawa residence. A quick check of the Senate rolls reveals that there is only one senator named Mike Duffy and that’s me. Thus, I’m in a perfect position to investigate the various allegations and refute them with force and finality.
“My sources (i.e. - me) revealed that I am a permanent resident of Prince Edward Island or at least a permanent resident for the purposes of claiming living expenses elsewhere. I have repeatedly interviewed my primary source (i.e. - me) and he has assured me that his P.E.I. residence is not merely a cottage and he does not simply “summer” there. Beyond that, I considered it an invasion of privacy to have him reveal further details.
“In addition to my source’s transparency and honesty, it is worth noting his loyalty and patriotism. Despite his obvious innocence, in order to spare the government and a few of his Senate colleagues from further unwarranted harassment by the media, he agreed to give back the expense money paid to him notwithstanding his 100% entitlement to same.
“As I recently said to my colleague and former reporter friend Pamela Wallin, ethical clarity and aboveboard financial dealings are the hallmark of the field of journalism. Unfortunately, Ms. Wallin was not available for comment but I’m sure she would agree.
“There are also reports that during the last federal election, Mike Duffy submitted Senate expense claims while campaigning for Conservative candidates. Thanks to my close relationship with the subject, I was able to determine that Mr. Duffy did, in fact, make some Senate-related claims during that period but that is simply due to his marvelous and awe-inspiring ability to multitask.
“Just because the ordinary citizen cannot campaign for a candidate, conduct Senate business and be in P.E.I. all at the same time doesn’t mean Mike Duffy can’t. Rather, we should celebrate the extraordinary abilities of this senator and give thanks as Canadian citizens that we are getting full value for our tax dollars.
“Finally, there is the matter of the personal cheque for $90,000 given to Mike Duffy (i.e. - me) by Stephen Harper’s chief of staff Nigel Wright. Again, after a detailed investigation, there appears to be no story here.
“Mr. Wright has been a friend of Mr. Duffy’s for many days and several sources (including me, Nigel and Stephen) insist that there was nothing untoward, unseemly or unethical about this loan/advance/gift. In fact, Nigel said not to worry about it and Stephen said not to call him again....ever.
“This is Mike Duffy reporting from Parliament Hill. Back to you, Sandie.”
Saturday, May 11, 2013
- The Globe & Mail - April 27, 2013
The White House
Washington, D. C.
The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
Just a belated note to say thanks for the two presents you sent me in 2011. Both Michelle and I appreciate the gesture but you really shouldn’t have. Seriously, you didn’t need to send me the basketball and the map. They say it’s the thought that counts so I’m going to assume you thought that I’d want these two items and, on that basis alone, I appreciate the gesture.
The basketball was a thoughtful gift. I assume you know that I play a little roundball myself and that I’m a big fan of the Chicago Bulls. It’s not like I needed an extra ball but it didn’t hurt to have a spare for my pickup games at The White House. The only problem was there were a bunch of signatures on the ball that I didn’t recognize and it took one of my staff members almost an entire day to wipe them all off. Next time, a new, unmarked ball would be better.
Still, it is the thought that counts and I hope you’ll appreciate that sentiment when you receive my next gift to you. I understand you’re a big hockey fan so that’s why I plan to send you a hockey stick autographed by the 2012-13 Columbus Blue Jackets. Someone suggested one signed by the Maple Leafs but I figured that couldn’t be right since it should be the Maple Leaves, right?
I was initially confused as to why you would send me a 200-year-old map of North America. I assume you know that I have a GPS app on my iPhone and hundreds of bureaucrats who can give me up-to-date positioning for anywhere in the world I want to visit or send a drone strike.
But then I took a closer look at the gift map and noticed that you’d written a few things on it with a marker pen. I see that you drew a dotted line down the middle of the U. S. and labeled it Keystone pipeline. Message received. I understand the importance of this project to you so it wasn’t necessary to also draw a line from Alberta to the Pacific Ocean and write “CHINA?” in big red letters next to it.
On further inspection, I noticed that you also inked in some battle sites from the War of 1812. My staff tells me that you’re a big history buff. Still, I think it was a bit childish to draw flames around Washington, D. C. and write “We Won!” next to it.
Nevertheless, thanks for the presents. I thought about re-gifting them but since they’re both used, I figured that wouldn’t be right. Instead, I’m going to put both items in my next White House garage sale. Rest assured; any proceeds will go to help fight this year’s trillion-dollar deficit.
If you’re thinking of sending me any more gifts, might I make a few suggestions? First, don’t send me an F-35 fighter jet. I’m not sure I’m going to buy the ones I’ve already ordered and, even if I get one for free, I don’t think we can afford the lifetime maintenance costs.
I’d prefer you just keep it simple and send me something traditional like a tie, a pen or a trillion-dollar gift card. Or if you’d really like to help, give me 30 or 40 more Democratic seats in the House of Representatives or maybe a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.