Opinion Editorial

Editorial

Politicians with no strings attached

Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa June 4, 2013.    REUTERS/Chris Wattie

Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa June 4, 2013. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

These days Canadians are learning the hard way that backroom boys have too much power.

In Ontario, voters were introduced to the influential but otherwise anonymous Don Guy at the recent gas plants committee hearings. He's had various titles over the years, but basically he's one of the main Ontario Liberal backroom boys.

"Speaker needs to follow up on his prima facie finding and change his mind." That's what Guy wrote in a Sept. 2012 e-mail concerning a ruling by the Speaker -- a Liberal -- on a gas plants matter.

Then there's a staffer's e-mail saying Dave Gene "is putting the member from Brant on notice that we need better here." Same issue.

The member from Brant is the Speaker. And who's Gene? Another backroom operator.

So we've got e-mails suggesting two unelected backroom boys think their authority trumps that of the Speaker of the House. Ouch.

Federally, there's the matter of Nigel Wright's $90,000 loan to Mike Duffy. The big question is how much of the former chief of staff's actions were known by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

If the answer is everything, it looks bad on Harper. But if the answer is nothing, well, it looks even worse. Because it suggests there's too much backseat driving at the PMO.

B.C. Premier Christy Clark's deputy chief of staff resigned in March due to the "ethnicgate" scandal. Clark said she had no clue about the plan to score "quick wins" in ethnic communities by committing taxpayer resources to various projects.

Again: Who was in charge over there?

This isn't the dark ages. Modern democracy has no need for Thomas Cromwells and Machiavellis.

We get that not every politico wants to run for office and every politician needs strong and independent staffers managing their offices. But politicians have to make it clear that they, as the elected ones, are the people in charge.

So this summer as politicians do the barbecue circuit and connect with regular joes, they should take a moment to reflect. Did they run for office to serve the people? Or to just be a puppet to some egomaniac glued to his Blackberry back at the office?

Enough with the rainmaker shenanigans.

 


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