So much for accountability

Cabinet Minister, Christian Paradis, has been in the news the past two weeks for all the wrong reasons. Most recently he is at the centre of a scandal that involves a Conservative Party fundraising event hosted by a Quebec contractor whose company received a $9 million contract to repair the West Block on Parliament Hill. Media reports indicate that the company hired a Conservative Party organizer to help secure the contract and followed that up by hosting a fundraising event for the Conservatives at which Minister Paradis was the guest of honour. The contractor was then unable to complete the work on West Block, forcing a bonding company to take over the project.

The Conservative organizer who lobbied for the Public Works contract was not registered as a lobbyist with the federal government despite that party’s public stance and legislation that require all lobbyists to register. Elections Canada records show that Paul Sauvé, the president of the company that defaulted on the repairs donated the maximum allowable at the fundraiser he hosted. Mr. Sauvé indicates that up to a dozen people involved in the West Block contract donated between $500 and the maximum limit of $1,100 to attend the event with the Public Works Minister. It sounds like influence peddling and there are good reasons why the RCMP is investigating this.

Prior to this scandal, Paradis was fighting off calls for his resignation as allegations of repeated staff interference on Access to Information (ATI) documents filed with Public Works were revealed by the Information Commissioner. This past spring, one of Paradis’ staff was summoned to appear before the Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics Committee where he admitted to meddling with one ATI request, but said that he did not interfere with any others. Now it appears as if he has acted improperly on at least 3 other requests. In true Conservative fashion, they threw the staffer under the bus while the Minister remains in cabinet.

The Conservatives rode into town on a wave of accountability and now appear to have settled into the same sort of behaviour that plagued the Liberals and led to their electoral demise. The Conservatives have taken to claiming “the Liberals were worse” as a defence in question period. This is in no way acceptable, and indicates that the culture has not changed in the corridors of power, only the actors.

When it comes to accountability the Conservatives talk a good game, but when the chips are down they don’t deliver. Repeated calls for Minister Paradis' resignation have been ignored. The Prime Minister kicked Helena Guergis out of cabinet and the Conservative Party for much less. One has to wonder if it is because they believe but her riding is a lock for the Conservatives in the next election, while their seats in Quebec are not as secure.