Cry 'Scandal' - CPC Standard Operating Procedure
I thought Gurmant Grewal's shennanigans were an abberation, even for the CPC. Now it appears that Brian Pallister is is moving in that same direction - creating a so-called scandal over David Dingwall's expenses at the Mint where, none, it appears, existed.
Update: PriceCoopersWaterhouse has confirmed that all Dingwall's expenses were legitmate and related to Mint business. Feel free to read this again with that in mind.
But it wasn't until I got home last night and opened my mail before I came to the conclusion that this behaviour - exaggerating, making things up and downright misleading people to manufacture an artificial scandal - is the standard operation procedure for the CPC.
What led me to decide this? A letter from my MP, Pierre Poilievre of the CPC, and his partner, the current MPP for the area and Federal CPC hopeful John Baird. The text of the hard copy letter is the same as the one from the link above, with a few minor exceptions:
"As you may know, the Hospital was originally built on land owned by the National Capital Commission (NCC). In a few short years the current lease for the land is up for renewal. Paul Martin’s Liberal Government plans to force the NCC (who has no choice in the matter) to charge full market rent to the Queensway-Carleton Hospital. This decision could result in tens of millions of dollars, intended to support front line patient care, being diverted to the federal Liberal government! The past Chair of the QCH’s Board of Directors has suggested that if the hospital is faced with paying this massive rent increase being demanded by Paul Martin’s Liberals, it would result in 40 nurses losing their jobs at the hospital.A little background is in order for those of you that aren't from Ottawa. The Queensway-Carleton Hospital is one of our local Ottawa hospitals which happenes to be built on federal land owned by the National Capital Commission (NCC). The job of the NCC, a Crown Corporation, is to act "as the steward of federal lands and buildings in the National Capital Region." Since the hospital is build on NCC land, it pays the NCC rent and is currently in a long term lease with the the NCC for that purpose, which is nearing its end.
Thanks for your support for OUR community hospital!"
[Emphasis Poilievre's, from the hardcopy letter]
On the surface, Poilievre and Baird's alarm seems somewhat justified. But things seem to fall apart as soon as you turn to the second page of the mailer and read a re-print of an Ottawa Citizen Op-Ed column from September 14, 2004. In it we find out the following:
- The Hospital's is currently in a 40-year lease with the NCC and pays $23, 000 per year.
- The lease was started in 1973 and expires in 2013.
- When the lease runs out, the contract "supposedly" (this word is actually in the OP-Ed piece) states the Hospital will have to pay a rent of 6.5% of the property value, which they estimate will come to $3.4 million.
- The NCC is "open to negotiations" since this is simply a lease agreement between two parties.
Firstly, the lease won't expire "in a few short years", it expires in 8 years. The end date of the lease is fixed, I wonder why Poilievre and Baird used that phrase instead of the actual, easily calculated number?
Second, the money goes into the coffers and operating budget of the NCC, an independent Crown Corporation. That could be stretched to say it goes into the general revenues of the Government of Canada. But it certainly isn't "diverted to the federal Liberal Government."
Third, the cost of the entire 40-year lease, at $23 000 per year is $920 000, not the "tens of millions of dollars" reported above. Even taking the CPC-generated estimate for the value of the land, paying $3.4 million per year, 8 years from now, "tens of millions" is quite an exaggeration. And I certainly wouldn't want to estimate the value of land 8 years from now - while it could be much higher, the expected retirement of the Boomers in 2011 could, in fact, make the bottom fall out of the real estate market, making it worth far less. Putting up a rental cost based on the value of land 8 years in the future can best be described as wild speculation. Basing a "crisis" on it is irresponsible.
Fourth, it is not "Paul Martin's Liberal Government" that is forcing this, it is "supposedly" a term of the contract signed in 1973. This is from Poilievre's own mail out. Also, a there is a regulation passed in 1985 by the Mulroney Conservatives, that requires crown corporations and departments to charge full market value rents on their land - a regulation passed by Poilievre's own party when they were in power.
Of course, my favourite line is:
"The past Chair of the QCH’s Board of Directors has suggested that if the hospital is faced with paying this massive rent increase being demanded by Paul Martin’s Liberals, it would result in 40 nurses losing their jobs at the hospital."
So, once again, it isn't "Paul Matin's Liberals" demanding anything, it's the terms of the contract (at least according to page 2 of Poilievre's own mail out). Those massive rent increases, if they should materialize (again, this is simply wild speculation at this point), are 8 years away. And to sound an alarm about 40 nurses possibly losing their jobs 8 years hence while teaming up with John Baird is, frankly, disingenous and unbelievable gall.
You see, John Baird, Poilievre's new CPC partner in this, is the current Progressive Conservative MPP for our area and a former Cabinet Minister in both the Mike Harris and Ernie Eves Conservative governments here in Ontario. So it is more than ironic to see this man, who as a Cabinet Minister had the actual power to save nurses jobs (since nurses are hired by and funded by the Province, not the feds) but didn't, now worrying about the possibility of nurses losing their jobs 8 years into the future. During Baird's tenure as an Cabinet Minister, the province of Ontario laid off thousands of nurses - 10 000 between 1995 and 1998 alone when he was party to cutting $800 million from Ontario's hospitals. The Queensway-Carleton lost hundreds of nurses during that time. Further, he was also party to the miss-allocation and misspending of federal money targeted to healthcare during that time. According to Jane Jacobs in "The Dark Age Ahead", when the feds gave the provinces $1.5 billion in 2000 to upgrade medical equipment and reduce diagnostic wait times, Ontario spent millions on "ice makers, floor scrubbers, lawn mowers and sewing machines" rather than the new radiological equipment that it was supposed to be spent on. Millions more was given to private sector firms who later simply closed their doors, never buying equipment of providing the services (pg. 206 "The Dark Age Ahead"). Now THAT is a spending scandal that Baird never seems to mention.
Given that record, Baird's committment to saving a hospital and 40 nursing jobs 8 years into the future rings hollow, to say the least.
The other strange part of this is that, according to this mail out, for the "Paul Martin Liberals" to have all that money "diverted" to them, they will have to be the government in 2013, when the current lease ends. So either Poilievre has given up and thinks that the Liberals will remain in power for the next 8 years, or he is making this up to score partisan political points based on the concern over the Sponsorship scandal. I wonder which one it is?
So now, when you read this with the facts (some of which actually provided by Poilievre) you see another example of a CPC MP exaggerating, misleading and making things up in order to manufacture a 'scandal'. Total political opportunism. Total BS.
Yes, something should be done about this situation before 2013 rolls around. I even think Poilievre's idea the hospital renting land from the NCC for $1 per year is good - the Pineview Golf Course in town has the same arrangement and if its good enough for a golf course, it should be good enough for a Hospital. But this over the top embellishing and false information is nothing but rank, self-serving political opportunism - Poilievre is doing this solely to make himself look like a hero in his bid for re-election.
We have 8 years to calmly work this out and come to a creative solution, this is not a crisis, nor is it a scandal involving the "Paul Martin Liberals."
The Liberal record on healthcare stands for itself - 12 years of underfunding are the main cause of most of the problems faced by the system today. We don't need people making things up and creating false scandals in order to do the right thing. Poilievre would better serve his constituents and the hospital by working in the background, encouraging negotiations and providing ideas. He could join Ed Broadbent in his non-partisan fight to get rid of the NCC altogether. Instead he has decided to manufacture a crisis to make himself look good.
Instead of the deceit and the politics of "Corruption, Corruption, Corruption!", why can't members of the CPC show us good examples of Parliamentarians instead of running around like latter-day Joe MacCarthy's looking for scandal and corruption under every rock, and happily manufacturing them if they don't find them?
Ask yourself, are these they kind of people you want running the country - disingenous, witch-hunters bent on smearing their opponenets at any cost instead of doing positive work?
I think you know MY answer to that.
Buzz at Canukistan got an e-mail that sums it up quite nicely. Couldn't have said it better myself.