The great undoing of Torytown is underway



When the pugnacious in politics – especially those who specialize in knocking the noses of the national press gallery out of joint – finally get their comeuppance, that’s news. Or so the media mafia decrees.

How else do you explain yesterday’s near-blanket, front-page coverage of former Stephen Harper hit-man Dimitri Soudas’s ouster as executive director of the national Conservative Party?

Indeed, the reporting was almost gleeful, if not particularly nourishing.  

“Dimitri Soudas, a long-time Stephen Harper loyalist handpicked by the prime minister. . .was forced to resign after a series of incidents where he personally intervened in a tightly contested nomination race on behalf of fiancee and MP Eve Adams,” the Globe and Mail fairly crowed.

“The Conservative Party went so far as to conduct its own investigation, combining through emails and phone records, to determine whether Mr. Soudas had breached a provision in his contract as executive director of the Tories that stipulated that he must recuse himself from Ms. Adam’s efforts to secure a nomination.”

Plainly, he had and, so naturally, the pundits treated themselves to a field day. The Globe’s Campbell Clark opined that Mr. Soudas “lost his job for being the heavy for the wrong person. He was for years. . .willing to get tough with journalists, MPs and party officials, to fire blasts of venom and throw his weight around.”

Mr. Clark’s colleague Lawrence Martin observed in his column, “The young and extremely partisan Mr. Soudas, who had previously served in the Prime Minister’s Office as one of the so-called boys in short pants, was hired to be the party’s principal election organizer. But he meddled too much. . .”
Still, as low-hanging fruit in the well-fertilized orchard of Ottawa’s crimes against common dignity go, the Soudas affair is a relatively easy pick, just as was the Nigel Wright-Mike Duffy-Pamela Wallin-Patrick Brazeau Senatorial Sincapades last year.

Alleged taxpayer-funded bad guys and their various misdemeanors, malapropisms and misdirections are always more fun to cover than are the creaky beams and girders that support the entire system. But, it is the failing apparatus, the crumbling infrastructure, of governance, itself, that contains the most important story. 

In fact, a great undoing in Torytown is underway – one for which the Harper government’s well-publicized gaffes and controversial policy directions are not singularly responsible. Little, almost banal, mischiefs are adding up and taking a toll.

The Canadian Press reports that a federal study, released last fall, on the advantages and disadvantages of expanding the Canada Pension Plan was actually far more nuanced than Department of Finance officials were prepared to admit publicly. 

The government line had been (and still is) that hiking CPP premiums and payouts would kill thousands of jobs. But, according to the CP story, “a summary of the study’s contents, prepared for then-finance minister Jim Flaherty, shows the job-loss claim was based on a misleading assumption.”

What’s more, according to a briefing note from which the CP quoted, “In the long run, expanding the CPP would bring economic benefits. Higher savings will lead to higher income in the future and higher consumption possibilities for seniors.”

Meanwhile, turning its attention to the Department of National Defence, The Canadian Press reports that the feds have effectively wasted more than six years of “research and planning” for new search and rescue aircraft. Says the news service: “A briefing prepared for the former associate defence minister, Kerry-Lynne Findlay, spells out in detail how the project, which has been grinding its way through the defence bureaucracy since 2004, was being further sidelined.”

The actual note, obtained through an access to information request by CP, stipulates “that the work completed on the project prior to 2011 is no longer valid and cannot be leveraged in the new procurement strategy.”

Finally, in a revelation the novelty of which ranks right up there with snow in Canadian winter (now, spring, perhaps), The Ottawa Citizen quotes the Public Policy Forum on the growing “lack of trust and understanding between bureaucrats and their political masters.”

Hmmm. You think?

Taken separately, these tidbits from the front lines of policy making might seem to appear as mere cracks in the foundation of otherwise responsible governance. 

Taken together, though, they form a troubling pattern of disingenuousness, buck-passing, waste, general incompetence, and mistrust.

Of course, it’s easier to make news of these qualities when we attach them to an individual or two, and not the system that affects them.


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