Thursday, January 26, 2006

Forget McKenna

The Liberal Party desperately needs to shed the public perception that it is a bastion of entitlement, patronage and powerful special interests. The looming leadership race offers the Liberal two opposing directions. The Party can either choose to project a fresh image that distances itself from its current baggage or it can succumb to the incestuous old boys network that rewards factional loyalties. I find these facts indicative of what is wrong with the Liberal Party and why Frank McKenna is hardly appealing:

Several companies with McKenna on their boards have donated to Martin's Liberal leadership campaign and to the Liberal Party of Canada. CanWest Global and its subsidiaries, for instance, contributed $100,000 to Martin's leadership coffers and another $329,008.96 to the Liberal Party of Canada and its candidates since 1999, the year McKenna became a director. McKenna joined the board of the BMO Financial Group in 1998; since then, the bank and its subsidiaries have contributed $533,255.53 to the federal Liberals. Since McKenna became a director of Shoppers Drug Mart Canada in 2002, the corporation has donated $14,306.47 to the federal Liberals and made another $1,000 "nonmonetary" contribution to one candidate.

McKenna is also on the board of United Parcel Service Canada Ltd., which gave $17,000 to Martin's Liberal leadership campaign and another $98,271.51 to the Liberal Party of Canada since 1998. Since McKenna joined the board of General Motors of Canada in 2001, that corporation has donated $23,662.77 to the federal Liberals. Another company with McKenna on the board, Marsh Canada Ltd., contributed $10,000 to Martin's leadership campaign and $14,486.87 to the federal Liberals in 2000 and 2001. Since McKenna became a director of Noranda in 1998, the corporation has donated $24,536.56 to the federal Liberals and $1,000 to Martin's leadership campaign. Zenon Environmental Inc. has given $19,033.79 to the federal Liberals since McKenna joined its board in 1998.

You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours. McKenna greased the coffers for Martin and the Party and is summarily rewarded with the plum U.S Ambassador gig. Now, with Martin gone, McKenna swoops in, telephones "important" Liberals to call in old debts, quickly resigns his post and prepares his ascendancy to the throne. McKenna will surely be rewarded for his tireless work to pad the Liberal bottomline, essentially buying influence and pull.

I am not naive, and realize that this type of politics is commonplace. But, I would suggest, that given the present circumstances, someone like McKenna, the consummate insider, is the last thing the Liberal Party needs to regain control. The McKenna of old is not the corporate, big business McKenna of today. Supporting such candidates within the typical kneejerk Liberal hierarchy projects the same image so effectively dismantled by Harper. McKenna represents the status quo, the institutionalized patterns of the Liberal Party. Canadians have rejected this circle of entitlement. The only thing that prevented complete Liberal extinction was apprehension about the alternative. I fear that the Party won't heed the message and retreat to their comfort zone where they anoint through favors, rather than ideas and the grassroots.


Mark said...

How is this relevant, given the laws governing such contributions have changed so much?

Steve V said...


It's revelant because it speaks to how people buy loyalty and curry favor. The fact that the laws have changed doesn't detract from McKenna's "donations" having a direct influence on his plum appointments and possible leadership bid. I don't dislike McKenna at all, but his ascendency is a by-product of the wink and nod approach that doesn't serve the Liberals well moving forward.