Thursday, February 08, 2007

Same Sh*#, Different Pile

Pardon the title, but it seems appropriate. I'm a realist when it comes to patronage, I view it as a natural occurrence. The old adage "it's not what you know, it's who you know" manifests itself daily in the private sector, so why should we expect the public sector to act differently? It's human nature to reward friends and acquaintances, afterall they're your friends. We've all leaned on people we know to help us get an edge, in a myriad of ways. In fact, there is a certain admirable quality to assisting others, you could even call it loyalty.

Today, I read the following:
The federal cabinet has named a Toronto pharmaceutical distributor with close ties to Health Minister Tony Clement and a company division in India to a government agency that promotes trade and business contacts between Asia and Canada.

The appointment -- which a New Democratic MP says fails the "smell test" -- was included in a round of patronage appointments Prime Minister Stephen Harper has approved over the past three months.

The other plums in the latest round include a second government posting for Barbara McDougall, a cabinet minister in Brian Mulroney's Progressive Conservative government, a $107,000-a-year post for former Progressive Conservative MP Angela Vautour and agency posts for four former provincial Progressive Conservative legislative members from three provinces.

Here is what gets a rise out of me, more than the actual patronage itself. The Conservatives ran the last campaign in a morally arrogant way. Harper put himself on this ethical pedestal, while simultaneously scolding the Liberals as the "party of patronage and cronyism". The claims of moral superiority bother me, especially when they fail to recognize basic human nature. This tendency is largely the domain of the right, the claims of infallibility that affords them the right to pass judgment on others.

The Conservative patronage appointments demonstrate clearly that nothing has changed, this group is consistent with past governments. "New" is actually "quite old". All I ask, pick qualified people and keep the practice within reason, nothing too obscene. What have we learned, the Harper government doesn't tower above us in angelic light, it walks amongst the ordinary others, flawed and imperfect. The horror.

More shocking revelations. Oink, oink!


Anonymous said...

The old adage "it's not what you know, it's who you know" manifests itself daily in the private sector, so why should we expect the public sector to act differently?

This is one of those issues that gets my blood boiling. For some strange reason we expect people to act different and be different just because they are elected. We have these ideals we impose on others that we do not impose on ourselves.

You can find this attitude about any profession. One corrupt cop? All cops are corrupt. One lazy teacher? All teacher's are lazy. We put these professions on higher pedestals and expect purer levels of behaviour. But we constantly forget that these people come from the same general population the rest of us function in. The result is a higher level of cynicism about the entire profession. The new racism is one of profession.

Steve V said...

closet liberal

Once we accept the ordinary in our politicans, then maybe we can get beyond the predictable disappointment when they fail. And maybe, it's up to politicans to quit offering unrealistic ideals, that set them up for later disgust.

Olaf said...


I've been saying this for a while now. I absolutely cringe when CPC supporters somehow think that their party is infinitely more morally upright than the Liberals. Not only is there no reason to believe this, but it's the type of thing that comes back to bite you in the ass once it is confirmed that both parties are run and staffed by humans.

Very subjectively, I put more personal trust in Harper than say, Martin. But with all things, this remains to be proven, and even if Harper doesn't take the lead in such shady dealings, it's pure fantasy to believe that all members of the CPC are in any way more ethically inclined than Liberals. Surely, both parties have about equal proportion of scumbags.

Steve V said...

""Surely, both parties have about equal proportion of scumbags."

I see your Volpe, and raise you a ....

BTW, far too much agreement between us lately, it scares me :)

Olaf said...

BTW, far too much agreement between us lately, it scares me :)

Me too Steve... me too. Don't worry, I'm sure the natural order of things will rectify itself soon enough.

Peter Loewen said...

SteveV: I think you've hit the nail more or less on the head. There are always going to be positions which need appointing, and whichever party is in government is going to reward its partisans disproportionately. And I think it's well and good, whether Liberal or Con, so long as the people are qualified to do the job.

But a couple of distinctions need to be made. First, this acceptance of reasonable patronage should only be for jobs which should rightfully fall under political supervision. So, for example, appointments to government boards seem reasonable, but appointments of street sweepers do not. Second, there is a world of difference between these types of patronage and the corrupt rewarding of friends with contracts or illicit money through channels which should not be subject to patronage, i.e. ad firms, military contractors, whatever.

The problem, in my view, is that as soon as a politician starts arguing against the second type, she whets the appetites of the public to also abolish the first. So every opposition party barks about this stuff, and all politicians end of looking badly when they can't abolish the first. It's a prisoner's dilemma where no one wins.

Steve V said...


I make that distinction too.

Peter Loewen said...

I wish more people could/would.

Monkey Loves to Fight said...

I just ignore this stuff. I've learned it has always been with us and always will be so I worry about more important issues. Just be glad with modern technology and greater scrutiny by the media, this stuff usually gets caught whereas 50 years ago this stuff usually went undetected. In fact I heard corruption in the early days of Canada was far worse than the adscam and anything we see today.