BEYOND THE HEADLINES: Follow the paper trail

The Conservatives promised they would operate differently — that they would follow a higher moral standard compared to the scandal-plagued Liberals.

However, the last few weeks should make you wonder if anything has actually changed in Ottawa.

Opposition parties have been calling for the head of Citizenship Minister Jason Kenney after it was discovered that a fundraising request from the party went out on ministerial letterhead. A staff member has resigned and Kenney has apologized, but one has to wonder if the employee was simply acting on his own?

That situation followed in the wake of what’s become known as the Oda affair.

Bev Oda, international co-operation minister, had told a House of Commons committee she didn’t know who added the word “not” to an internal memo that had actually approved funding for an aid organization. She later admitted that “not” was added under her direction.

Caucus has defended Oda, correctly pointing out that a minister has the authority to overturn recommendations from bureaucrats. However, they forget that inserting a word and initially giving everyone the impression that was what staff had always recommended is wrong. Can you imagine the protests coming from Stephen Harper if he was still opposition leader and the Liberals had pulled a stunt like this?

Apologies are becoming a regular thing for the Tories.

Harper’s office had to say sorry after an over-zealous staff member showed the media the door before Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff could speak at an event both he and the prime minister were attending in Quebec.

And of course there is the ongoing fight between the Conservatives and Elections Canada.

The independent agency alleges individuals within the party broke the rules  by moving more than $500,000 through local riding associations to support the national election campaign. Among the four Conservatives charged are two senators.

Opposition politicians and the media have also had a field day with the rebranding of the government.

Employees in four departments recently told the Canadian Press that they have been ordered to use the term the “Harper government” instead of the Government of Canada when press releases are issued. It’s rather arrogant to imply that Harper is the entire government. It doesn’t say much about the cabinet ministers and MPs also sitting around the table.

And as taxpayers, it should be abundantly clear that the federal government is there to represent all Canadians, not just the Conservatives.

That was a view supported by Colin Mayes, when he topped the polls to become Okanagan-Shuswap MP in 2006.

“It’s important when you are MP that political ideologies are set aside and you represent everyone,” he said at the time.

Prior to forming government, Harper and the Conservatives were quick to slam the Liberals for using the operations of government to bolster the Liberals’ standings. How can what Harper is doing now be considered different? They are openly playing political games.

It would be interesting to know what Mayes thinks of  the current situation in Ottawa, and if he believes the Tories can still claim the moral high ground?

Richard Rolke is the senior reporter at The Morning Star.