Prime Time Crime


(Published in the Similkameen Spotlight week of Mar. 13, 2006)

Absolute Power

  By John Martin

Most pundits agree the Conservatives only committed one major gaffe during the recent election campaign.  This occurred when Stephen Harper attempted to address those who claimed to be fearful of a Conservative majority.  In an odd move, Harper noted there was nothing to worry about because a Conservative government would be met by resistance and opposition from a Liberal appointed bureaucracy, judiciary and Senate.

As it turns out, these have turned out to be the most prophetic words of the entire campaign.

Regardless what one thinks of David Emerson crossing the floor to the Tories, it was perfectly legal and a common occurrence in Canadian politics.  It happens all the time.  It happened as recently as last year when Belinda Stronach joined the Liberals, saved Paul Martin’s butt with a crucial vote on a non-confidence motion, and was promptly given a cabinet post.

Sleazy and opportunistic to be sure.   But perfectly legal and nothing without considerable precedent.

But while Emerson’s floor crossing is now the subject of an inquiry by Ethics Commissioner Bernard Shapiro, Stronach’s move prompted no such investigation.

During the election, Shapiro was asked to investigate a Liberal candidate’s questionable real estate dealings.  The ethics chief replied that he had no authority to look into activities that happen in between sittings of Parliament.

Once again though, this rule doesn’t seem to apply to the Tories as Emerson’s defection also took place after Parliament had been dissolved.

None of this should come as any surprise though.

Shapiro, like his lap dog predecessor, Howard Wilson, is a Liberal appointee and applies a double standard without shame.  When he wasn’t exonerating Liberals for one allegation of wrongdoing or another, he was refusing to investigate them altogether.  Conversely, he was nothing short of scathing in his critique of Conservatives under investigation.

Harper and company should expect more of the same.

With the publicly funded CBC always doing whatever it can to bolster support for the Liberals, and hundreds of Liberal appointed heads of crown corporations and government agencies who owe their positions to Paul Martin or Jean Chrétien, the Tories should anticipate a small army of Bernard Shapiros doing what they can to undermine them.

Imagine having a cushy job that you may have been woefully under qualified for.  Your co-workers are also in over their heads but you’re all real tight with the boss so everyone’s happy.

Everyone except the board of directors that is.  They fire the incompetent and ethically challenged management team you owe your job to and bring in a new group to run things.  All of the sudden they’re cracking down on those two hundred dollar martini lunches, imposing performance standards and demanding accountability.  

Not at all happy with the new regime, you and your office mates seek to sabotage and undermine them anyway you can.  

This is a common problem organizations face when changes are made.  When employees have an ideological and emotional loyalty to a departed management team, the incoming administrators typically find it near impossible to get results.

A Liberal party that has been in power seventy-five percent of the time for the last hundred years does not lose control simply by losing an election.  Thousands and thousands of Liberal appointees and loyalists entrenched in the inner workings of government are eager to see the new government fail.

Bernard Shapiro is just the proverbial tip of the iceberg.

John Martin is a Criminologist at the University College of the Fraser Valley and can be contacted at

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