(This column was published in the North Shore News on Oct. 30, 2002)


New top MP spent career on committees

 By Leo Knight

Following the all-too-predictable, albeit late, resignation of Lawrence MacAulay, the prime minister had to go to his bench to replace the ethically-challenged former Solicitor General.


(MacAulay denied he had done anything wrong after the federal ethics counsellor Howard Wilson stated that MacAulay breached his obligations in 1999 by lobbying for government money for a college headed by his brother.)


Unfortunately for Jean Chrétien, whose own ethics have been attacked amid allegations of conflict of interest and over a dozen police investigations taking place in his home riding of Shawinigan, he didn't have a lot of strength riding the pine.


Not that MacAulay was a strong minister responsible for the RCMP, CSIS and Corrections Canada, but surely the PM could have done a little better.


The new candidate for the office is one Arnold Wayne Easter, a 53-year-old man from the thriving metropolis of North Wiltshire, Prince Edward Island. He is, by profession, a farmer. In fact, he's the former head of the National Farmers Union.


Now, I'm sure Mr. Easter is a fine man. In fact, while rooting around looking for information on him, I saw the letters LLD and thought, well, at least he's a lawyer and will have an understanding of little things like the Criminal Code and how prosecutions work.


Apparently not. The degree is an honorary doctorate, doubtless earned for his fine service to the good people of this country's smallest province.


OK, so what qualifies him to be the man who the commissioner of the RCMP and the director general of CSIS answer to? Perhaps the clue is in his experience as a Member of Parliament?


He was first elected in 1993, along with many of the rest of the Chrétien government. So that's nine years in the Green Chamber. Perhaps he's gained some expertise from committee work? Something to hang our hat on?


Hmmm. In 1997 he was appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. No help there. What else is there?


Well, he is the chairman of the standing committee on Fisheries and Oceans. He also chairs the sub-committee on Agenda and Procedure of the Standing committee on Fisheries and Oceans, the budget sub-committee of the liaison committee, the liaison committee, and a personal favourite of mine, from the last session, the sub-committee on committee rooms of the standing committee on liaison. (Honest, I couldn't make this up.)


He's also a member of the standing committee on procedure and House affairs. In the 36th Parliament, he was a member of the standing committee on Fisheries and Oceans, the sub-committee on agenda and procedure of the standing committee on Fisheries and Oceans, the budget sub-committee and the liaison committee.


I'm still a little mystified on who that committee liaises with, but I'm sure it's important.


So, to sum up Easter's qualifications for such an important job, he's from a little place just a few miles left of Hicksville. He's a farmer and the former head of the farmers' union. After nine years as an MP he seems to have developed something of an interest in fishing and liaising with someone or something, but nothing to indicate he'd have an inkling of what Mountie Commissioner Giuliani Zaccardelli is talking about when being briefed on the difficulty of obtaining Part VI warrants in organized crime investigations.


Policing has become a complex job, thanks largely to the wonders ensconced on the Supreme Court of Canada bench and the politicians who have been ducking their responsibility in leaving their decisions unchecked. It is, to say the least, also a costly enterprise, especially when dealing with matters such as organized crime, money laundering or terrorism. The minister of the Crown responsible for our national police force, CSIS and Corrections Canada should at least have an idea of what it is all about in these tough and trying days, especially with a war on terror we are supposedly engaged in.


I'll bet the new sol-gen grows a mighty fine spud, and I'm certain he chairs a mighty fine committee. But if this appointment is an indicator of the talent pool remaining for the prime minister, then he'd better hope no more of his ministers get their hands caught in the ethical cookie jar.







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