In my column for the National Post I discuss the investigation of Treasury Board President Tony Clement:
Last month, the RCMP announced that it had found no basis for further investigation of Treasury Board President Tony Clement.
In 2010, a former Liberal MP had asked the RCMP to examine spending in Tony Clement’s Muskoka riding. The former MP claimed that the spending on projects to ready Muskoka for the G8 summit somehow violated the law.
Over seven months, the RCMP reviewed the ex-MP’s charges. The RCMP found the charges groundless and have dropped the case.
Maybe yes. But maybe not. The former Liberal MP herself, Marlene Jennings, previously the representative of the Quebec riding of Notre Dame de Grace-Lachine, will likely fade from public view. Yet she has bequeathed Canadian politics an ugly legacy – unless Canadians act promptly and decisively to quash and repudiate it.
One of the most impressive differences between Canadian and U.S. politics is that Canadians are much more reluctant to use criminal law as a tool of politics.
Make no mistake: Canadians despise corruption and expect legal action against those guilty of it.
But until the Jennings action, Canada maintained an effective distinction between, say, bribe-taking and, say, locating a Canoe Museum in the riding of the prime minister of the day.
Marlene Jennings’ contribution to Canadian political history was an attempt to blur that distinction: To make it a crime – not to take money for your own use – but to get a project for your constituency.
Think of it this way: The Harper government’s anti-recession fiscal stimulus contained a total of some 32,000 individual spending items. The items included a new subway line for Toronto and modernization of facilities at Canadian Forces Base Halifax. Toronto and Halifax are not exactly Conservative strongholds. Still, there is data suggesting that Conservative constituencies on average received more infrastructure spending than nonConservative. (Just as Liberal constituencies did best in the Jean Chrétien years.)