COLUMN: New Liberal party, old bad habits

MORRISBURG — Has 10 years in the political wilderness been long enough for the Liberal Party of Canada. With the allegation of lobbying by now-former campaign co-chair Daniel Gagnier, one has to wonder if it has been. Voting day hasn’t happened yet, and already the bad habits that the Liberals claim to have kicked are rearing their ugly heads.

In 2006, Paul Martin paid the ultimate political price for 12 years of Liberal scandals, featherbedding, lobbying and the general perception of insiders running the show. Martin brought this partly on himself by calling the Gomery Commission which aired dirty political laundry, and was painted with the brush of his predecessor’s mistakes. In the end, Martin and the Liberals were sent to exile, to rebuild. The “hope and hard work” of that rebuild was that the “new” Liberals had risen above the old way of politics; patronage, insider deals, lobbying, arrogance. Yet days before the election, the insider groundhog popped his head above ground too soon. So much for change.

All political parties have their insiders and all of them make deals. That is the more seedy side of the political process. The backroom deals, the give and take to advance the party’s agenda along. The rule in all of this is, don’t be seen doing this before your hands are on the levers of power. Gagnier appears to have let the cat out of the bag, and by doing so has given a glimpse to Liberal plans, should they win on October 19th. According to reports, the plans include a 25-member cabinet, with the Finance Minister being the point person for key files such as the Energy East pipeline. Gagnier claims to have done nothing wrong, but is “stepping back” from the campaign to avoid being a distraction, too late. The Liberals even went so far as to blaming the Conservative Party for “negative and mean spirited politics”. Nice attempt at spin, but it is unsuccessful.

An investigation posted on the political news site, iPolitics.ca, found that Gagnier was registered in the past as a federal lobbyist, but is not currently registered as one. He allegedly lobbied TransCanada Corporation, which is a registered as a company allowed to lobby the federal government on energy matters. The NDP has filed a complaint with Lobbying Commissioner Karen Shepherd for the matter to be investigated.

Gagnier was an insider of this “new” Liberal party. the better, more honest, Liberal Party. If Gagnier is allegedly doing this, what are the other insiders like Gerald Butts, former strategist for Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, doing? What will they do if the Liberals win?

All have their insiders. Lobbyists are allowed, but there are guidelines and rules for doing so and in this case, it does not look like they were followed.

Acting like you already have the levers of power before winning them is very arrogant. Is it enough to cost Justin Trudeau the election? Probably not. But it is a telling quality of the people who he has surrounded himself with. Is this a one-off mistake by one adviser? If not, what will people be truly voting for on October 19th?

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