Duff Conacher from Democracy Watch sent me an excellent link yesterday outlining the many flaws in our system and how easy it is to exploit them. His organization has been trying to keep government clean for years, with the emphasis on trying.
The Helena Guergis/Rahim Jaffer drama that is unfolding is just the icing on the cake for the Reformers though, because the warning signs were always there.
For me the first sign was when Harper brought in the Mike Harris flunkies, John Baird, Jim Flaherty and Tony Clement. (Helena Guergis was an administrative assistant for the Harris government so she knows how the games are played) I remember thinking that maybe we should just give them all our money, and they'd go easy on us.
These guys were behind every shady deal in the book. In fact Mike Harris was forced to resign after being caught in the shade, in an out of the way restaurant, claiming that he just happened to be the neighbourhood.
Sign two was when Harper put John Baird in charge of drafting an Accountability Act and then sending Pierre Poilievre into the arms of Republican Jim Sensenbrenner, the man Rolling Stone Magazine dubbed one of the ten worst congressman:
He is also notorious for hiding things in bills, mostly involving the removal of human rights. He was behind the Patriot Act and when Congress refused to extend it because Americans wanted their civil liberties back, he stomped out in a huff. So I guess we know what they were hoping to learn from Jimmy boy.
Sensenbrenner, whose $10 million fortune stems from his great-grandfather's invention of the Kotex sanitary napkin, won $250,000 in the lottery in 1997. He also enjoys the perks of office: No congressman has racked up more frequent-flier miles on junkets sponsored by corporate lobbyists ....
So let's do a David Letterman top ten reasons why I want to be a lobbyist in the hallowed halls of Harper's government. Or actually the lobbies. Seeing thousands of snapshots of the big guy would freak me out. Far too Big Brotherish.
Top Ten Reasons Why I Want to be a Lobbyist for Harper's Reformers
It used to have some paintings on the wall. Past prime ministers, certainly a formal portrait of the Queen. Landscapes. I know there was the occasional photo of current Prime Ministers, but when I walked in this time, I felt chilled to the bone. Every available wall space had a large colour photo of Stephen Harper. Stephen Harper at Alert. Stephen Harper in fire fighter gear. Stephen Harper at his desk. Stephen Harper meeting the Dalai Lama. Even the photo of the Queen showed her in the company of Stephen Harper. None were great photos. None were more than enlarged snapshots in colour. They didn’t feel like art.
10. They are so easily bought. Host a fundraiser for Lisa Raitt and provide box seats at a Blue Jays game with all the perks for Rick Dykstra and you can write your own cheque.
9. And speaking of writing your own cheque, they cut out the middle man. Just ask Phizer. Instead of having to lobby they just make you an employee.
8. Need a lobbyist but too lazy to hire one? Not problem. Brian Jean can provide you with a member of his staff. Instant lobbyist, just add water .. or cash.
Breaking the rules of his own accountability act, he removes Erin Wall, assistant to Brian Jean, Member of Parliament and Parliamentary Secretary for the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. (aka John Baird) and sends her to work for Global Public Affairs. Ms Wall is then registered as a lobbyist for the Houston based International Commodity Export Corporation, the largest beneficiary of government subsidies to the [Ridley] terminals. You will notice here that her appointment took place on June 19, 2009; just before the firing of Dan Veniez, and on the same day that ICEC underwent a name change to give it the appearance of a Canadian company.
7. And bored lobbyists can always get a job with the PMO where you can straddle the fence and hope you don't fall off. Just ask Kory Teneycke.
6. Obtaining military contracts is as easy as 1, 2, 3. Harper's first defense minister, Gordon O'Connor went right from being a lobbyist for military contracts to being the person awarding military contracts. But then that whole torture, lying thing got in the way of a perfectly good business. Not to worry though. I'm sure he passed off his Rolodex.
5. For a little bit of infused patriotism with a group called Canadians for Afghanistan, you can be sure those military contracts never end:
The Canadians For Afghanistan website lists its main contact as Josh McJannett, a former Conservative staffer who worked for government whip Jay Hill until September. He had previously worked as an aide to Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer. After leaving the Hill, Mr. McJannett* became a lobbyist with Summa Strategies, an Ottawa government-relations firm that counts some defence contractors, including U.S. aircraft manufacturer Boeing, among its clients. Canadians for Afghanistan was formed a few months later.
4. You get to arrange YouTube "live" videos of Stephen Harper with a little Google-a-go-go
Meaghan Rusnell: Legislative assistant to MP Rick Dykstra .. left the Hill in 2008 and began lobbying with Playbook Communications, a Toronto-based firm with Tory ties. She listed as clients Google Inc. and the Economic Club of Canada
3. If you're a poor corporation down on your luck at a time when Canadians are out of work and down on theirs, you can be sure that your 25 million dollar revenue is safe with these guys:
What we do know, when we see it, is big time corporate subsidy seeking, backroom politics, scheming lobbyists and cabinet ministers throwing their weight around to satisfy the big time corporate interests. In this case, the corporate interests include the B. C. and Alberta coal industries, whose coal production flows through Ridley Terminals. The political players include two Conservative cabinet ministers, House Leader Jay Hill and Transport Minister Rob Merrifield.2. Lobbying for a private school was never easier with Diamond Jim Flaherty. If Sensenbrenner taught these guys anything it was how to hide stuff in bills.
1. And my number one reason for wanting to be a lobbyist for Harper's Reformers. You get to play revolving door until you're dizzy. It's better than Prozac. But if you need a little Prozac, have I got a lobbyist for you.
* Josh McJannet has indicated to me that he is no longer with Canadians for Afghanistan.