On the Hill – Surprise, Surprise

Just when we thought it was time for a reprieve from the foolishness of federal politics (at least until Parliament reconvenes), another gust of hot air blows our way.

This time, It’s courtesy of former prime minister Jean Chrétien.

Addressing an audience at the University of Western Ontario, where he was receiving an honorary degree, Chrétien said he was stunned by the low voter turnout in the recent federal election.

As the Toronto Star reports, Chrétien claims he was ?shocked by the low voter turnout in the most recent election. Less than 60 per cent of Canadians went and voted, a historic low.?

Perhaps the most surprising thing about this statement is that Mr. Chrétien is?well, surprised. After all, as someone who’s been involved in Canadian politics since 1946, he’s bound to have witnessed firsthand some of the reasons that voters don’t show up at the polls: the corruption, waste, and lies that have plagued our politics from the start.

Even in 1873, the political fix was in. When Sir John A. Macdonald was re-elected in 1872, it wasn’t long before a scandal broke. It seems that Macdonald and his Conservatives received $350,000 in campaign funds ?in exchange for a lucrative railway contract,? and personally pocketed up to $25,000 of those funds.

And while the Liberals accused the Conservatives of corruption, it seems the lesson didn’t stick?at least, not for the Liberals. Who can forget the sponsorship scandal of 2002, in which ?up to $100 million of the $250 million spent? was blown on commissions or other fees to ad firms. Government lavishness at its finest?and under Chrétien’s own watch.

This is just a guess, but It’s likely the sheer bloody wastefulness of our tax dollars that alienates voters the most. Sadly, the Canadian Taxpayer Association doesn’t have to look far to find nominees for its annual Teddies Waste Awards Ceremony, which acknowledges ?a government, public office holder, civil servant, department or agency that most exemplifies government waste, overspending, over-taxation, excessive regulation, lack of accountability, or any combination of the five.?

One notorious example (and Lifetime Achievement Teddy winner) is David Dingwall. As Chrétien was leaving office, he handed Dingwall a plum five-year appointment as President of the Royal Canadian Mint. In 2004, Dingwall and his top associates ?racked up $846,464 in expenses for wining and dining, traveling the globe, limousines rides, and country club memberships.? The bill to taxpayers included $5,998 for leased vehicles (including limos) even though Dingwall had a car available for use, courtesy of the public purse.

In light of these excesses, and others just as egregious, It’s more important than ever that Canadians make a point of finding out the facts; of taking the time call their leaders out on waste and corruption. But is it a shock that this kind of political arrogance turns voters off? Not at all, and with the history of profligacy that went on while he was in charge, Mr. Chrétien is the last one who should be surprised.

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