Several readers argue there’s nothing wrong with the Harper Tories steering infrastructure money to their own ridings, or pushing out deputy ministers who object, because (1) the money will be spent anyway, (2) the Liberals did it too, and (3) most senior civil servants are Liberal appointees. After the jump, a spirited response from longtime gadfly and former Dartmouth City Councillor Colin May, but first, contrarian reader Wayne Fiander weighs in:
Since you went to great trouble to note [ousted Deputy Transport Minister Louis] Ranger’s expertise, you should have also informed your readers that Mr. Ranger “in the mid 90’s, took a two year assignment with the Privy Council Office. He then returned to Transport Canada as Assistant Deputy Minister, Policy and was appointed Associate Deputy Minister of Transport in 2001” and was appointed DM at Transport Canada in 2002. His connection to the Chretien Liberals is quite deep and therefore sheds the full light on his obviously political comments.
Good point. I should have noted that. But the implication that a two-year stint in the PCO 15 years ago justifies Ranger’s firing is bogus. The Harper crowd used public money for partisan purposes. That’s corrupt. Full stop. Getting rid of qualified civil servants who raise objections to this corruption is of a piece with that.
Now to Mr. May:
I am sure the federal civil service is well endowed with former political aides, and depending on their ages, they could well be in senior positions. Nobody tracks them as they move from an MP’s office to an office of a minister, and then into the civil service ahead of an election, and then up the ladder.
Infrastructure has always political, [former federal minister David] Dingwall had rows with [former Premier John] Savage and held up Metro projects until Savage agreed to cost-share in all of Dave’s pet projects at UCCB and other places in Cape Breton. The Dartmouth Sportsplex got money because [former Regan cabinet minister] Glen Bagnellwas the General Manager and [former Dartmouth councillor Don] Valardo was on the board, and making regular trips, not authorised by the board, to Ottawa to lobby Dingwall and others. Liberals are masters at the game because they have played it longer. Tories just play catch up.
As for Mr Ranger, I didn’t know we needed a federal DM to decide which roads needed paving. Where can we get a copy of his thesis? Having personally dealt with too many federal civil servants, I can understand why your informant is angry that [Transport Minister John Baird] Baird apparently does not know that only Ottawa mandarins know ‘what is best for the country.’ Laughable. You and I know what is best for the country: a smaller bureaucracy in Ottawa that keeps its nose out of provincial jurisdiction. Ask your informant if the $6 million for a new hockey rink at SMU is ‘ best for the country.’
I can tell you that Infrastructure money was used to build the Peace monument on the Dartmouth waterfront. (Cost $400,000) The proect was going nowhere until the Halifax G7 meeting was announced, and then word came to Mayor Gloria [McCluskey] that the Foreign Ministers had to do something, and it was suggested to her, and to us councillors, that having the foreigners open the peace monument would be a wonderful opportunity for global recognition of Dartmouth. The project, which until then was so far down the list as to be invisible, leap-frogged to the top of the ‘Infrastructure List,’ and was rapidly approved by all three levels of government. I guess it was ‘best for the country,’ and we just did not know it until Ottawa told us.
May’s examples are colorful and authentic, but his argument is old as the hills: Because there has been patronage in the past by some parties, there will always be patronage by all parties. The evidence is not quite that discouraging. Trucking companies used pay 50 cents a case to the party in power when they transported beer and spirits for the Liquor Commission. Voters used to receive pints of rum or nylon stockings in exchange for their votes. Highway foremen and snow plow operators used to turn in their tools the day after the government fell. None of these things happen any more, because the old system was both corrupt and inefficient.