Category Archives: Slush Fund
Ontario Liberals must be a little nervous seeing the words “slush fund” in today’s headlines, or please move on newscycle
While the McGuinty Liberals may have survived Collegate during the last election campaign, they must, nevertheless, still get a little nervous every time they see “slush fund” in the headlines.
What’s relevant about Collegate for the present provincial campaign is:
1. among this government’s unscrupulous activities are “slush funds”
2. when faced with the accusation, the McGuinty Liberals only showed contempt and arrogance
3. this was yet another instance when an impartial auditor rebuked this government with a very scathing assessment
I find it very telling that in the recent Liberal outcry over John Tory going “negative”, the focus is not at all on the undesirability of negative campaigning but rather that Tory stated he wouldn’t stoop to such tactics. The Liberal response, in other words, was a negative attack on Tory’s credibility. Sometimes two negatives do make a positive. Not to be missed here is that Liberal strategists like Kinsella are no longer even shy about the fact that they’re tethered and committed to negative campaigning. Going negative has become de rigueur and an accepted fact of politics for the Ontario Liberals. Go negative or go home!
Still, what distinctions get lost in such a sweeping view of negative campaigning? Personally I favour reasoned debate, even old school sophistry, to its modern day replacements: petty spin and puerile negative attacks. But, surely, we haven’t lost entirely the ability to distinguish between attacking an opponent’s logic, argumentation and political record from adhominem attacks on an opponent’s character and personal history. Surely, although both are forms of “negative campaigning”, there still exists a recognizable difference between vilifying candidates by dredging up personal details from their teens or by disingenuously misconstruing their statements and intelligently and reasonably critiquing an opponent’s statements and political record.
So is attacking the Ontario Liberal government’s pitiful record, negative campaigning? Surely, we don’t mean to dispense with“critique” in politics. While I lament the virtual absence of critical thought and dignified comportment in politics, I wouldn’t want to lose it as an “ideal” (in fact, I’ve long argued given the decline in critical thought, eloquence and articulateness in political discourse that all newly elected officials should be subjected to a rigorous regimen of literature, rhetoric and political philosophy).
However, even if we grant that “negative” campaigning, marked by sleazy smears, distortions, distraction, disingenuousness, petty partisanship, etc. has or will soon become the norm, ought we not to aspire to something better? Or is the fact that dirty politics can be highly effective in modern day elections sufficient reason to be resigned to this kind of campaigning? Does the fact the voter turn out and public perception of elected officials is at an all time low possibly owing at all to this? Have we become so focused on ends that we entirely neglect the legitimacy of the means by which we strive for those ends? If I’m focused on attaining a watch, it matters substantially whether I acquire it legitimately or I steal it, for the latter will always never be just a watch, but a stolen watch.
I recently had a very interesting discussion with a teacher. She pointed out that today students are so focused on end results that cheating has become rampant. When she addressed her class in a very frank and gentle way, students told her that they consider cheating only as cheating when they get caught, otherwise it’s called being savvy and getting the job done.
Is all of this completely unrelated? Or is this part of the ravages to the human soul inflicted by capitalism? Is this not the logical extension of narcissistic self-interest? Is negative campaigning not perfectly suited for a consumer society that has neither the appetite nor the time for focusing on issues and rather delights in seeing other torn asunder. Are these not by-products of late capitalist societies? For while the material gain and leverage brought to human societies by their adoption of capitalist economies is undeniable, we’re often less prone to scrutinize the inevitable changes wrought on human beings themselves by these transformations.
So what are we left with in Canadian politics? Principles, ethics and integrity are luxuries that a party focused only on power cannot afford. Polling is the moral compass of most of today’s politicians and the Ontario Liberals have whole heartedly embraced this kind of politics.
Just when I thought this last week couldn’t get any worse for the Ontario Liberals (with racism and sexism rearing their ugly heads in association the Ontario Liberal Party), it turns out I’m wrong.
Some Liberals seem to think that Michael Colle’s resignation concludes this fiasco. As Jason Cherniak says in his blog: “In any case, Colle is now gone. The problems were pretty clearly centred in his office.”
Cherniak should be ashamed of himself. He defended Colle in the past, and suddenly, for political reasons, he’s willing to scapegoat a decent man (Colle apparently had volunteered to resign when this scandal heated up and McGuinty refused his resignation. This problem, however, cannot be whisked away just like that. Colle’s not innocent, but neither is McGuinty. Sorry, this problem is systemic and symptomatic of the arrogance and recklessness of this government.
As to the auditor general’s report, the main finding was actually this:
We found that the decision-making processes followed with respect to the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration’s more significant year-end grants in the 2005/06 and 2006/07 fiscal years were not open, transparent, or accountable.
Pretty scathing I’d say.
Moreover, I’m not so sure that the charge that this money was a “slush fund” can be so easily dismissed. Everyone’s quoting the line:
“We found no evidence that any organization received a grant because it had political ties.”
Interesting that the next lines are conspicuously omitted in any renditions of the report I’ve seen:
However, in some cases those ties did exist, and, when this is combined with a process lacking openness and most of the normal accountability controls, it can create the perception of favouritism if the organization ends up obtaining a grant.
As I understand the term, a “slush fund” has two ethically questionable elements. First, is it’s illegitimacy, accounting or otherwise. And this was something well established in the present report.
Second there is an “understanding”, an expectation of quid pro quo (we’ve scratched your back, on Oct. 10th perhaps you might scratch ours). Cherniak calls this patronage and seems to see it as qualitatively different (i.e. not unethical) from a “slush fund”. Now whether this favouritism is real or perceived, especially if we look at some of the more glaring individual cases, I don’t think it’s a huge stretch to argue that such an expectation was created in some of the recipients of these grants. Added up, seems like a slush fund to me. Since the Ontario Liberals increasingly can’t rely on a large portion of the ethnic and immigrant vote, something had to be done.
Seems the Liberals can no longer take the immigrant and ethnic vote for granted. They prefer now simply to buy those votes rather than earn them. This was just the tip of the iceberg.
Watch for Citizenship and Immigration Minister Mike Colle eventually to resign over this. This slush fund is a disgrace. McGuinty admits the system of disbursement needs to be improved. And Sorbara has the nerve to call this mismanagement “a pittance”. There is no accountability. There is no transparency. This was graft and corruption pure and simple.