So, what does it take to get fired by Stephen Harper?
Would lying to the House of Commons be enough? Used to be that if an MP outright lied to the commons, that would be the end of his or her career.
Not so in Harperland. If you’re in Harper’s good books, lying to the House of Commons becomes a non-issue, a trifle to be ridden out until the opposition/media storm passes.
Peter MacKay lied to the House of Commons. Flat out lied. He will not be punished, not even sent to his room without any dessert.
You may have heard that MacKay, the defence minister, used an Air Force search-and-rescue helicopter to return from a 2010 fishing trip in rural Newfoundland. McKay had to get back to the mainland to make some sort of announcement (in Harperland, funding announcements are reason enough to commandeer expensive search-and-rescue helicopters). MacKay, who was enjoying a fishing holiday, figured it would be a lot easier just to hop an Air Force helicopter rather than the hours-long overland route.
The trouble was, there was no search-and-rescue exercise planned for the area. But, since THE MINISTER wanted a helicopter, the big shots in the Air Force decided to send the helicopter “under the guise” of a search-and-rescue demonstration. The military folks were apparently a lot more media savvy than the minister, as documents about the flight have shown. Emailed comments sent by Colonel Bruce Ploughman, director of Canada Combined Aerospace Operations Centre at 1 Canadian Air Division, contained this quite astute analysis of the situation: “So, when the guy who’s fishing at the fishing hole next to the minister sees the big yellow helicopter arrive and decides to use his cell phone to video the minister getting on board and post it on YouTube, who will be answering the mail”, Ploughman wrote. “If we are tasked to do this we of course will comply – given the potential for negative press though, I would likely recommend against it, especially in view of the fact that the Air Force receives (or at least used to) regular [access to information requests] specifically targeting travel on [military] aircraft by ministers.”
Kudos to Col. Ploughman. He knew the risks, and advised against the trip. MacKay, who has been in politics forever, should have known the risk, but didn’t care. He knows he’s golden.
The trip itself was bad enough, but when it became known that he took a helicopter to deliver him from a holiday, MacKay told the commons it was a scheduled search-and-rescue demonstration, which he wanted to see anyway. So, since they were in the neighbourhood, why not hop a ride, right?
Wrong. It was a lie. It was not scheduled. It was arranged for the express purpose of picking up a minister who can’t budget his time correctly. Clearly, MacKay sees the billions of dollars of high-tech equipment as his private plaything, like the biggest and best Meccano set in the world. Such arrogance. And such a liar.
If this doesn’t seem like a big deal to you, imagine if something terrible happened. Suppose the helicopter crashed on the way to pick up MacKay, and people were killed. Or, imagine there was a real emergency somewhere, but the ‘chopper couldn’t get there because it was ferrying the minister away from the dangers of Newfoundland. Thankfully, it didn’t happen. But if it had, it would have been a scandal of epic proportions. In fact, it would have been so bad, it would have forced MacKay to resign. At least, I think it would. Who knows with Harper.
MacKay is getting a bit of a free pass from the media because he is considered such a good minister of defense. (I don’t know what qualifies him as a good minister — the Conservatives have poured billions into the military, which makes his job a whole hell of a lot easier.) Whether he’s a super minister of a typical Harper dud, he should resign, both for using the helicopter, then lying about it. Better politicians than MacKay have been forced to resign for a whole lot less.
He won’t resign, of course. Harper likes him, and in Harperland, where ethics are elastic, his actions are called an appropriate use of government aircraft.
It’s shameful. But Harper and MacKay know no shame.