You may have noticed that I spent a fair amount of electronic ink on Joe Volpe and his fundraising activities earlier this week. I don't know Joe Volpe. I had no previous axe to grind with him and I don't support his any of his opponents for leadership of the Liberal Party. Why then was I so annoyed by this scandal? Well, Greg Weston -over at the Ottawa Sun- expresses many of my thoughts on this issue with great clarity.
But the biggest problem facing the Liberals from now to the next election and beyond is both political and practical. It's a fundamental fault that became glaringly apparent during this past week's dust-up over dubious financial contributions to the party's leadership campaigns. These guys just don't get it.
. . . On Thursday, Volpe returned $27,000 ($5,400 apiece) from five donors under the age of 18.
He maintained the donations were all legal, but that he wanted to clear up any appearance of impropriety.
. . .Steve MacKinnon, the otherwise sensible Liberal Party president, offered up the dim defence: "Elections Canada regulates contributions to leadership candidates. The Liberal Party does not."
Evidence that the Liberals continue to regard ethics and public trust simply as matters of strict legalities isn't limited to Volpe. A review of financial filings for the other Liberal leadership candidates shows many of the campaigns getting around donation restrictions through a loophole that allows them to accept hefty loans, even from execs in big business.
Stephane Dion: A single $200,000 loan from a Montreal businessman. Scott Brison: Four loans of $50,000 apiece from Nova Scotia business titans. Gerard Kennedy: Three loans from relatives (all adults) totaling $100,000. Michael Ignatieff: Two loans totalling $125,000 from supporter Ian Davey. Bob Rae: A single $100,000 loan from his brother John Rae, a senior executive of the giant Power Corporation. Martha Hall Findlay: A $50,000 loan from herself — at 6.5%. Ken Dryden: Another self-loaner at $100,000.
While the loans are legal, Canadians might be excused for wondering whatever happened to the Liberals' own election financing reforms that were supposed limit contributions, cleansing our political system of even the appearance of undue influence being bought with big contributions?
I'm looking forward to a majority Conservative government well into the future, but I also realise that at some point the Liberals will win again.
I may not agree with them on many policy initiatives, but I want them to adhere to the letter -as well as the spirit- of the law. When they do form the Government -down the road- I want that Government to be as honest and incorruptible as possible. That they've learned nothing offends me.