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Glover bounces back with major cabinet posting

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From left: Peter MacKay, Minister of Justice; Rob Nicholson, Minister of Defence; Gary Goodyear, Minister of the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario; Kellie Leitch, Minister of Labour; Chris Alexander, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration; and Shelly Glover, Minister of Heritage arrive for the swearing in of the federal cabinet at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Monday.

PATRICK DOYLE / THE CANADIAN PRESS Enlarge Image

From left: Peter MacKay, Minister of Justice; Rob Nicholson, Minister of Defence; Gary Goodyear, Minister of the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario; Kellie Leitch, Minister of Labour; Chris Alexander, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration; and Shelly Glover, Minister of Heritage arrive for the swearing in of the federal cabinet at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Monday.

No harm, no foul.

Just a few weeks after it was confirmed she violated election-spending rules, Saint Boniface Tory MP Shelly Glover has taken on a major cabinet post that will also mean she will serve as Manitoba's senior federal power broker.

You could call that a remarkable recovery. In fact, remarkable may not accurately capture what Glover has accomplished today. She has literally gone from the precipice of disaster to the pinnacle of political success.

Outside of that one little mishap, it's not hard to see why Glover was promoted: a woman, a former Winnipeg police officer, bilingual and with Métis heritage, she represents a number of key constituencies for a government desperate to forge an updated brand. Her appointment to the Heritage portfolio represents a significant promotion. It is a demanding, high-profile gig that will put her in a constant limelight.

Glover slowly, but steadily, took on increasing responsibility during her time on the backbenches. She was a frequent face for the party on cable news programs, and stepped in for now-retired regional minister Vic Toews on some important announcements. She had been a leading contender to enter cabinet for at least two prior shuffles.

However, there was some speculation in Tory circles that a run-in with Elections Canada over her 2011 campaign expenses would be her undoing. The Chief Electoral Officer rejected Glover’s initial expense return because she excluded the cost of some her MP advertising that was left in place during the campaign.

Glover, and fellow Manitoba Tory MP James Bezan, fought Elections Canada over the interpretation of their election expenses. Glover even sought to fight the allegations in court. In response, the chief electoral officer advised the speaker of the House of Commons that unless they amended their returns, they might have to be suspended.

In late June, however, Glover quickly capitulated. She first tried to get two paid campaign staffers to accept less pay for their work. Elections Canada would not permit that, so instead she filed a revised campaign expense return that confirmed she had spent $2,267.61 more than allowable by law.

A final resolution, and determination of a penalty for that transgression, has yet to be determined. However, it seems clear now that a capitulation was necessary to clear a path for Glover to be appointed to cabinet.

To be fair to Glover, this is not the first time a Tory guilty of election spending offences had been promoted to cabinet, or left in cabinet. Before his life in federal politics, Vic Toews suffered the same setback for exceeding spending on a provincial campaign. He ultimately pleaded guilty to overspending and was fined. Clearly, having gone out on top as an A-list cabinet minister, that event did not interrupt or handicap his political career.

It is also important to note that the Conservative Party never accepted Elections Canada's interpretation of election expense laws. Although it was patently clear to all dispassionate sources that Glover and Bezan had coloured outside the election finance lines, the Tories fought this and have never actually admitted they did anything wrong.

In that context, promoting Glover does not seem like much of a reach. Not promoting her in cabinet when she was, by many measures, the most-likely Manitoba Tory to get the nod would be, in a way, an admission of wrongdoing.

True to that form, there was virtually no mention yesterday of Glover’s problems with Elections Canada in live television coverage of the cabinet shuffle. The Glover narrative, at least that which was espoused by cable news pundits, was that the Manitoba MP was very much a part of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s attempt to put a younger, more female twist on his cabinet.

Perhaps that is an indication that even most journalists now believe the amount of overspending on Glover’s campaign was pretty modest, and hardly worthy of further discussion. Or, like dogs and squirrels, our gaze has been attracted elsewhere.

The only thing we know for sure is that the prime minister believes Glover’s transgression was a problem from which there is salvation.

 

dan.lett@freepress.mb.ca

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