For those who need some reminding, here's an excerpt from what the Tories called their blue book, the federal party's platform heading into the 2006 election: "After 12 years in power, the Liberals must be held accountable for the stolen money; accountable for the broken trust, and accountable for all that they failed to accomplish because of this government's total preoccupation with scandal and damage control."
Fast-forward to 2015 as Canadians head into another election, and one has to wonder if these words are going to come back to haunt Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Scandal and damage control seem to be this government's raison d'être, as it bobs and weaves its way around the Senate scandal, the robocall debacle and ongoing concerns about public money being spent on partisan activities. And let's not get started on Bill C-51, the changes to the Citizenship Act or allegations of voter suppression for First Nations.
Then there's news from the Globe and Mail this week that 83 per cent of the projects funded through the New Building Canada fund has gone to Conservative-held ridings with the announcements being made just now, two months ahead of the October vote. This despite the fact the program was unveiled in 2013. More funding announcements were made Thursday, potentially hiking that percentage up even higher.
It's pork barrelling, plain and simple and while it's not endemic just to Conservatives, it instills cynicism particularly toward a government that said it was going to do better.
"For those Canadians seeking accountability the question is clear: which party can deliver the change of government that's needed to ensure political accountability in Ottawa?" Well, the Conservatives were supposed to.
Two Manitoba ridings were granted funding under the New Building Canada fund, according to the Infrastructure Canada website, both of which are to build sewage treatment plants. One is in Virden, represented by Tory MP Larry Maguire (Brandon-Souris), and the other is Thompson, in NDP MP Niki Ashton's riding of Churchill. So there's less evidence of outright partisan behaviour in Manitoba with this specific fund.
However, when you look at the funding announcements made available by the government for infrastructure projects that fall under the New Building Canada plan (the umbrella program that includes the fund), a pattern of rewarding the Conservative ridings in Manitoba emerges. Four projects are in two Conservative ridings: Brandon-Souris and Selkirk-Interlake. Mr. McGuire scored again with the governments of Manitoba and Canada jointly providing $510,665 with additional funding from the U.S. to upgrade the International Peace Garden. MP James Bezan (Selkirk-Interlake) is the big winner, as Arborg and Dunnottar and Gimli all received funding. Arborg got $2,07 million from the governments of Canada and Manitoba and $230,000 from municipal sources for flood protection. Arborg and Dunnottar got funding from all three levels of government for multi-use pathways. And Gimli gets a new handi-transit bus with the feds contributing $25,556 toward the total cost of $35,000.
There were no other news releases made available for ridings not held by Conservative MPs in Manitoba, which really ramps up the cynicism vibe.
It's called the Build Canada plan, not the Build the Tory Ridings plan. With these announcements made so close to the federal election, it comes off as just a bit too calculated and the antithesis of what this government campaigned so ardently against back in 2006 before forming government.
"We need a change of government to replace old-style politics with a new vision. We need to replace a culture of entitlement and corruption with a culture of accountability. We need to replace benefits for a privileged few with government for all."
Strong words indeed. Shame that the Tories seem to have forgotten them.
Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board.