BY WENDY ELLIOTT
Kings County Advertiser/Register
This week’s column begins with a mind-boggling recycling story. Almost a hundred years ago, a Canning resident began industriously collecting jugs and bottles of all sizes to reuse.
As it happened, the 13th Nova Scotia general election was on and some suspicion was raised in the village. Near midnight June 14, under cover of darkness, a boat named the Old Scout came up the Habitant River and weighed anchor near the home of this hardworking, Conservative recycler.
Those who began landing operations were unaware “young manly Liberals” were concluding a meeting nearby. Wheelbarrow after loaded wheelbarrow left the boat en route to the home of the Conservative association’s president.
Observers placed cars on all the roads converging on Canning and the constables were called for. Two officers from Kentville arrived at 6 a.m., but were unable to gain access to the home.
About an hour later, the good lady of the house opened the door upon threat of having it broken down. Provincial inspector Buchanan later stated half a ton of liquor was located inside.
Meanwhile the president of the Conservative association had disappeared. He was believed to have left the country.
The headlines in the Western Chronicle, which was the precursor to the Advertiser, were strident: indicating Liberals and Conservatives alike were “heartily disgusted with such attempted wholesale corruption – the blackest ever flaunted before the people of Kings.”
The hypocrisy of election candidates pledging oaths to protect prohibition, all the while condoning the buying of votes with rum, inflamed the headlines. Four days later on June 20 the Liberals took control of the 36th House of Assembly.
Election déjà vu
The buying of votes is a bit more sophisticated than rum buying now, but it strikes me the more things change, the more they stay the same. Right now the RCMP is deciding whether to launch an investigation into $50 million worth of government spending for the G8 summit last year.
The investigation comes following a complaint by former Liberal MP Marlene Jennings who wrote the RCMP a letter in April raising questions about a "possible misappropriation of funds." Last week, opposition parties seized on Jennings’ allegations as more evidence to support their long-standing claims summit misspending.
Of course, the Harper government pooh-poohed the accusations, calling them a political public relations stunt and maintaining the Conservatives had done nothing wrong.
In fact, now retired Auditor General Sheila Fraser wrote the money for 32 infrastructure projects was hidden in an $83-million request for funds to reduce congestion at the Canada-U. S. border. Cabinet minister Tony Clement's riding was the beneficiary, despite the fact it is nowhere near the border and about 100 kilometres away from Huntsville where the G8 Summit actually took place.
Interim Auditor General John Wiersema has suggested the whole process "lacked transparency" and went to Parliamentarians without "clear and accurate information." Millions of dollars worth of projects – among them the construction of public washrooms and gazebos – received no approval from public servants and were presented to Parliament as funding for "border infrastructure."
No wonder questions about government pork-barreling during the two summits have dogged the Conservatives since the draft report was leaked.
Yet John Baird, who was in charge of Ottawa's infrastructure program when the spending was approved, only said, "the auditor-general is raising some concerns, we agree with recommendations to do a better job going forward.”
The people of this country would have been far more impressed if Baird and Clement had done a better job before taxpayers' money was spent. Ironically, Clement is the new treasury board president and tasked with finding wasteful government spending to help reduce the federal budget by $4 billion annually.
I doubt Clement and Harper are a whit embarrassed, as the despite the opposition has a field day with the info. After all, they have a majority. We merely had a demonstration last June of what Clement and company are capable of when left unchecked.