Cutting off the puppet strings
John Ivison, National Post Published: Saturday, April 10, 2010
Shaughn Butts, Canwest News Service
Rahim Jaffer is said to have used one of Helena Guergis’s BlackBerry devices, an apparent violation of Commons rules.
The problem was Helena dreamed of being a real Minister and she eventually began to believe that she’d been anointed, not appointed because of her gender and geography. Yet she must have realized she was completely out of her depth, even in the shallow waters of the Ministry for the Status of Women, because under stress she would behave in an erratic fashion, such as her temper tantrum at Charlottetown Airport, where she kicked glass security doors and called Prince Edward Island a “hellhole.” She would have done herself a favour, if she’d followed the lead set by former British education minister, Estelle Morris, who resigned saying she wasn’t up to the job.
The Prime Minister finally announced her resignation yesterday, over unspecified allegations of unacceptable behaviour. But he should also have apologized to Canadians for his cynical and manipulative use of her as a political puppet.
For reasons that had nothing to do with the good governance of Canada, and everything to do with political affirmative action, he chose Ms. Guergis to be Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs at a time when her foreign policy experience was probably limited to a visit to Boston Pizza.
Her shortcomings were exposed during the Brenda Martin affair two years ago, where a Canadian citizen languished in jail for two years in Mexico without trial. Ms. Guergis travelled to Guadalajara, met with various dignitaries 20 minutes from Ms. Martin’s cell but did not insist on seeing the woman. It was left to opposition critic, Dan McTeague, to visit Ms. Martin in jail and campaign for her release.
At the time, Ms. Guergis exhibited the same sense of entitlement she displayed in P.E.I. “That’s not my job. There are 13 Canadians in Mexican jails and if I visit one, I have to visit them all,” she said. For this, she was promoted to full Cabinet as Minister for the Status of Women, where she earned a reputation as the Naomi Campbell of Parliament Hill, on account of the high turnover of staff fleeing her office.
Ms. Guergis may feel slightly more empathetic with those under the legal microscope, now that the RCMP have been brought in to poke around. The Prime Minister gave the allegations sufficient credence that he kicked her out of Cabinet and the Conservative caucus, pending their resolution.
Mr. Harper deflected all inquiries as to their nature yesterday and Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff was being disingenuous when he called for more disclosure. He knew well that the government is unable to make public unproven allegations.
At the end of the day, when the political demise of Helena Guergis, the most junior Minister in Cabinet, eclipses the 93rd anniversary commemoration of Vimy Ridge, you know that the media has lost its sense of mission to tell people things they don’t know, but should understand.
Perhaps the one positive from this is that there are limits to the airbrushed approach to politics. Elevation should flow from merit.
Cabinet ministers cannot be whittled, Pinocchio-like, from someone who might make a decent political staffer in an off year.