Friday, February 26, 2010

Bad Day at the Office ? Conservative MPs Outbursts, Private Remarks reflect on Harper

How do you feel when you see somebody making a scene in public ? Do you cringe while he or she yells and stomps their feet ? Do you avert your gaze when they curse the world and everyone within spitting range ? Do you feel bad that others sharing the temper tantrum thrower's space have to put up with such juvenile behaviour ?

What if the tantrum thrower in question was a federal cabinet minister ?

That's exactly what happened last Friday at the Charlottetown airport on Prince Edward Island. Helena Guergis, Minister of State for the Status of Women, threw a massive tantrum (with help from an assistant) when she arrived 15 minutes before her flight was due to depart. According to the Globe and Mail's story about the incident, Guergis threw a mother of a tantrum (aided by the assistant) after arriving 15 minutes before her flight was due to depart. Apparently, Guergis and her lovely assistant kicked at the gate's glass security doors while the junior minister made a fool of herself.

Even before the pair reached the flight's boarding gates, "When (Guergis and her assistant) reached security, she ran through the metal detectors, (the source) said, setting off the bells. 'She took her boots off and she threw them at a security official, he said, berating them the whole time."

Guergis has since apologized, although her contriteness hasn't stopped the opposition Liberals from calling for her resignation. As a happy coincidence, this was the same day that Transportation Minister John Baird announced the introduction of a new airport security fee. Of course Baird had the inside scoop — he knew the tax is intended to protect Canadian travelers from mean-spirited federal Conservative MPs.

If Helena Guergis's lapse in judgment had been an anomaly I wouldn't be writing this post. But it wasn't. Since Stephen Harper came to power there's been a string of incidents, probably more than I could count on both hands if I chose to, where his MPs and cabinet ministers make asses of themselves in public. But it's more than that — these instances show what kind of office culture flourishes in Harper's government.

I'm sure most people reading this have had an experience with a boss from hell they would like to forget. Working in an office where you're berated constantly, or where the boss is just a garden variety bully, is unpleasant. And if the person is running a company (or a government) that attitude could easily trickle down. Why, it might even be adopted by his or her top lieutenants (in this case, cabinet ministers)

Canada is not alone here. Recent news from Britain has revealed that Prime Minister Gordon Brown has a rather nasty temper.

Here's a few examples of Conservative ministers who thought they were speaking 'off the record':

1) John Baird's infamous telling off of Toronto. While attending a meeting in British Columbia, Baird wandered into a meeting room. Speaking to aides (and unaware of a reporter listening in) Baird vented about Toronto mayor David Miller's desire to use stimulus funding from Ottawa for the purchase of new TTC streetcars. Toronto's plans for these federal dollars didn't match the Conservatives' guidelines for how the money would be allocated.

"Twenty seven hundred (cities) got it right. They didn't. This is not a partnership and they're bitching at us. They should fuck off," Baird said.

2) MP Lisa Raitt, formerly the Natural Resources Minister, was caught on tape dishing to aide Jasmine MacDonnell about Canada's medical isotope shortage. Said Raitt, "(the isotope issue is) sexy. Radioactive leaks. Cancer." That embarrassment lost MacDonnell her job, but Raitt held on, at least until Harper shuffled (demoted ?) her to Minister of Labour.

What a nasty work environment these people must have to deal with to behave in this fashion. And despite the fact that apologies were forthcoming in all cases, I firmly believe that what somebody says in private is more truthful than any public remorse that might follow.

I, for one, can't wait until the next federal election comes. I eagerly await a Liberal platform. And I'm also going to be closely following the party's conference in Montreal at the end of March, Canada at 150: Rising to the Challenge.

On another topic, U.S. President Barack Obama held a marathon 6 hour meeting on health care with powerful Democratic and Republican politicians yesterday at Blair House in Washington. I continue to be impressed that Obama is reaching out to his political opponents and asking for their constructive contributions to reforming America's health care system. I hope those who cared enough to pay attention came away from viewing the debates with an understanding of the stubborn and exhausting opposition to his legislative proposals that Obama has to put up with every day from Republicans.

One more point of interest; in yesterday's Toronto Star fire-tongued columnist Rosie DiManno published two 'Babes of the Games' lists — one for the men and one for the women. I'm quite pleased that U.S. figure skater Johnny Weir, an inspiring human being, made Rosie's list. Weir deserves the praise for his poise, thoughtful quotes, and overall class and dignity.

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