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Kenney & Ford: Tories on the take

By: 
John Bell

August 24, 2019

In Alberta the newly elected United Conservative government of Jason Kenney is under a barrage of charges detailing election fraud and dirty tricks.

In Ontario the Doug Ford Progressive Conservative government is facing scandal after scandal over appointing Tory insiders and relatives to high salary jobs. Cash for access events for corporate sponsors see donations to the PC party exchanged for policy decisions and endorsements.

Just a few months ago, federal Tory leader Andrew Scheer was triumphantly posing for magazine covers with the two. Now he is doing all he can to distance himself from them. Repeatedly asked by reporters whether Ford’s growing unpopularity will hurt his election chances, Scheer will not answer the question–he refuses even to utter Ford’s name.

Kenney and “Kamikaze”

When Jason Kenney was running for the leadership of the United Conservative Party his main opponent was Brian Jean, formerly head of the Wildrose Party. Kenney had been a key member of Stephen Harper’s government, a bunch never shy about using dirty tricks to win elections.

Alberta’s election commissioner has discovered that Kenney and his supporters chose a third candidate, Jeff Callaway, specifically to attack Jean. In the election fixing business this is known as a kamikaze candidate.

Callaway’s campaign was directed by Kenney’s campaign office. It turns out the Callaway went from being broke, to having cash-filled envelopes delivered to finance his campaign. Investigations reveal that the mystery money may have come from corporate sources supporting Kenney.

Under Alberta election laws corporate donations are illegal.

In an email exchange between Callaway’s campaign director Cameron Davies and Kenney’s campaign staffer Matt Wolf, they discussed strategy: “by this time we hope Jean has attacked Jeff, lost his cool in a debate or two, gone off script to the media so we can release a series of ‘Screamin’ Jean’ SoundCloud files in which he is screaming at the [executive committee].”

Kenney has been desperately stoking the embers of western separatism to distract from the mounting scandals, and from dreadful economic picture. Dropping international demand as the world slumps into recession has led to massive job losses in the oil and gas industry. Rather than diversify or invest in sustainable green jobs, Kenney has doubled down with more tax cuts and subsidies for the tar sands.

Ford Nation revelations

In Ontario, Doug Ford’s popularity has nosedived, in part due to revelations about patronage appointments. Ford’s top advisor, Dean French, resigned in June over news that he had appointed family and friends to high-paying government jobs. Ford denied knowledge of the appointments; few believed him.

Ford announced: “We’re putting a new process in place to make sure that everything is transparent, I look forward to doing that.”

A week later that new process was revealed. New rules give the premier’s office even more power to fast-track appointments for their friends. Job openings no longer have to be publicly posted. And rules that jobs are allotted according to “merit” are eliminated. All the premier’s office must do is declare the job posting “urgent”.

That is transparent all right.

Ford has from the beginning tried to avoid media scrutiny by using taxpayer money to create a fake news service called Ontario News Now. As Ford is getting loudly booed anytime he appears in public, he is counting on ONN to get his propaganda out. In July he used ONN to publicize Pelee Winery, as a “small business” benefiting from Tory policies.

The PR stunt blew up in their faces. It was soon revealed Pelee Winery president Walter Schmoranz is a “generous” donor to Ford’s Tory Party–in fact reports showed donations exceeding the legal limits. Red faced Tories had to refund some of the dough.

The incident shows that Ford is using taxpayer-funded resources (ONN) for partisan fundraising. “Doug Ford is not for sale,” blustered Doug Ford. He then tried to justify why his “government for the people” hosted a $1250 a plate fundraiser where high-rollers were promised one-on-one time with Not-For-Sale Doug and his cabinet ministers.

Ford insists this does not qualify as “cash for access”. Todd Smith, his right-hand man, said: “These are personal donations. This is real people coming to our event tonight.” Real real estate tycoons and developers flocked to the event.

Their generous support has absolutely nothing to do with Ford’s recent announcement that the province’s conservation areas should “wind up their activities” and get ready to be shut down. A lot of valuable green space is in line for an extreme makeover.

Before the dinner party, Ford raised the ceiling for individual donations from $1222 to $1600.

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