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The coda to Oda was writ bright with orange juice

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Bev Oda

Bev Oda had to know she was a dead woman walking -- politically speaking, that is. So give the Member of Parliament for Durham, Ont., some credit for recognizing the obvious, and shouting out the order to the firing squad herself!

She'll be gone by the end of the month, just after celebrating her 68th birthday, with time on her hands to enjoy her comfortable Parliamentary pension. Not just gone from cabinet, but also from the House of Commons, her own decision, she said.

There is no sin greater in the Harper Government than politically embarrassing our sourpuss prime minister, and Oda, the international aid minister, delivered embarrassment in spades with her famously symbolic $16 glass of orange juice.

Never mind someone in her office scratching a "not" onto an already-signed contract in 2009 to give money to a Christian aid organization that turned out to be insufficiently sympathetic to Israel for Prime Minister Stephen Harper's taste, an act that could be described as akin to forgery. And forget about her "reign of terror" against her staff, or being caught smoking too close to the back doors. These and greater sins could be forgiven, and regularly were.

But it was pretty hard for anyone with a pulse, even a habitual Conservative voter in the backwoods of Alberta, not to understand the powerful symbolism of that overpriced glass of O.J. Once the price of that jar of juice registered on the nation's political seismograph, Oda was a coda faster than you could say "Helena Guergis."

Guergis, alert readers will recall, was also once a rising star in Harper's cabinet. But she married a guy who proceeded to lose a safe Conservative seat in Alberta to a New Democrat in 2008, followed that up with some dubious and embarrassing claims about his relationship with the PM, and in 2009 drove his SUV right into a police roadblock near the couple's Ontario home with the wrong stuff in both his glove compartment and his bloodstream.

When Guergis made the fatal decision to stand by her man, Harper's political Praetorian Guard delivered the double-tap within hours. Skidded her from both cabinet and the Conservative caucus, it wasn't long before the loyal Tory voters of her Simcoe-Grey riding finished the job in the May 2011 federal election, where she foolishly tried to run as an independent.

Guergis has complained publicly about the injustice of it all, seeing as she did nothing wrong but for some difficulties with an airport security staffer. Apparently she found the situation painful enough to launch a lawsuit against the PM. But those are the breaks for those who run afoul of the neo-Con capo of Parliament.

Or consider the sad fate of former Alberta Reform-Alliance-Conservative MP Peter Goldring, the Independent Member who's no longer even allowed to hand out maple leaf pins and bookmarks on Canada Day on the grounds of the Alberta Legislature.

The five-term MP for Edmonton East was either pushed or jumped from the federal Tory caucus in December 2011 after he was charged with failing to provide a breath sample to a police officer who pulled him over on his way home from a fund-raising event.

He has pleaded not guilty to the official charge, but no trial was required to determine his punishment for embarrassing Harper. He is persona non grata, even in the city he still represents as an MP, even among provincial Conservatives who are no particular friends of the prime minister.

So, about the time Edmonton-St. Albert MP Brent Rathgeber made his bones and the national news on June 26 by taking a public shot at certain overly indulgent ministers with the apparent approval of his boss, Oda had obviously recognized an offer she couldn't refuse and decided to take it with more dignity than either Guergis or Goldring.

Which brings us to the question of whether a similar fate awaits Peterborough MP Dean del Mastro, Harper's Parliamentary assistant, for the scheme tied to his office to pay citizen money-launderers a $50 bonus for passing $1,000 "donations" through to his campaign to disguise the source of the campaign cash.

Unlikely. Election financing schemes are complicated, normally easy to deny and, as history shows, pretty much business as usual for the well-financed conservative parties faced with inconvenient election spending rules.

Like that of Rathgeber, del Mastro's loyalty to his boss is unquestioned, so as long as he sticks to Tim Hortons and steers clear of the Savoy, he should be just fine for the long haul.

This isn't France, after all.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.

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