Kenney Campaign Vehicle

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Go away. Don’t bother us.

That was the message from officials in the office of Parliamentary Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson to folks who wrote to complain that Calgary Midnapore MP Jason Kenney is campaigning for another job in another jurisdiction on their dime.

“Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson has no jurisdiction over the issue you raise,” says the form letter such uppity Canadians receive. “I wish to draw your attention to Section 23 of The Parliament of Canada Act which allows Members of the House of Commons to remain Members until elected to the legislature of a province…”

Annoying as Kenney’s conduct is in this regard, it’s not really the problem at the heart of this issue. The money question is about gifts and services.

Yes, Kenney’s acceptance of his MP’s salary while campaigning for another job certainly raises ethical issues. It would be fair to argue it’s an example of what employers sometimes call “time theft” — that is, when an employee accepts pay for work that wasn’t done. Such as, for example, being paid to represent the electors of the Calgary Midnapore riding.

What’s more, not many of us get to tour Alberta on the federal dime, campaigning to organize a shotgun wedding of the Progressive Conservatives and the Wildrose Party or whatever we’re up to, even if we’re supposedly couch surfing, as former PC deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk observed tartly in a recent Tweet.

Still, this is not, it is acknowledged, the particular variety of ethical question that Parliament’s Ethics Commissioner is permitted to ponder.

The problem for Kenney lies nearby, though, or at least it should. To wit, his acceptance of gifts, often from corporate sources, whatever the purpose of those gifts may be, while he is a serving Member of Parliament, without proper accounting to Parliament of what he has received.

The ethical issue that has the potential to ensnare a sitting MP, or ought to, is that Kenney is using services and materials donated by corporations and individuals to so-called Political Action Committees — set up by his supporters to skirt Alberta’s election financing laws — and then passed on to him to finance his political campaign.

I’m sure those donors have what we would all consider legitimate political goals — they don’t like the present government and would like to see it changed, as is their right.

But they may also be influenced by what Kenney might be able to do for them in his current job, which is why Parliament has reporting rules and makes it its business to keep track of members’ conduct.

Consider the “Alberta Can’t Wait” PAC motorhome in the photograph at the top of this page, from which Kenney can be seen exiting. Someone owns this vehicle. Someone is letting Kenney use it. Someone paid for the colourful “wrap” designed to advertise and promote Kenney’s cause, which by definition includes his political ambitions. These are gifts and they need to be reported.

If this is not an appropriate topic for the Parliamentary Ethics Commissioner’s consideration, I’m not sure exactly what we’re paying her to do.

Or consider the semi-trailer billboard that appeared recently near Grande Prairie. Obviously, no one was being cute about whom this donation is designed to benefit. It has Kenney’s name right on it. So who is paying for it?

Kenney, meanwhile, also seems to have a role raising money for the people who are raising money for him.

So, nothing at all has changed. Kenney is an MP. Everything he does needs to be seen through that lens. And if he doesn’t like it, he should resign his MP’s job. Indeed, he should do that now, not when it suits him, even if it means he has to wait 11 and a half inconvenient years to collect his generous Parliamentary pension — you know, like the one he once argued with some success Alberta MLAs shouldn’t be allowed to have.

Since Kenney is already so generously supported, it’s not at all clear what’s stopping him.

It’s certainly not fear of his pals at the Canadian Taxpayers Federation — the so-called tax watchdogs who used to employ him. But for a few cranky Tweets, they appear to have been all but silent about Kenney’s abuse of taxpayers’ generosity for nearly a month. To give them their due, early in July one of the group’s many directors uttered a faint peep of protest on this topic, but it was atypically half-hearted stuff.

So where’s the CTF director in a pig costume when you really need him? Not a squeal! When it comes to Jason Kenney, “Porky the Waster Hater” is missing in action.

And where’s the angry press release on the CTF’s website about Kenney’s loose ways when the taxpayers’ money? You know, like the one that certainly would have been written and enthusiastically republished by the media echo chamber if a federal New Democrat or Liberal was running for an important provincial job with a dollop of double-dipped tax dollars.

Crickets.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga’s blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

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David J. Climenhaga

David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe...