There are two kinds of mistakes you can make your first year in office. The are some you can survive. The broken election promise in order to seek more information, a needed increase in spending because of a natural disaster, or a miscalculated motion in the House. You can even survive odd misspoken word, or phrase from your ministers.
And then there are the kind that wound you; maybe just a nick here, a scratch there but still enough to hurt. That’s where Health Minister Jane Philpott, and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna come in. Both are in trouble over spending.
Philpott’s issues are over $3700 paid for a limousine service to carry her to and from engagements within the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area (G.T.H.A.) plus a further $3850 in trips to Pearson airport. She, and the limo operator have offered to pay the money back which should be the end of it right? Nope. The limo operator happens to be a supporter who worked on her campaign. Conservative Health critic Colin Carrie has written to the Ethics Commissioner to ask them to look into it. And they agreed.
Meanwhile Catherine McKenna’s issues worse for appearances. Hers are over $6,000 paid to a photo-journalist to take photos of her at last November’s climate change conference in Paris.
On the surface, you can argue in favour of some Philpott’s costs. Ministers should sometimes have their own car, and driver. The time spent commuting in this area is valuable productivity lost. Where it falls completely apart is the fact it’s a Liberal supporter’s limo company. It adds the appearance of favouritism. At $3700 it makes you wonder: Did she bother with other estimates for the same services? It’s a cut, but it will heal.
McKenna however is worse. $6,000 on a photographer to take pictures of her, and the staff at the Climate Change conference of Partners (COP 21). In the age of smart-phones, and digital cameras is that even necessary? Couldn’t a staffer pop out their Samsung and take a photo if it’s so vital to have them. It looks incredibly vain, and full of self-importance to have the photo-journalist around. This one is a deeper wound and will be bleeding for a long time. The only way to heal this one may be to move her out of cabinet for a while.
Two cabinet rookies, two mistakes, two wounds. One you can survive, but the other? Who knows.