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Margaret Wente (Curtis Lantinga)
Margaret Wente (Curtis Lantinga)

Margaret Wente

Just keep saying 'cocaine and busty hookers' Add to ...

I hate myself for saying this. And maybe I'll turn out to be wrong. But I'm beginning to believe that the problems of Rahim Jaffer and Helena Guergis don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Maybe it's because I don't live in Ottawa, where the scandals are so few and far between that the bar is set unnaturally low. But, so far, this one is a crashing disappointment. Where are the state secrets or the dodgy dossiers, the titillatingly illicit sex, the brown envelopes stuffed with cash?

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Instead, we're stuck with head-splitting efforts to define "lobbying." Does it count as lobbying if no one pays you money for it? Is it lobbying if you have a general conversation instead of a specific one? What defines the difference? What if the people whose projects you're lobbying for have no idea what you're doing? Is lobbying on spec a crime? Is influence-peddling a crime if you don't have any influence?

No wonder my head hurts. What this story needs is bags of coke and more busty hookers.

On that score, Michael Ignatieff is doing his best. "Well, I don't want to make false accusations," the Liberal Leader said the other day, "but you don't get cocaine at a corner drugstore, right. You have to get it from somewhere, from someone, and usually that means organized crime."

Of course Mr. Ignatieff would never make false accusations, even though he might be delighted if Mr. Jaffer turned out to have allowed his colourful buddy Nazim Gillani (cue the busty hookers) to pay him off in drugs in exchange for extracting government money for green schemes. Like the one that will take your carrot peels and turn them into fuel.

Mr. Jaffer did himself no favours when he appeared before a parliamentary committee last week. He denied trading on his political connections, even though he clearly tried to. But he could not extract a cent from the government. He didn't get more than courtesy meetings with his old pals. If he was an influence-peddler, he was a hopeless failure. Perhaps some people imagined that his marriage to Ms. Guergis would give him special access. If so, they must have the IQ of a turnip. Few people have less pull than the status of women minister in a Harper government.

Poor Helena. The widely unloved Ms. Guergis (whom Mr. Ignatieff persists in calling "Mrs. Jaffer") appears to be guilty of not much more than airport rage and letting her husband use one of her five government BlackBerrys. She did write a letter plugging the carrot-peel company to an official in her riding, but he ignored it. Mr. Harper gave her the boot after a chatty private eye passed along lurid tales garnered from Mr. Gillani, a boastful promoter with an iffy relationship to the truth. But forget her. The media and the opposition now insist that this is all about Mr. Harper, who unconscionably protected her for far too long, or else unconscionably threw her under the bus (pick one). Either way, his judgment stinks.

"Enough is enough," NDP MP Pat Martin said last week. "There are more compelling issues facing the nation." I suspect the nation heartily concurred. But now Mr. Martin wants to string up Mr. Jaffer by his thumbs. Like pit bulls presented with a juicy steak, these people just can't help themselves.

Who stands to benefit from this two-bit affair? Not the opposition, which devoutly hopes that some of the goo will stick to Mr. Harper. No luck. The latest poll reports that 59 per cent of respondents say it has tarnished politicians in general. As usual, those folks seem far more interested in slinging mud than discussing the future of the country. Meantime, the foolish couple has been ostracized, their lives utterly destroyed. And Ottawa - where it's already just about impossible to get anything done - faces another bout of regulatory overkill. But what the heck? Just keep saying "cocaine and busty hookers." What could be more fun than that?

 

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