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Why ethics rebuke on cheques is good for Tories

Conservative MP Gerald Keddy and Debra Reeves pose with a government stimulus cheque in Chester, N.S., last year.

1. Say what? Conservative strategists are trying to spin their MPs' use of novelty cheques with big Tory logos for federal announcements into a good thing. Never mind that they were given gentle slaps on the wrist by the parliamentary ethics watchdog and only stopped the practice when they were caught.

"At the end of the day, the Ethics Commissioner cleared each and every single Conservative MP who was the subject of the Liberal Party's request," the Tories say in a memo to MPs and supporters.

True. Mary Dawson, who often sides with the government, concluded in her report that the cheques do not violate the conflict-of-interest code for MPs or the Conflict of Interest Act for cabinet ministers.

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"This is the second time in weeks she has cleared our MPs based on Liberal allegations," the memo says.

Are they referring to Helena Guergis, the former Tory cabinet minister who was forced to resign her seat and kicked out of caucus amid an RCMP investigation? Ms. Dawson has so far declined to investigate concerns about Ms. Guergis brought forward by opposition MPs.

The memo says, too, that Ms. Dawson noted the Liberals used to use red and white on their publications when they were in office. "And we all remember how the Liberal Party used the Canadian flag as its own partisan logo back in the days of the Sponsorship Scandal," the Tories say.

About PEI Liberal MP Wayne Easter, who complained to the ethics watchdog about the cheques, the Tories gleefully point out that Ms. Dawson criticized him and the "many errors and omissions he made."

Says Mr. Easter: "The Cons try and find a way to attack those of us who do our job.

"I accept the constructive criticism from Dawson in the way it was intended. So much Conservative crap happening at the time we were busy finding and reporting."

The Tories, Mr. Easter says, spent taxpayers money in an "inappropriate way."

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2. Staying power. Fresh from the success of his historic decision on the Afghan detainee controversy, House of Commons Speaker Peter Milliken was mischievously showing MPs the picture he keeps on his BlackBerry - a shot of he and Rahim Jaffer, the disgraced former Conservative MP, with their arms around each other, mugging for the camera.

Mr. Milliken was showing the picture at a party Wednesday for MPs from all parties and the press.

He explained how it got there: He had just received his new BlackBerry. Mr. Jaffer, who was with him, grabbed the device and put up the picture as the background image with just a few keystrokes.

And while the Speaker may know his way around the House of Commons, he's not that good on the BlackBerry. Mr. Milliken has not yet figured out how to change and/or remove the picture; he told one partygoer that he was having fun showing it to the Conservatives in the crowd.

Mr. Jaffer helped Mr. Milliken win the Speaker's chair in 2001 when he rallied the Canadian Alliance benches to support the Liberal MP for the job.

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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