Senator Marjory LeBreton is making headlines this week for accusing the media of being insufficiently enthusiastic about Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservatives during the election campaign. LeBreton said journalists covering the PM’s tour should have realized a Conservative majority was in the offing and not been so negative.
Of course, this is insane, and it is expertly debunked as Nixonian paranoia by Lawrence Martin in an iPolitics column today.
LeBreton, we should remember, was appointed to the Senate by her old boss, Brian Mulroney, and for years after he left government, served as one of his few defenders in Parliament.
I never had much contact with LeBreton since I’ve been working on the Hill. Our few conversations were pleasant. I count myself among those people on the Hill who are quite rightly sympathetic to her because of the enormous personal loss she suffered — her daughter and grandchild were killed by a repeat drunk driver, in a case that received a lot of media attention.
Beyond that, I don’t know what qualifies her to be a senator other than her Mulroney connection, but the Senate is full of cronies, so… whatever.
But I was amazed to read comments she made when my colleague, Stephen Maher, and I were writing stories about the federal infrastructure program. Under the protection of privilege, LeBreton questioned our integrity and wrongly alleged that we were some how working in cahoots with Liberal MP Gerard Kennedy, who was the party’s infrastructure critic at the time. She also took an bizarre pot-shot at Joan Bryden of Canadian Press, who over the past three decade has consistently been one of the best reporters on the Hill.
Her conclusion: “When Stephen Maher and Glen McGregor get together with Gerard Kennedy, you can be sure it will be pretty lousy research.”
For the record, we quoted Kennedy in our stories, but he provided us no research or data. All our work was based on an long and involved process using public records and advanced data journalism techniques, which I wrote about for Media Magazine.
This exchange told me everything I need to know about Marjory LeBreton’s integrity and shows her contempt for journalists doing their jobs is nothing new.
Senator Cordy: Recent investigations by the Ottawa Citizen and the Halifax Chronicle-Herald reveal that a disproportionate amount of the stimulus package contained in the Economic Action Plan is being distributed to Conservative-held ridings, while the rest of Canadians, including my riding in Dartmouth, wait for their fair share of stimulus money.
On the other hand, the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s report issued last week highlighted the fact that the details are so scarce that it is impossible to confirm whether the measures have had an impact at all.
Some Hon. Senators: Question.
Senator Cordy: In Oakville last month, after a Tory candidate said that a project was killed because the riding was Liberal, the Prime Minister said that he could provide a list of announcements made across the country.
Three weeks later, when Stephen Maher, a reporter for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald, made repeated requests for the list the Prime Minister’s Office told him to stop bothering them. They suggested he click on 6,000 individual links on a government website and make his own list.
I ask the government leader: Is this the government’s idea of openness and accountability?
Senator LeBreton: Honourable senators, as I said, they rely on Stephen Maher and Glen McGregor for their research and, of course, their in-house reporter Joan Bryden.
It is interesting that now these individuals are saying they cannot find out where the money has been spent. The last two days they have been accusing us of spending the money. It is the old saying: “You can’t suck and blow at the same time.”
Honourable senators, the fact is the so-called study of Stephen Maher and Glen McGregor chose arbitrary measurements of $1 million plus. I will list some of the biggest projects. These are just the ones in Toronto, where there has been a half a billion dollars allocated and there is not a Tory seat there. As well, the Mayor of Toronto thanked the Prime Minister for all the effort by this government.
When Stephen Maher and Glen McGregor get together with Gerard Kennedy, you can be sure it will be pretty lousy research.
I will go through some of the biggest projects. These are the ones Stephen Maher, Glen McGregor and Gerard Kennedy did not bother to mention. There are some worth hundreds of millions of dollars, such as the Evergreen Transit Line; the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Line; the Sheppard Subway Line; and the Ottawa Convention Centre, which are all located primarily in opposition ridings.
If senators look at the electoral map for the last election, the majority of the land mass in this country is represented by Conservative candidates. However, we do not follow riding boundaries. We work in consultation with the municipalities and the provincial governments, and certain members of Parliament have had a certain amount of money ascribed to them. Why? It is because the Trans-Canada Highway runs through their riding. Of course, that is supposedly infrastructure in their ridings.
Stephen Maher and Glen McGregor were at it again today on the Recreational Infrastructure Canada program. I will give more examples.
In Ontario, of the 57 maximum $1-million projects, 28 were allocated to government ridings and 29 were allocated to opposition ridings.
Some Hon. Senators: Oh, oh.
Senator LeBreton: The article falsely states that the Conservative-held riding of Kenora received more projects than any other riding. The NDP-held riding of Trinity-Spadina has the most projects in Ontario, receiving 67 of 766 projects, totalling $13 million.
In Atlantic Canada, out of a total of 130 Recreational Infrastructure Canada projects, approximately 85 have gone to opposition ridings.
In Alberta, there is only one opposition-held riding — we cannot help that — yet our government invested $1 million toward a local facility in that opposition-held riding.
In Saskatchewan, there is only one opposition-held riding — we know who that is — yet our government has invested in four Recreational Infrastructure Canada projects in that riding alone.
In the province of Quebec, the Quebec government is the prime contractor for infrastructure and as such it is they who prioritize the projects, not the federal government. Thus far, only one project under this program is in a Conservative-held riding.
I would suggest that Senator Cordy call her good friend, Stephen Maher, and maybe get her other friend, Joan Bryden, to write a true story next time.