Friday, February 29, 2008

"Don't You Care About Your Family, Mr. Cadman? Don't You Want Them to Be Happy and Secure?"

The story of Chuck Cadman is one of the damnedest stories in politics. Having lost his 16-year-old son to a vicious random stabbing, a former rock musician wins a seat representing BC in the conservative Reform party on a law 'n order platform. He wins twice, handily. Cheated out of re-nomination in 2004, he still turns around and wins the election as an independent, despite having been diagnosed with cancer, due to his incredible popularity in the riding. After his victory an understandably angry Cadman consistently refuses to rejoin their party in their opposition to Martin's minority government. This despite continued--and increasingly desperate--entreaties from his former partisan friends.

Then, only weeks before he succumbed in his battle against cancer, he casts the deciding vote that keeps Paul Martin's government going in 2005, allowing Martin to continue governing until 2006 and ending in one of the nastiest political streetfights of the recent Liberal regime.

(Plus, he was the only legislator I've ever heard of with a ponytail.)

And now there's this. Apparently the conservatives were a bit too desperate to bring him on board:
Stephen Harper knew Conservative party officials were making a financial offer to independent MP Chuck Cadman in exchange for his vote to topple the minority Liberal government in May 2005, a new book charges.

Harper was Opposition leader when two party operatives offered Cadman, who had terminal cancer, a million-dollar life insurance policy, according to the book.

In an audio tape released to the Star by the publisher of Like A Rock: The Chuck Cadman Story, it is clear that Harper knew of the offer when he was interviewed by author Tom Zytaruk in September 2005.

When Zytaruk asked Harper whether he knew of the offer, Harper said: "I don't know the details. I knew that there were discussions, uh, this is not for publication?"

Zytaruk told Harper that the interview was "not for the newspaper. This is for the book."

Whoops. So now there's a giant firestorm erupting over this; this sort of bribery-for-votes is a wee bit, er, illegal. Harper's in deep trouble; it's going to be very, very hard to get away with that "financial considerations" line, especially with his predecessor Mulroney taking a lot of flak for HIS "indiscretions".

But that isn't even what fascinates (read: horrifies) me about this story. What grabs me is the nature of the bribe. It wasn't straight-up money, or stock options, or anything like that. It was a million dollar insurance policy. He wasn't going to see any of the money. That's cold. And that's also why I immediately thought of the exchange in the title: you just know that they leaned on him hard, using that sort of argument. "Why are you being so unreasonable, Mr. Cadman? Cancer medicines are expensive, aren't they Mr. Cadman? Don't you care about your family, Mr. Cadman?" And so forth.

The CBC quoted his widow as saying "her husband was offended by the offers". I can just imagine.

This is pretty much a worst case scenario for Mr. Harper. He's run on integrity and accountability and whatnot, and now he's been caught out trying to buy a vote from a dying man. He's got a problem with being seen as a cold, calculating type, and now he's been been caught out trying to buy a vote from a dying man. Gets him coming and going, and that's assuming that he doesn't get in really serious trouble for aiding and abetting a crime.

"Allegedly", of course.

(A footnote to this story. Go to any prominent progressive blog and you'll see a full-court-press of conservative trolls ineffectively trying everything and anything to bury this thing. I particularly recommend the ones on Garth Turner's blog. Maybe it's because he's a former conservative himself, but the amateurish spinning is hilarious. It's not going to help, but it does show just how lockstep these guys are.)

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