Monday, April 25, 2005

Lack of Perspective

One the things that has bothered me about media coverage of the sponsorship scandal has been the lack of perspective. For example, Globe columnist John Ibbitson called it as bad as Watergate (subscription required). To take just one tiny example from that notorious scandal, the plumbers unit set up by the White House broke into the office of the psychiatrist of Daniel Ellsberg, the man who leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times, to find information that would be used to discredit him in the administration's ongoing efforts to undermine the antiwar movement. The break-in at the Watergate itself was an effort by the White House to spy illegally on their political opponents. Um, comparing a patronage/tollgating scandal to a series of abuses of power? You see the problem.

However, the main point being missed is that the amount of money involved was actually quite small. Today's column in the Globe and Mail by Jim Stanford (subscription required) provides a needed corrective. He calculates that the scandal has cost him personally the equivalent of a coffee at Tim Horton's (and a donut every second year). Here are the key quotes:

Okay, enough already with the huffing and the puffing, people. Enough with the televised speeches. Most of all, enough with the pompous moral outrage. You're all overacting. So $100-million was paid to ad agencies between 1997 and 2003, some portion of which is unaccounted for. Some portion of that was stolen. And some portion of that, it seems, ended up in Liberal coffers.

These grants consumed less than 0.01 per cent of federal revenues during those six years. I paid a grand total of $107,000 in income tax to Ottawa over the same period. Therefore, the sponsorship program wasted $10.70 of my money over six years. That's $1.78 per year -- enough for a double-double at Tim's, and a doughnut every second year....

Is the sponsorship issue the most scandalous thing in Canada right now? Not even close. Why don't we get banner headlines about the unsolved murders of dozens, perhaps hundreds, of Canadian prostitutes? Why don't we bring down the government over Canadian complicity in the torture of Maher Arar? Why don't we have televised hearings on the thousands of Canadians who die prematurely because of smog?

Has the sponsorship scandal destroyed Canada's reputation, demolished the "moral authority" of government? Get real.

Does it even hold a candle to the self-dealing, tax-evasion, insider-trading and tax-deductible partying that occurs in Canada's private sector every business day of the year? Hardly.

Most damning of all, does the sponsorship scandal remotely affect my life, or those of 99.9 per cent of my fellow Canadians? Uh-uh.

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