Never mind the prime minister’s stout defence to date of his intergovernmental affairs minister and her hinky activities in the peculiar case of the KAIROS contract. Chances are high Bev Oda is not long for this political world.
This story just smells too badly for Stephen Harper to allow Ms. Oda to hang around his cabinet much longer. The failure of the Member of Parliament for Durham to avoid this embarrassment surely will not be forgiven at a moment in Canadian political history when the polls appear to be shifting in favour of Mr. Harper’s so-called Conservative government, especially in the key ridings around Toronto.
After all, timing is everything – and the timing of this strange little Oda coda to this prime minister’s unhappy minority years in Parliament dictates this minister must go, and she must go soon.
Of course, timing is at the heart of this sordid little story in another more basic way too. For if Ms. Oda signed the contract with the KAIROS Christian aid agency before the infamous NOT was inserted, an act akin to forgery has been committed.
If she signed it after, the contract is legally sound even if one doesn’t approve of the government’s motives for determining never to give another federal dime to an agency that failed to toe its line on Canada’s slavish support for Israel. If that were the case, however, one wonders why Ms. Oda didn’t simply initial the change, as any of us who has amended a cheque has done.
So when the axe falls, you can be certain it came down because the PM’s calculating mind reached the conclusion the time had passed when Ms. Oda’s inappropriate behaviour and implausible excuses to Parliament could be explained away.
Never mind that the reasons the KAIROS contract was altered certainly originated within Mr. Harper’s PMO. It was Ms. Oda that got caught doing something shifty. So when the controversy about it gets hot enough that Mr. Harper concludes the problem won’t disappear unless Ms. Oda does too, she’ll be out of cabinet faster than you can say “Helena Guergis.”
Alert readers will recall what happened to Ms. Guergis, MP for nearby Simcoe-Grey and once the Minister of State (Status of Women) in Mr. Harper’s Cabinet. Until, that is, her embarrassing husband Rahim Jaffer, a former Conservative MP from Edmonton, was pulled over by police near their Ontario home in 2009 as he went too fast with the wrong stuff in both his car and his bloodstream. In April 2010, when the fallout from the sordid affair had become sufficiently embarrassing, Mr. Harper brutally skidded her from both his cabinet and caucus. For the moment, she sits as an Independent.
There is a thread that connects these cases – one a possible forgery of spectacular incompetence, the other a pathetic case of automotive drugs, drunkenness and unintended consequences.
Both stem from two beliefs typical of powerful figures in the Canadian right, especially Mr. Harper’s Conservatives. One, that the rules are for the rest of us, but don’t apply to them. Two, that we in the hoi polloi are so addled and inattentive that we will usually believe anything we are told if it is repeated often enough and loudly enough.
How else to explain the prime minister’s instinctive defence of the egregious activities of his minister, Ms. Oda, which were so essentially shifty that virtually everyone who heard of the case immediately sensed something had gone badly awry. And this includes, surely, many natural Conservative supporters.
But everyone – even Prime Minister Harper – understands why you can’t get away with changing contracts after you’ve signed them. So, once the public mind reaches the collective conclusion that is what Ms. Oda in fact did, she is finished.
This post also appears on rabble.ca.