Swing Sets and Orange Juice

I remember when I worked in the Leader’s office and the Bev Oda orange juice story came out. Many people in the office were genuinely aghast of this. They really felt that this was emblematic of why we needed to kick the conservatives out of power. It was mostly the older more long time partisan folk. I was never able to tell if they genuinely had come to believe after all this time in politics that this topic really mattered.

I couldn’t tell if it’s because they felt that this really was what our work was about or if they just did a big deal of it internally to motivate the younger / newer / more influencable folk. To me it seemed slightly ridiculous. Now don’t get me wrong $16 for an orange juice is ridiculous, but here’s how I see that having played out:

You’re a cabinet minister, working late at the hotel. You have a rush meeting in the morning and you see the little breakfast card thing at the hotel. you check off a few boxes to get an early meal before you go to bed, prices probably aren’t listed. The next day you check out and since it’s the government you don’t get the bill for a few weeks, because of how invoicing and procurement works. A few weeks later it comes with the charges laid out and you just glance it over and sign to approve the charges. You probably never even realize that the juice was $16. The “opposition research” members of the parties comb thru expenses via Access to Information requests and gotcha, the famous “$16 Orange Juice” is born.

And really while $16 is a lot for orange juice, I don’t expect cabinet members to be spending their time trying to save $10 off some orange juice. They have much more important things to do.

But there we were making a webpage and an email campaign about this $16 orange juice.  It’s catchy, news reporters bite and folks click those links. For the record, Bev Oda fully repaid the amounts, agreed it was a mistake and publicly apologized for it. Regardless she was hounded for months about it and it ended with her resignation. What a great thing we had achieved. Force a cabinet minister to resign because of some orange juice.

The Globe and Mail wrote about this “problem” because a similar thing recently happened for the Prime Minister’s swing set. The Prime minister paid for the swing set himself, but not the installation fee. Regardless the $7500 swing set makes the news.

Now given that this is the prime minister, I’m willing to bet he can’t just pay $75 to Home Depot to get them to install it in the yard. There’s probably a bunch of rules about certified contractors and folks who need to pass various security clearances before you can start mucking around in the Prime Minister’s house. And I think everyone agrees that it’s not really a great idea to have someone you found on kijiji installing furniture at the PM’s house. Regardless, the swing set “cost” $7500 ($4,368 of that being the actual cost of the installation that the taxpayer paid).

The article ends with this:

I’m not sure what any of this says about our politics today, other than it’s not good. And the fact is, all political parties in this country are responsible for where we are today.

It seems like no matter what happens, it’s always someone else’s fault. I don’t think it’s the political parties fault. At least not entirely. Could there be some really principled folks who would not pick on such meaningless things? Probably. But we never see them….

Why is that? It’s perhaps because we haven’t voted for them, we haven’t reported the news on them, we haven’t clicked on articles about them. It’s easy to point fingers about this. But I think we should all start looking internally into what we’ve done that’s lead to this moment, what we are doing, and what we think we want to do about it going forward before looking to blame others.

On that note, Bev Oda, I’m sorry I contributed to ending your career. While I don’t agree with many of your views and opinions, I don’t think that should have been a career ending decision.

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