Tag Archives: Dan Gardner

In praise of high priced consultants

Dan Gardner writes in the Ottawa Citizen.

Remember the story of David Rotor and Douglas Tipple? As Stephen Maher recalled recently on these pages, they were the two experts on procurement hired by the Martin Liberals – at a cost of $330,000 a year each – to find savings in the federal government’s procurement process.

Everything went well. Rotor and Tipple worked closely with the Conservative government when it came to power in 2006.

But then stories about supposed misconduct by the two were leaked to The Globe and Mail. The Conservatives panicked and fired Rotor and Tipple. In subsequent litigation, the allegations proved false and both men received major settlements.

And the savings they were to find? Rotor says they were on course for $1.25 billion a year.

But the planned changes were scrapped when he and Tipple were fired, so the government is out roughly $6 billion since 2006.

Who cares about that, right? Those two guys were getting $330,000 a year! Lenny Lunchpail can only dream of making that kind of money. That chimp has got more bananas than you, Lenny! Get upset!

Indeed, Lenny. Get upset at politicians who play to your worst instincts.

The gloves are off

Dan Gardner in the Ottawa Citizen on the bare knuckle politicking that is going on now.

Readers will remember that the original "Enemies List" was compiled by Richard Milhous Nixon, a lifelong politician whose defining qualities were tactical ruthlessness and a burning sense of resentment for "eastern elites." Sound familiar?

I don’t buy the argument that Stephen Harper is successfully moulding Canada in his own image. But the Conservative party? Oh yes. No previous generation of Conservatives behaved like Harper and Company. Just try to imagine any other Conservative prime minister defending legislation on the floor of the House of Commons by smearing a Liberal MP’s father-in-law.

The change isn’t solely Stephen Harper’s doing, of course. It’s also the product of American influence.

The prime minister and the people around him have all followed American politics their entire lives, they all have close connections with American politicos, and many have actively participated in American politics. In the American system, the idea of political neutrality scarcely exists. Senior civil servants are political appointees. Judges are identified as Republicans and Democrats and the Supreme Court routinely splits along political lines when ruling on politically contentious cases. There is no Governor General or Queen above politics -nothing is above politics. Indeed, the closest thing to neutrality in American politics is "bipartisanship," which is quite a different creature.

It’s also important that the Harper Conservatives are connected to, and influenced by, the American conservative movement. As Rick Perlstein showed so brilliantly in Nixonland, that movement was shaped in important ways less by the sunny nature of Ronald Reagan than the dark insecurities of Richard Nixon. Conservatives are outsiders. They have to fight dirty because power lies with a ruthless and entrenched elite. It’s civil war. And it never ends: Even in the middle of the Bush years, when Republicans controlled the White House, Congress, and the Supreme Court, conservatives sincerely saw themselves as hard-pressed and persecuted insurgents.

Just like the underdogs of the PMO.