Thursday, 8 March 2012

Michael Bliss, Eminent Historian?

It's always handy to have an eminent historian around. Who doesn't need one every once in a while?

Margaret Wente sure found it useful to have one handy the other day when she wrote her column 'Robo calls? Get a grip. We're Canadian.' The title says it all. Wente isn't very impressed by the robo call controversy. This isn't to say she's upset about corrupt attempts to illegally modify election results. No, she just doesn't think that it's much of a controversy.

And she apparently has the 'eminent historian' Michael Bliss to back her up. She quotes Bliss in the column as saying that this is a 'non-scandal'. The real problem, according to Bliss, is that “ [a] lot of people – especially Liberals – simply cannot accept the legitimacy of the Conservatives being in power".

Now, Michael Bliss has published a good number of books, and he has as much right as many others to be called 'eminent'. He has even recently published his own memoirs. But I can't help but think that his eminence in this case has a good deal to do with the fact that Wente agrees with him.

I can't find anything that Bliss has published on the scandal so I'm guessing that the quotes come from an interview. Assuming that Wente has quoted him correctly (not always a good assumption with journalists as I've found out myself a few times) Bliss is making what seem to me to be some pretty ludicrous claims. You might cautiously say that 'we don't yet know enough about the scandal to cast judgment'. That would be judicious, careful. But a 'non-scandal'? And solely related to disagreeing with the government's right to be in power? That is more than a little hasty.

Let's see how things turn out before we make up our mind.

Incidentally, I'm waiting for this story published in Le Devoir to get picked up in the English language media. For those who don't read French, the gist is that it appears that the Conservatives in the last election may have used the same tactics as they did in the 'in-and-out' scandal. It was a technique whereby the Conservatives essentially used local riding associations to launder money so that they could pretend that money used on the national campaign was actually being spent at the local level. This allowed them to overspend the limits on national election expenses. They have since agreed to plead guilty to this, although all the while still claiming it was just a case of difference of opinion.

Well it appears that the difference of opinion (ie illegal behaviour) continued again this time. Various Quebec local conservative ridings are claiming identical expenses of $15,000, paid to a Toronto company, and they don't actually know what they paid for.

Maybe if I become an eminent historian, I'll learn to dismiss this as a 'non-scandal' too.

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