a weekly blog for all interested in professional communications issues

Monday, May 24, 2010

Iggy and the AG: Talk about lost opportunity

The recent decision by MPs to keep the Auditor General away from their expense accounts and office budgets may say a lot about the disconnect between Parliament Hill and the rest of the country.

But it also says something about Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and why he is struggling as a politician.

If there ever was an opportunity for the Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition to score some political points this was it.

To recap briefly, MPs essentially started a one-week adjournment May 13, adamant that Auditor General Sheila Fraser would not be given jurisdiction to audit how taxpayers' money is spent on Parliament Hill. Only the Bloc Quebecois was on public record as supporting the Auditor General in her bid to audit House of Commons expenditures.

Rather than explain their reasons for opposing the AG, the three parties tried to hide behind something called the Board of Internal Economy, which meets in secret and basically runs the House of Commons. It consists of the Speaker and the House leaders of each of the four parties.

Since the Board of Internal Economy had ruled against the AG,that wast that, MPs said. But when public outrage became apparent as phones in constituency offices started to ring, MPs began breaking ranks. One of those was Iggy.

Instead of giving the AG a flat no, Iggy now said the Board of Internal Economy should meet with her and try to work something out. Within days he was joined by the Prime Minister who said his government would be happy to talk about expanded audit powers.

Clearly both leaders saw how the public wind was blowing and knew there was no point trying to defend the indefensible.

The Auditor General likely will soon win the right to audit how the House of Commons is run.But the Liberals have lost an opportunity. Had they joined the Bloc in supporting the AG, they could have shown voters they really were in tune with Canadians and willing to make Parliament Hill more accountable.

Now three of the four parties on the Hill are rushing to cover their posteriors.

Something is wrong with the Liberal leader's instincts, just as there is something wrong with federal politics.

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