10.13.2017 06:50 AM

Big political graves are dug with tiny shovels

Bev Oda’s orange juice. David Dingwall’s gum. Mike Duffy’s travel claims. British MPs claiming for barbecues and garden equipment. 

None were capital offenses, none approached the threshold for a crime, and none were very significant when compared to overall government expenditures. But it’s still the little stuff that ends big political careers.

As I always tell the candidates I work for: a surprising number of people don’t know how many million are in a billion. But they sure as Hell all know that paying $16 for a glass of orange juice is insane.

Charles Adler and I talked about this stuff on his show last night.  In particular, we talked about the possible scandal that the Blacklock’s people have uncovered: namely, that the Department of Finance spent nearly a quarter of a million for the cover of their budgetary document. 


The Department of Finance spent nearly a quarter-million dollars on artistic themes for its 2017 budget, say Access To Information records. Costs included $89,500 for talent fees and photos of models posing as middle class Canadians.

“I like the colour scheme,” wrote Natalie Rieger, senior marketing advisor for the finance department. “It’s fresh. I love where this is going.”

Staff paid the McCann ad agency $212,234 including the cost of photos depicted on the cover of the March 22 budget document Building A Strong Middle Class and related marketing materials. Images were supposed to illustrate budget themes. “The future of children is an issue that is central to the 2017 budget,” wrote McCann executives. “That is why they are the focus of every visual.”

It looks bad, and it comes after what seems like a nearly-daily string of Finance Department screw-ups. How will it all end?

Badly, I wager. I’ll bet you sixteen bucks. 



  1. Sanjay Mohanta says:

    I really enjoyed your posts on Minister Joly. I think it is time to do one on Min. Morneau.

  2. Matt says:

    It was also revealed in the Blacklock article they spent $176,339 designing the cover for the 2016 budget book.

    It looks even more insane when, as the article also reveals, the Conservatives spent on average less than $600 on the budget book cover designs while they were in power.

  3. Greyapple says:

    To say nothing of this revelation.


    After a summer of going after tax loopholes for small businesses, farmers, and doctors this is bad optics, to put it mildly.

    And all their foul ups seem to be catching up to them in the polls. The Angus-Reid that came out today puts the Liberals and Conservatives at a dead heat nationally, at 35% a piece.


  4. JH says:

    You are smarter than the average bear, I’ll give you that. Now it’s a villa in France!
    Liberals are learning what the CPC did coming to the end of their mandate. Once the media decides to play gotcha – it’s dead men/women walking time.

  5. Sean says:

    …agree… I’ll go one further and suggest that this govt is a lot more vulnerable than people realize, next time around. They are going to have very little if anything to show for this first (maybe only) term.

    – also – like the new site!

  6. billg says:

    Its the money, but, its not the money.
    Its the actual mind set that this made sense to so many public servants and people in the Ministers office.
    How far detached from reality are they?
    Now, the villa in France under an incorporated numbered company to avoid taxes and what I assume would be inheritance taxes as well.
    I am a firm believer that Canada is best served switching from right to left governments, and, that no party is deserving of being in power indefinitely, but, man, these guys are a head shaker. Go hire someone to get this thing back on the rails.

  7. Ned Ludd says:

    I never understood why govt’s needed to “glam” things up…..I always liked PM Chretien’s adage of “undersell and overperform”…..I wish PM Trudeau would follow it……

    • Pedro says:

      Love that – “undersell and overperform”. Looking back, governments under Jean Chretien usually did just that. Sadly, the government under Justin Trudeau is still in election mode, egged on by Randolph Duke’s, “Sell! Sell! Sell!” Not an association Liberals would prefer, even IF Duke was fictional.
      Yeah, very nice webpage.

    • doconnor says:

      They are trying to treat government like a business, where you always have to sell yourself and you have little accountability, especially over such tiny costs.

    • Ronald O'Dowd says:


      Sponsorship wasn’t part of overperforming and guess who got to wear that?

  8. whyshouldIsellyourwheat says:

    Bill Morneau to Melanie Joly: “Hold my beer…er..hold my Dom Perignon”.

    So Morneau has a private corporation in France which he didn’t disclose until it was discovered by the CBC whose purpose is to avoid French taxation.

    Along with corporations in the Caribbean and Alberta to avoid Ontario taxation.

    And his department spends approximately $200K per year on covers for the budget (undoubtedly to benefit Liberal friendly ad and PR agencies).

    And he has released small business tax proposals that have a plentitude of unintended consequences for most small businesses, farmers, startups, and female entrepreneurs.

    And he was intent (before quickly backing off) to tax the employee discounts of millions of minimum wage retail and restaurant workers (along with causing a massive paperwork headache for their employers)

    • JH says:

      Isn’t the Corp. down south a super yatch leasing company? I’m betting we hear more about that too. Danger for the Libs right now is that both CBC & Globe & Mail seem to be in competition at to who can dig the most dirt on them. Fun, fun, fun for the junkies!

  9. Nasty Bob says:

    Wow for a government that got elected by style over substance you’d think they’d come up with a scheme more stylish than something torn from a 25 years old Sears catalog .

    Like Sears this gov’t is dead

  10. Tim says:

    I want to like this government, but they’ve made it really hard lately, to the point that I feel like I’m having an identity crisis. Am I still a Liberal supporter? I don’t know.

  11. Charlie says:

    This feels like deja vu.

    I distinctly remember this same thing being a story a few years ago with a different budget.

    It’s a low-hanging-fruit kind of story. I wouldn’t try to draw any links between department expenses and the future of political figures.

    That said, this kind of shit happens constantly in the public service, regardless of who’s in power. Anyone who’s seen the management side of government up close could tell you that expenses like this are incurred by departments regularly with bureaucratic justifications.

  12. Ronald O'Dowd says:


    In the good old days, ministers took responsibility for their departments and summarily resigned. But that was 30 years ago.

  13. Bill Templeman says:

    In which countries can you vote for both a local representative and a national leader? Israel? France? Wherever…anyway, right now I would like Canada to adopt this system so I could vote for my local Liberal MP but not vote for the national Liberal team.

    • Charlie says:

      Interesting you say that.

      Is it the leadership in particular that you are chafed with or the broader party that disinterests you?

      Meaning, are you specifically dissatisfied with the Liberal government’s agenda or Trudeau’s particular style of leadership?

      Being genuinely curious here.

      I oddly can’t stand Trudeau’s personality-centred approach to politics but tend to believe that the Liberals are the correct party for this time and a far better option than the current Conservatives.

      I wonder if there are more people who are in agreement with the objectives of what the government wants to achieve but are unhappy with the methods (or lack thereof) by which they are attempting to implement change.

    • doconnor says:

      Under Mixed Member Proportional, as advocated by the NDP, you would get 2 votes, one for you MP and one for a party which would be used for the proportionality.

    • Matt says:

      The USA.

      People vote for their representitive in the House, Senate and President.

  14. Kevin says:

    All good points. And yeah, it’s an outrageous cost for something you could have assigned to a Marketing 101 class as a term project. But it doesn’t have a few of the Oda elements.
    Oda’s image was already bad. When you think of Bev Oda, you see someone in sunglasses and a leather jacket with a smoke hanging out of her mouth. She looks like a two-bit hood, Morneau doesn’t. And the orange juice was a personal pampering on the public dime, and that never sits well. A document cover doesn’t carry the same baggage.
    The tax shelter? That’s in a different class altogether…
    My two cents.

  15. Matt says:

    Trudeau and Morneau shall now and forever be called Taxman and Robbin’.

    You decide who’s who

  16. Bill Templeman says:

    Charlie, fair question. It is Liberal policy positions that annoy me. The flip-flops, the no-shows.

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