Almost exactly a year ago, I was at Pearson Airport, awaiting the appearance of a family member. The arrival doors slid open, and out walked Conservative cabinet member Peter MacKay with an unidentified companion. Smiling, laughing, they headed off to points unknown.
In retrospect, I should have taken a picture of that historic moment, so that Sun News could show the world that Peter MacKay has, indeed, flown commercial with the rest of us plebians, at least once.
Unbeknownst to me at the time, the sighting of MacKay at Pearson ranks up there with the repatriation of the Constitution, and the placement of the Last Spike.
It was that momentous. It should have been one of those Heritage Minutes that were on TV all the time, years ago.
Now, MacKay has taken to waving libel writs at anyone who has the temerity to suggest that he has grown overly fond of traveling on the public’s dime, so let’s be cautious. And, let me emphasize, I am not saying that the minister of defence is a reckless, pompous, out-of-touch wastrel and squanderer, one who makes drunken sailors look like models of fiscal restraint and probity. I did not say that, Your Honour.
Instead, let us briefly recite the facts in this sad tale, most of which are now well-known.
To wit: In July 2010, MacKay was living the good life at an ultra-exclusive fishing lodge for rich people. He had to get back to work pronto, he claimed. So, instead of taking a boat and car ride to the airport at Gander, he was picked up by a shiny yellow Defence Department Cormorant helicopter, at a cost to the taxpayer of many thousands.
Happily, he got to watch the folks on the helicopter perform a “training mission.” E-mails obtained by the Toronto Star, however, suggest that an unnamed senior official gave the order to pick up MacKay at the rich people fishing lodge “under the guise” of a training mission.
Now, it could be that MacKay is being truthy. Or, it could be — as the Opposition and the Defence Department e-mails suggest — he is full of it, and MacKay now regards military jets and helicopters as his personal transit service, costs to the taxpayer be damned.
Like most idiotic things that the Harper regime does, we’ll never really know the truth.
They’re not particularly good at governing, these guys, but they are truly world-class performers in cover-ups and obfuscation.
We are unlikely to get at the facts — and, even if we do, Harper won’t act on them. That’s how these guys roll.
So, instead, let’s look at the political fallout of Flyboy Pete’s misadventure.
You want truth? MacKay, as a Conservative leadership candidate, is done like dinner. He’s toast. He’s finished. His only real competitor, Citizenship Minister Jason Kenney, must be barely able to contain himself, he’s so gleeful.
That’s not to say that Kenney’s long march through ethnic buffet halls towards the Conservative crown is now going to end in success. Notwithstanding what card-carrying Conservative delegates think about him, the country won’t be nearly as enthusiastic. He’s a social conservative nutbar, he lacks Stephen Harper’s political acumen and he closely resembles a young Richard Nixon.
So, on that day, 10 years hence — when Harper retires — Peter MacKay was going to be the one, you see.
After a decade of Harper’s hard-right wedge politics, voters would have been in the mood for what a Progressive Conservative like MacKay would have had to offer. After years of Harper, the kinder, gentler conservatism of MacKay would have had appeal.
But MacKay got too full of himself, and he blew his reputation to bits with his attachment to the trappings of power. For his entitlements. Like I say: He’s done.
Should have taken that picture of Peter MacKay flying commercial, when I had the chance.