Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Return of Slushgate too little too late

In the late spring a scandal broke where the Ontario government had awarded $32 million in grants to ethnic groups without any kind of application process. The scandal really caught public's attention when a cricket club that received twice as much money as they requested. A $15 million grant to the UJA went mostly unnoticed in the media.

The decision to shutdown parliament 3 weeks early avoided the government having to defend themselves during question period. The Auditor General was eventually called in to investigate and confirmed the government acted improperly but that the funds did not go to friends of the Liberal party. Citizenship Minister Michael Colle resigned his cabinet position. The scandal was completely overshadowed in the October election by the faith based school funding issue. The government did promise that they would make every effort to recoup the money that was handed out.

A letter has been released from Larry Tanenbaum, thanking the Premier as well as Michael Colle, Monte Kwinter, David Caplan and Greg Sorbara for their support in obtaining the $15 million grant. The money went to the improvement projects for (3) Jewish Communities Centres in or on the outskirts of Toronto. The NDP and Conservatives have renewed calls for an RCMP investigation to determine if any criminal acts were committed.

The opposition response is too little too late. They had the opportunity to make this scandal a central issue in the election campaign and blew it. Even Michael Colle was able to retain his seat (with a significantly smaller margin of victory then past elections). The thank you letter just demonstrates that those who normally lobby the government had the opportunity to obtain these funds. This is should not be a surprise as it demonstrates that the lobbying industry works.

What is surprising is that every media outlet with the exception of the Toronto Sun is referring the grant as going to "a Jewish group" Why is the media choosing not to name the UJA as the recipient of this money? The public is better served when relevant information is made available to the public. Creating the impression that the UJA will not fall under the same scrutiny as the cricket club is a disservice to the Jewish community.

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