There’s a great scene in the film “State of the Union” in which presidential candidate Spencer Tracy sells his integrity piece by piece to a handful of interest groups in the back of a cab, in exchange for delegates to the Republican convention. (There are many great scenes in this under-appreciated film, which is at least the equal of “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” You should seek it out if you haven’t seen it).
Anyhow, turning to the business of chicken (as a friend of mine says), it seems that the erstwhile (and future?) Gerard Kennedy campaign team is outraged at National Post columnist Jonathan Kay’s contention that Kennedy put similar deal-making ahead of Canada’s security and the Air India inquiry. The nub of the column’s assertions vis a vis Kennedy:
Among veteran Liberal insiders, it is believed that the several hundred Sikh convention delegates [MP Navdeep] Bains and his allies led into the Dion camp (via Gerard Kennedy) came with a price: an end to the investigative powers contained in the Anti-Terrorism Act, which was opposed for predictable reasons by various Sikh, Tamil and Muslim organizations.
Indeed, I am informed by a well-informed source that the critical deals were cut months in advance, and were driven by Bains -- and, in the case of Muslim delegates, by Arab-Canadian MP Omar Alghabra -- through Kennedy, who’d been staked out early by ethno-politicians as an empty vessel into which they could pour their parochial agendas.
Chris Selley reports on the Kennedy/Dion push back on the Macleans website today:
Rob Silver, Kennedy’s national policy director during his leadership bid, fiercely denied that any such discussions ever took place. And he suggested that the direct link between the legislation and the Air India inquiry is too recent to have come up during the leadership convention.
“The issue of the sunset clauses in the anti-terror legislation was never raised by Navdeep Bains or any of his supporters,” Silver told Macleans.ca. “It was never raised by Omar Alghabra and it certainly wasn’t part of the discussions with Mr. Dion’s camp.
Alghabra told Macleans.ca that Bains “never knew much” about the Act. For his own part, Alghabra said that he intended to push for the clauses to be sunsetted, but had never discussed the issue with Dion and didn’t remember it ever coming up during the convention itself.
“I can tell you for a fact, as far as I know, there were no deals signed by anybody,” Alghabra said of Kennedy’s decision to back Dion. “I never asked for anything in return.”
Leaving aside the very intriguing question of how Omar Alghabra would know what Navdeep Bains does or does not know about federal legislation, this would not be the first “no deals” denial emanating from the Kennedy camp. As I blogged on December 4th:
The sucker this time was rookie Ajax-Pickering MP Mark Holland, chair of Gerard Kennedy’s Ontario operation. Holland was the focus of a short insider piece on CBC’s Sunday Night last night. From the beginning Holland speaks of an “arrangement” between Kennedy and Dion. Negotiations with the Dion camp and the “deal” are referred to several times throughout, by Holland and others.
Unfortunately for Holland, his star turn has made a liar of his candidate, Gerard Kennedy. In all the weekend interviews I saw, Kennedy denied that there was a deal between him and Dion.
Jane Taber: Had you made a deal with Mr. Dion?
Kennedy: No deal. I get nothing for this. We had a lot of conversations. I did with Mr. Rae and Mr. Ignatieff as well. We all have to have that contingency. And to me it’s how do we assemble the party. How do we get the new drive forward.
--Question Period, CTV, December 3
He said he cut no deal in exchange for his support. “I get nothing for this. This was not a negotiation. This is an understanding, this is mutual respect and I know that it's tempting to see it another way.”
--“All the right moves for Kennedy,” Toronto Star, December 3
I would agree that Kay’s column would benefit from the naming of a source or two. But unfortunately for Kennedy, his campaign already has a record of fibbing about what happened in the back of his leadership cab.