All ridings are equal. Some ridings are more equal than others.
Addressing a gathering of party faithful in Ottawa Friday morning, Harper said his plan is aimed at a complete government makeover.
"This is about more than the specific sordid details of this specific scandal," he said to cheers. "It's about accountability."
In a speech outlining what amounts to his party's election campaign platform, Harper made clear his vision for the Prime Minister's Office.
"When I become prime minister I will undertake an unprecedented overhaul of the federal government," he said. "That is my commitment to you."
"Cleaning up government begins at the top," he added, accusing Prime Minister Paul Martin of deflecting blame whenever the taint of scandal touches him.
"Under Paul Martin's watch the waste and mismanagement and corruption has continued."
But Harper said things would change under his leadership, beginning with the introduction of a "Federal Accountability Act," as soon as the Conservatives form a government.
"We must clean up corruption and lift up the veils of secrecy that have allowed it to flourish," Harper said, promising to "replace the culture of entitlement with a culture of accountability."
So, how did that "culture of accountability" thing turn out?
Well, despite early evidence that the new boss looked a lot like the old boss, the hard cores were always able to find excuse.
Appointed Senators and floor crossers in Cabinet? Fine, fine, they said, he needs representation from Montreal and Vancouver. The in-and-out scandal? An Elections Canada witch hunt. A broken fixed elections date law? Well, it doesn't apply to minority governments, obviously. A flurry of Tory hacks sent to the Senate last December? The coalition made them do it. A second round of patronage this summer? Harper did it to bring about Senate reform - he's clever that way.
You can now add "partisan advertising with taxpayers dollars", "pork barrel politics, in the form of money to government-held ridings", and "a lack of transparency" to the list. And the Tories have stopped trying to find excuses - they now readily admit that Harper has converted to the religion he used to preach against. From Wherry:
“Here is what the Prime Minister said,” the Minister continued. “‘Listen. We are the government. I don’t see why we can’t try to get credit for what we do. I hope we do so. There is nothing to be ashamed in that.’ Do members know who said that? It was Prime Minister Jean Chrétien.”
The Conservatives behind Mr. Baird did not boo. They howled delightedly. Indeed, several stood to applaud.
So it was spoken and now so it is written in the record of Parliament, forever cast in proverbial stone. Nearly four years ago, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives came to power on one promise: that he and they were nothing like Jean Chrétien and his Liberals, that he and they were different, better. And here, nearly four years later, was John Baird, one of Mr. Harper’s most trusted ministers, wrapping himself in ideals of a man who represented everything the Prime Minister once despised, making Mr. Chrétien’s words his own.
So much for all that then.
Indeed. Given all the talk about pork-barrel politics, it's hard not to think of the final line of George Orwell's Animal Farm, about the reolutionaries who become the very thing they rose up against:
The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which."