When the Reform Party swaggered into the Ottawa airport fifteen years ago, one of the grievances they had tucked inside their American Tourister bags was that government spent foolishly, favouring perks for senior bureaucrats, politicians and their friends far more than ordinary taxpayers (when it came to the Liberals, they were more predictive than they knew).
At the forefront of this taxpayers’ vanguard was John Williams. The Alberta MP hounded the Liberals daily on their handouts, expense accounts and contracts. He earned dubious notoriety for his “Waste Report” -- an occasional pamphlet laden with clip-art and examples of boondoggles large and small.
Fast forward to yesterday to witness that same paragon on frugality defending the Liberal-style mismanagement that allowed Jim Flaherty to award a $120,000 untendered contract to a political friend against Treasury Board rules.
Williams moaned that critics had lost sight of the greater good:
“This was a presentation of a $220 billion budget. The minister of finance knowledges that the rules were broken. He didn't even know they were broken. He says it will not happen again. He acknowledges that the rules be followed and this was just a storm in a teacup over a $120,000 contract. Yes, it was untendered but that money would have been spent anyway on whomever we had hired and as he said, we want somebody that we can trust, we want somebody that we know. We know somebody who can do the job. This had to be done on time and done right and therefore he got to the people he wanted to do it. He admits that he broke the rules and it won't happen again.”
If you are shocked, or at least struck by the irony of this reversal it’s because you missed a simple point: the Conservatives are the government now. Their waste isn’t waste, because they respect taxpayers. That said, er, it won’t happen again.
Gee John Williams, you sure have changed.