Friday, June 02, 2006

Joe Volpe Gives Candy Back to Babies

I'd sure like these kids' allowances

Liberal leadership hopeful Joe Volpe has been busted.

Despite insisting that three $5,400 donations recieved from the children of exectuives of Apotex, a generic drug company, were perfectly legal, Volpe has chosen to return the controversial donations.

" They're kind of embarrassed about the controversy," Volpe said of the children's parents. "They had made a decision for very positive reasons and someone has turned it into something very negative."

And if you'll buy that, mr. Volpe also has a truckload of Apotex's new cure for the common cold that he can sell you -- slightly sneezed on.

In fact, Volpe has recieved $108,000 from current and former executives of the company, which under law, is prohibited from donating funds to a leadership race. While corporations are restricted from making donations, private individuals are not. So, if someone were to donate $5,400 in their children's names to a candidate they feel would be likely to reciprocate to their company, that would be perfectly legal.

...Or not. Under Elections Canada regulations, it is unlawful for individuals to willfully seek to circumvent election laws. While Volpe's lawyer sent NDP Member of Parliament Pat Martin a letter threatening to sue him for accusing Volpe of "a deliberate and well-orchestrated fraud on the Elections act donations limit rules." Martin has since retracted his statement and apologized. Perhaps rightfully so.

Yet, it would seem, if mr. Volpe has not himself tried to circumvent this law, has someone not sought to do it on his behalf? Namely, Apotex CEO Barry Sherman and president Jack Kay? Sherman donated $5,400 in the name of his 11-year-old twins and 14-year-old son. Kay donated in the name of his two children as well.

Of course, one could argue that perhaps the children donated the money out-of-pocket. Liberal party rules actually allow minors to participate in the party. They may be delegates at party conventions, provided that they can pay thousands of dollars in fees necessary to attend. Then again, one would expect that the children of Canada's richest would have one fuckload of an allowance -- certainly enough to cover these expenses.

This has been the story of the Liberal leadership race from the very beginning. In an effort to open the process to more "ordinary people", each candidate must pay a $50,000 fee. Notably, this was reduced from a previous $75,000 fee -- but one can easily question may many "ordinary people" are willing to mortgate their homes in order to enter a leadership race they could not win, in a political party that is predisposed to electing multi-millionaires and billionaires as their leader.

Curiously, Joe Volpe's website (, which is emblazoned with his campaign slogan: "Growth, Opportunity and Equality" has nothing to say about this controversy. As with all Liberal leadership candidates, his campaign slogan should read: "Hegemony of the rich, for the rich, by the rich."

Because that is precisely what this is. Joe Volpe and his Liberal bretheren certainly want this story to blow over quickly, mostly because of the parallels it could draw between them and the spectacularly unpopular and corrupt Bush administration in the United States. In a very similar fashion, corporate executives in the United States were able to gain influence with the president by soliciting donations from their friends, families and employees, then packaging them together to form donations that well exceeded the maximum permissable under American law, yet remained legal because they were essentially thousands of smaller donations. Corporate executives who were able to deliver $100,000 in packaged donations were dubbed "Rangers". Those able to deliver $200,000 in donations were dubbed "Pioneers". In return for delivering such a package of donations, American pharmaceutical executives were able to push through a national prescription drug program that would benefit the companies at the expense of the taxpayer.

This is transactional politics at its worst. And for a leadership candidate of a party that, during the 2006 election, accused Conservative leader Stephen Harper of accepting funds from U.S. President George W. Bush, this absolutely reeks.

There, is however, a ray of hope. The NDP have responded by proposing an amendment that would count the political donations of any minors against the contribution limits of their parents, an amendment that Treasury Board President John Baird has said the Conservatives are very receptive to.

Volpe, for his part, claims that while these donations don't violate the letter of the law, his decision to return them is due to his respect for the spirit of the law. Yet, someone could ask them why he accepted them to begin with, let alone why he waited until after tremendous public and media backlash to do this.

One can simply call it good old fashioned Liberal duplicity. Joe Volpe clearly doesn't care very much about Elections regulations -- he's certainly more than willing to accept money from those who don't care about them at all.

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