Thursday, January 31, 2019

Would anyone bribe an MP?

Why would anyone try to bribe an MP?  They are, after all, the only people in the country with no political opinions of their own, having accepted that their job is solely to be cheerleader and mouthpiece for whatever the leader advocates.

So I was dubious, to say the least, at Maclean's journalist Scott Gilmore's recent argument that then-ambassador John McCallum was compromised by all the trips he took to China when he was an MP.  These were straight-up parliamentary junkets, exchanges between parliamentarians around the world, and many MPs participate in them.  It seemed like a reasonable thing to encourage. I only regretted that MPs never seemed to learn anything from all the parliaments full of lively, fiesty backbenchers routinely holding their leaders to account.

But the subsequent comments from McCallum, the ones that got him fired from the ambassadorship, really did sound like advocacy for the Chinese point of view at times, and his persistence after being warned to stop diverging from Canadian policy, did make you wonder if an MP really had fallen too wholly in love with China during all those subsidized trips.  He wouldn't have learned much about feisty backbenchers in China.  So did China sell him on the glories of its economic progress?  The Toronto Star quotes diplomats who suspect McCallum was effectively "wooed" -- not bribed -- by China.  So were all those MP junkets funded by China a good investment too.

Since the biographies rarely note this, I will mention that John McCallum was a historian at the start of his career, the author of a good book called Unequal Beginnings about the role of agriculture in funding the shift to industry in 19th century Ontario but not so much in Quebec at the same time. As an academic, he helped secure funding for McGill's Institute for the Study of Canada, sez Wikipedia.  I guess international trade economics,  Royal Bank chief economist, and politics took him away from 19th century farm economics
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