“To whom much is given, much is expected.” As slogans go, it’s a good and principled one but, when the walk is not walked and the walker gets caught, such bon mots can come back to bite the righteous in the ass.
Such is the case with Jane Philpott, now tainted as the limousine queen of the Justin Trudeau government.
There is no question she has been given much. With the 2015 federal election her first foray into politics, the rookie MP found herself being immediately put into cabinet as the first medical doctor to hold the health portfolio since 1935.
Her curriculum vitae is compelling, and her awards and honours are many. Besides being a family doctor in her Ontario riding of Markham-Stouffville, she has worked on humanitarian projects in Niger and has developed family-practice programs in Ethiopia.
Yes, much was expected of her in return for being given so much, but she let herself down.
She now joins the ranks of David Dingwall’s infamous “I’m entitled to my entitlements” and Bev Oda’s $16 orange juice.
From that there is no going back.
It cuts no ice that the owner of the Toronto-based limo company that provided thousands of dollars in high-end livery service for Philpott is vowing to reimburse taxpayers, or that the federal health minister has now apologized and said she’ll repay the “excessive costs related to travel for my work responsibilities.”
In the grander scheme of governance, the money spent on those limos is chump change, but the optics and reasons behind those expenses are disconcerting.
It is already out that Reza Shirani, the limo company’s proprietor, is a long-time Liberal supporter and was a volunteer during Philpott’s election campaign.
As Tory health critic Colin Carrie put it: “I think the average Canadian can connect the dots here … she has overpaid a Liberal activist three times the going rate.
“Some people would call this a kickback.” For the record, Shirani says he charged his “normal and standard rates.” If it happened only once, Philpott’s response that the cost of the limo service was “too high” and “inappropriate,” and that it would not happen again, might cut her some slack.
But it wasn’t a one-off.
The $1,700 for a one-day limo service, first flagged by the Conservatives, led Philpott’s office to admit to another $1,994 being paid to the same company for a single day in July, and a total of $3,814 for 20 trips to Pearson International Airport so Philpott could fly to Ottawa for parliamentary business.
So, it wouldn’t be the most implausible of coincidences to suggest Shirani was both chosen and so well-paid for chauffeuring Jane Philpott.
In that profile piece published a few days ago, Philpott said “people like me who have received a lot of opportunities in this country have an obligation to give back to society.
“That’s how you find meaning in life.” Today, with Philpott’s motto parked in a limo trunk, it’s a line that now has a Monty Python ring to it.
She should have known she’d be caught.
BY MARK BONOKOSKI, POSTMEDIA NETWORK
August 18th 2016