Harper and Reynolds need to give their heads a shake
I don't often chat politics with neighbours and co-workers. But when I do, one of the most common objections to a Conservative government is that "they'll be just as corrupt as the Liberals." I've always thought this was incredibly unfair, and counterproductive too - if we start with the presumption that all politicians are crooks, we'll be paralyzed by cynicism. I've replied to these people that I think the Tories probably won't be ethically perfect, but they'll fix problems quickly and thoroughly.
Now we have news that a Conservative candidate in BC failed to disclose to the party that he has been charged with a smuggling offence alleged to have occurred in 2004.
Canada Customs and Revenue Agency alleges Zeisman tried to smuggle a 1989 Mercedes-Benz as well as 112 bottles of liquor in July 2004 from the U.S. into Canada. He's also accused of lying to customs officers about the incident.
If convicted, Zeisman could be fined up to $50,000 and face six months in jail.
Zeisman, who is to appear in court next month, did not tell his party about the charges, which he called "unjustified." He said the information was leaked by someone in the government who had a grudge against him.
Here's what should have happened. When the Conservative Party found out that Zeisman was less than forthcoming with his entire history, he should have been asked to withdraw from the race. Failing a voluntary withdrawl, he should have had his CPC candidacy revoked.
Here's what actually happened:
John Reynolds, the Tory campaign chairman, says the party intends to stand by Zeisman and the charges against him were only "administrative" in nature.
"He will go to court, and he is still an innocent man until he goes through this process," Reynolds told the Vancouver Province. "But even at that point, it's not a criminal offence."
Of course, Reynolds is perfectly correct: this man is innocent until proven guilty. I have no idea if the charges were trumped up or not. And all that is entirely beside the point.
Since when is the standard for ethical behaviour in MY Conservative Party criminality? This man failed to disclose what he should have, and the appearance of impropriety has refected poorly on MY party. This is EXACTLY the type of situation that Harper has said he would deal with decisively in a Conservative government.
It's not too late. In fact, the opportunity exists for an "I told you I would, and I am, even though it hurts our political chances" moment.
You're not just another politician, Stephen, promising and promising but not delivering when the going gets tough. Now's the time to prove it.
Update: Well, it looks like my faith is not entirely misplaced:
In a news conference in Halifax on Thursday morning, Tory Leader Stephen Harper said it's too late to legally withdraw Zeisman as a candidate for the riding.
But Harper added: "I will say today that this candidate, Mr. Zeisman, will not be sitting as a Conservative should he be elected" on Jan. 23.
Harper said his party did a criminal background check on Zeisman, but that "this matter did not appear."
He said Zeisman should have revealed his legal problems before seeking the nomination. Harper stressed that this is not a criminal matter; "it is, however, a serious matter." (Babbler's emphasis)
Quick and decisive, and doing the right thing.