No man, woman, or child has worked harder campaigning for the Martin Liberals in the wake of the sponsorship scandal than Gurmant Grewal. And just when you thought he had already given it his all, it turns out he's being accused of depositing campaign contributions into his personal accounts.
It's hard to imagine a more effective way to completely neutralize any fallout from the Gomery report than to have a Conservative MP out there telling donors ``Oh, and that campaign contribution cheque? Yeah, just make that out to `cash'.''
Now it's clear that whatever Grewal may have done -- and it's only allegations at this stage -- is not even playing in the sponsorship scandal's league in terms of total dollars. And instead of it being all Canadian taxpayers being fleeced, it was a few donors. In its way, though, that must make it all the more frustrating for the Conservatives. Because however comparatively small the amount, it remains awfully hard for the Conservatives to effectively play the ``Vote them out! They're corrupt!'' card against the Liberals when the allegations suggest that at least one Conservative MP -- a very public one who the leadership has stood behind -- would be out there passing cash under restaurant tables with the best of them the moment that his party took power.
Stephen Harper doubtless thought that being loyal to his MP was the right thing to do. But the ``they're corrupt, vote for us instead'' pitch is only convincing if the public has good reason to expect that you will be much cleaner than the alternative; claiming fewer corrupt politicians is a pretty weak selling point. If the Conservatives wanted to be taken seriously as the party of good behaviour, they should have walked the walked and ousted their member at the first whiff of impropriety. Or at least the second or third.
Despite the black humour that the ever more sordid Grewal affair allows, this situation is enormously discouraging. A second party which would make for a viable government is absolutely essential, and the traditional two seem, at the moment, hopeless. But then, traditions change. If Jack Layton -- who Canadians view as significantly more honest -- starts running a strong `cleaning House' campaign, who knows what might happen.