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Tory candidate’s government salary a secret

November 2011

Saulie Zajdel has a new job. No, he was not elected last May to the House of Commons as the MP for Mount Royal.

After a spirited campaign for the Conservative Party, the longtime Montreal city councilor and executive committee member failed to unseat incumbent Liberal Irwin Cotler. Several months later, though, Zajdel was hired by the Conservative government to do some of the things he said he would do if he were elected. How do we know he has a new job?

We read about it in a Montreal weekly that supported his bid to unseat Cotler. We tried to find out more about this reward to a losing candidate by contacting the office of Heritage Minister James Moore, Zajdel’s new boss.

Our questions were straightforward: What are his functions, salary and duration of his mandate? The answer, as supplied by Moore’s aide, Sébastien Gariepy: “We do not comment on internal staffing issues.”

So much for transparency.

The official also declined to supply an office phone number so Zajdel could be interviewed. Back to the weekly newspaper. Zajdel said he’ll be working as a regional adviser for “community outreach and relations—going out into the community, in Montreal, in the anglophone and allophone communities, ensuring that what the government is doing is understood.”

He also was going to determine how his government can “help the communities and municipalities” apply for programs under Canadian Heritage.

Sounds like Zajdel has been appointed to be a privileged channel, supplanting the role that the elected MP and his staff should be able to do. Surely, Cotler, a distinguished law professor, Stéphane Dion (St. Laurent), equally distinguished political science professor and former Liberal Party leader, and former astronaut Marc Garneau, who has a PhD in electrical engineering, and their staffs are capable of understanding which programs are available and communicating same to city councils and community groups.

This appointment has every appearance of setting Zajdel up as a parallel MP, minus the public mandate, a patronage appointment that is a slap in the face to voters who rejected Tory candidates as they exercised their democratic rights.

Of course, all governments reward their friends, but that does not diminish the fact that it undermines the will of voters in Mount Royal who chose someone else. The Zadjel appointment lays bare the Harper government’s moral deficit.

Essentially, Zajdel is being paid to make the kind of connections and obtain discretionary funding that can only help pave his path to Parliament if he decides to take another run at the riding.

Postscript: The Ottawa Citizen reported last month that a federal government program to help boost security at synagogues and mosques approved a far greater share of applications from ridings represented by Conservative MPs.

Nearly half of all applications to the pilot program coming from Conservative ridings were approved, but only 28 per cent of projects in opposition ridings got the green light, funding records show, the report said. The majority of the rejected applications came from synagogues and Jewish organizations in Mount Royal, represented by Liberal MP Irwin Cotler.



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