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Editorial: “Shadow MP” not ready for the big leagues

May 2012

After a mud-slinging campaign to dislodge the much-admired Irwin Cotler in last year’s federal election, the Conservatives thought they could pull a fast one by appointing the losing candidate in Mount Royal, Saulie Zajdel, to a patronage job.

Rather than take the usual route of so-called acceptable patronage, appointing a loser to sit on a government board or agency, Zajdel was hired by Heritage Minister James Moore. His appointment was only “announced” in a brief interview with a local weekly newspaper that supported Zajdel’s candidacy and the Conservative party.

Moore’s office refused to reveal his salary, or even spell out his mandate, though Zajdel later told a reporter he was disappointed his pay had not reached the six-figure range. The exact amount remains confidential. Zajdel’s mandate—in his words to the newspaper—was to promote and explain Canadian Heritage program available to multiethnic communities here. The implication was that he was paid to do the work that the MP and his staff normally do.

No wonder Cotler described Zajdel’s role as resembling a “shadow MP.”

Zajdel’s refusal to be transparent, the surreptitious way he was appointed and the nebulous nature of his job became a public issue. Not surprisingly, when Prime Minister Stephen Harper came here for some politicking, the media was more interested in Zajdel and his job. According to a report in The Gazette, he beat a hasty retreat from inquiring journalists rather than face nagging questions. He obviously could not stand the heat, so he got out of the kitchen.

Unable to stick-handle his way around his appointment and its apparent political nature,
Zajdel resigned, telling a Montreal radio station he was “tired of being this distraction.”

Zajdel says he felt insulted by being labeled the “shadow MP” for Mount Royal, but sometimes the truth hurts. Will someone else be named to replace him? We don’t know, but we doubt it.

Zajdel says he hopes to run again in Mount Royal, if the party wants him.

Given the way he has performed as a member of Moore’s staff and his lack of candour about all aspects of his job, both he and the party might want to think twice about whether he would be suitable. Riding residents, who are used to being represented by MPs of the calibre of Pierre Trudeau and Irwin Cotler, are entitled to vote for the candidate and party that best reflects their views.

Zajdel, who increased the Conservative vote in Mount Royal, has every right to run again.

But the public-relations miasma that followed his brief tenure as a member of Moore’s staff suggests this former municipal politician is not ready for the major leagues.



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