Friday, March 27, 2015

Anyone seen "Tricky Vic?"

Good Day Readers:

Was at The Law Courts today but didn't see "Justice" Toews on the daily docket, Jezus, hope he hasn't self-destructed yet! Thought for sure he'd be in court throwing the book at someone for not paying their rent and garnishing their wages. Or what about hearing a case involving illegal lobbying? Perhaps he's still looking for that hacker group Anonymous in a haystack for those half dozen embarrassing YouTube videos that remain on the internet.

"I know you're in there! Come out Anonymous with your hands up or I'll call CSIS and the RCMP!"

You have to like Dan "Sleepy" Lett's line,, "He gives patronage a bad name. The Harper government should be thanking the stars he's no longer a cabinet minister.

Sincerely,
Clare L. Pieuk
A penchant to self-destruct in full view
Toews hasn't changed at all

By Dan Lett
Friday, March 27, 2015
Vic Toews was sworn in as a Queen's Bench Justice in May 2014. Before that he was a cabinet minister at both the federal and provincial levels. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

You can say a lot of things about Court of Queen's Bench Justice Vic Toews.

You could certainly say Toews was a successful politician, serving as a cabinet minister at both the federal and provincial levels.

You could also say he was frequently, consistently newsworthy, channelling his blustery, verbose personality into some of the best partisan political rhetoric ever heard in federal and provincial politics in this country.

You could also fairly conclude he was a prominent beneficiary of patronage, retiring from politics and receiving a judicial appointment to the Court of Queen's bench.

Finally, you could point out that throughout his political and personal life, Toews has had a penchant for self-destructive behaviour.

This penchant has been on display over the last week with the eruption of two stories that confirm his long, personal history of questionable judgment.
It has long been known that for a very public man, Toews has, at times, led a messy existence

This week, we learned Toews will be investigated by the federal ethics commissioner for lobbying work performed during the six months following his retirement from politics and before his judicial appointment.

Toews did consulting work for the Peguis First Nation, with which he had dealings during his years in the federal cabinet, a fact that raises questions.

And then on Thursday, we learned Toews has had his wages garnisheed under an order from a Quebec tribunal for failing to pay thousands of dollars in back rent on a Gatineau condominium.

Toews claimed he did not pay the back rent because he could not understand the tribunal's order and supporting documents, which were written in French.

The judge who issued the garnishment order noted Toews was a lawyer and a former federal attorney general. "More than anyone, he should be in a position to understand the respect and attention that should be paid to a document titled 'Decision,' the judge wrote.

For those of us who have followed Toews' career, none of this is very surprising.

It has long been known that for a very public man, Toews has, at times, led a messy existence.

He pleaded guilty to exceeding 1999 election spending limits while a provincial politician. Toews claimed he ran afoul of the limits because of decisions made by the Manitoba Progressive Conservative campaign to run certain expenses through his riding. Still, he could have settled the matter quietly to avoid media attention. Instead, he fought it all the way to court before pleading guilty and paying a $500 fine.

The same appetite to make a bad situation worse was on display in his divorce a few years ago.

Toews worked to keep details of his failed marriage from public view. He had fathered a child with a Tory staffer.

However, despite having a lot to lose from the publicity, Toews managed his divorce proceedings in a way that attracted publicity.

At one point, he fired his lawyer and began to act on his own behalf. This slowed proceedings, prompting his ex-wife to file documents detailing a history of infidelity.

The file of self-inflicted wounds goes on. In 2010, he was caught failing to declare pension income earned while he worked as a Manitoba Crown attorney. In 2008, while still a minister, it was learned he had applied for a federal judicial appointment, a bid that caused even more headaches for the Harper government.

Frankly, Toews is doing no favours for the federal Conservatives who, against a lot of advice and a risk of political blowback in Manitoba, helped him obtain the federal judicial appointment he desired.

Setting aside a job like this for a former cabinet minister, just six months after he left federal politics, is more than a little risky for a sitting government.

How has Toews rewarded his former political colleagues? From the moment he left government, he has acted in a way that has invited criticism.

He has raised the spectre he violated ethics guidelines by lobbying on behalf of a First Nation he dealt with while in cabinet.

And he ignored an order requiring him to pay back rent until he was forced to endure the humiliation of a garnishee order.

Not all political patronage is unfair. There are many times when good people are rewarded for a job well done with an appointment to a job they deserve. But then there are patronage plums handed out to politicians such as the former MP for Provencher.

That could be Toews' political epitaph: He gave patronage a bad name.

dan.lett@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 27, 2015 A4

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