Monday, March 7, 2011

Raj and Hugh: a perfect pair?

Today's anticipated Sherman Showdown came and went in the Alberta Legislature without a bang. In fact, you'd almost struggle to find even a whimper in the good doctor's "revealing" documentation.

Instead of tabling conclusive proof to back up his allegations about deaths on a surgery waiting list and a massive payout of hush money from Capital Health to doctors so they would keep quiet, Raj Sherman tabled what amounts to about 3o or so pieces of correspondence that any MLA could find in their respective inboxes.

By now, even the most ardent Rajaholics must be starting to question if their golden boy has the goods. I've certainly been challenging that notion on Twitter and had an interesting reply that I think deserves some follow up.

About mid-way through today's Question Period, Edmonton-Gold Bar Liberal MLA Hugh MacDonald stood and asked a series of questions about a discrepancy of financial numbers in a government Annual Report on Healthcare (forgive me, I can't remember whether it was AHS or the former Capital Health and Hansard isn't out yet for me to check). The gist of Mr. MacDonald's question was that one number was $69 million higher than the other. I'm willing to bet that there's a pretty benign explanation for this that can easily be sorted out by someone from Alberta Health or the Auditor General's office. But his line of questioning, combined with the string of comments I received on Twitter tonight, suggests that Hugh MacDonald, Raj Sherman and his supporters believe this discrepancy represents the hush money allegedly paid out to doctors mentioned in Dr. Sherman's original statement.

Now Hugh MacDonald, for those who don't know, is one of the more entertaining MLAs during question period. He has been described by fellow blogger Dave Cournoyer as being like a dog that chases cars without actually knowing what he'd do if he managed to catch one. He will regularly ask questions alleging some government cover up or another. He takes some liberties that other opposition MLAs might not take. This is because, when it comes to the kinds of things he alleges, Hughie is almost always wrong.

The most infamous example of why it is perhaps prudent to take the "discoveries" of Hugh MacDonald with a grain of salt is an incident dating back 8 years ago, in the spring of 2003.

One afternoon in April, MacDonald was walking past then-MLA for Edmonton-Glenora Drew Hutton during committee. He happened to notice a leaflet in a pile of papers on the desk in front of Mr. Hutton that was an offensive piece of hate literature that a number of MLAs had received in correspondence.

Now rather than ask if Hutton knew what was in his folder, he had two other Liberal colleagues (Kevin Taft and former MLA Bill Bonner) walk past Mr. Hutton to confirm that to MacDonald had seen what he thought he had seen. They indeed confirmed it and, from then on, he was convinced, because it was in his correspondence folder, that Hutton was responsible for distributing this hate piece to fellow MLAs.

Rather than ask Drew Hutton about this matter, he elected to raise a point of privilege with the Speaker to condemn this hate literature and imply that Hutton was responsible for distributing it. Without first asking Hutton about it. Without telling him he'd bring forward a point of privilege. Without considering that Hutton, whose wife and children are Jewish, probably doesn't have much appetite for hate literature. Without thinking that maybe, just maybe, it was in his correspondence folder because he had received it as correspondence.

The whole thing played out over the course of 3 days. You can sift through the exchange here, here, and here - click on first hit to get to the relevant parts of Hansard. The end result was Hugh MacDonald being forced to apologize to Mr. Hutton and very nearly avoided being hauled in front of the Standing Committee on Privileges and Elections, the Legislature's disciplinary body. Of course, the matter wasn't resolved until Mr. MacDonald's allegations were reported all over the media and an innocent person's character was impugned all the while. Sound familiar?

Come to think of it, maybe Hugh MacDonald and Raj Sherman are a good team. They both seem to have the same understanding of the consequences of making wild accusations without substantiation. I guess we'll see how it all plays out.

But to those of Raj Sherman's supporters who think they've found in Hugh MacDonald their Sherlock Holmes, the man who'll be able to trace the missing money supposedly paid out to doctors as hush money, I have some unfortunate news...

... precedent suggests that this is actually the guy you've got on the case:

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