Thursday, October 2, 2014

A Tale Of Two Parliamentary Secretaries*

What do Paul Calandra and Dean Del Mastro have in common? Well, let's answer that question by first stating the obvious. Both are of Italian heritage; both have served as Prime Minister Harper's Parliamentary Secretary; both have made blubbering speeches in the House of Commons; and, surprise surprise, both have stood accused of illegal/unethical conduct.

You may recall that Del Mastro, whose trial for falsifying election documents and knowingly exceeding the Election spending limit is winding up, offered an emotional defence of his integrity in the House. Please watch only until you feel your gag reflex kicking in:

After his recent contemptuous behaviour in the House, Harper's current Parliamentary Secretary, Paul Calandra, offered this PMO-directed nauseating performance as an act of atonement. The same viewer advisory applies:

But how does the taint of criminal/unethical behavior apply to Mr. Calandra? Surprisingly, it is all part of the public record.

Mr. Calandra likes to talk about his hard-working father who may or may not have owned a pizza shop. (That story has changed over the years; earlier versions had him as a barber who owned a hair salon. What is indisputable is that he eventually made a small fortune in real estate.)

Interestingly, the stories rarely deal with his mother. There may be a good reason.

In January of this year, Glen McGregor of the Ottawa Citizen uncovered some very interesting elements of Paul Calandra's dealings with his mother:
Before he was elected in 2008, the prime minister’s parliamentary secretary, Paul Calandra, was embroiled in an ugly family dispute in which he was accused of taking money from his dying mother and suggesting he should kill his sister.
The events are alleged to have occurred in 2005, and were the basis of a lawsuit launched by his sisters; the issue was settled in 2008 before Calandra was first elected.
In an affidavit filed in October 2005, Concetta Calandra described how her mother Franca allegedly confronted Paul about approximately $8,000 that had been charged to Franca’s Visa card and her TD bank account.

“Paul went ballistic,” Concetta claimed in the affidavit.

“He was completely out of control. He started calling me names, suggested that he should kill me and punched the pantry door.”

“He said, ‘mom didn’t need to know about it,’ and that when the money ran out, that he would use the money in her mutual funds,” the affidavit says of the January 2005 conversation.
Calandra, who at the time had power of attorney for his mother, said that his mother had authorized the expenditures as “compensation for the sacrifice the defendant was making by foregoing employment to care for his sick mother.”

His sister said it was fraud. Shortly afterward, his mother Franca transferred power of attorney to Concetta.

However, this did not stop Calandra from further alleged pilfering, behaving as if he still had power over his mother's finances:
Concetta said she found that her mother’s widow’s benefit had been garnisheed to pay down more than $10,000 in unpaid taxes. She said she was shocked because she believed $25,000 taken from her mother’s account had been used to pay the Canada Revenue Agency. In fact, she alleged in court documents, Calandra wrote the cheque to himself.

Calandra said in his statement of defence that he never claimed the $25,000 was intended to pay taxes. Rather, he said, “The money was given to the defendant by his mother freely, without pretext and on her own volition.”
Calandra's alleged thefts did not end there. Three months before her death, a farm property in Stouffville owned by Franca was transferred to list both her and Paul as joint tenants, a fairly common move that is used to avoid paying probate fees. However, Paul's
sisters alleged that Calandra wrongly caused the property to be transferred, then mortgaged the property for $240,000, even though he no longer had power of attorney. When Franca died, the sisters claimed, Calandra was able to claim ownership of the farm property.
The case ends there; a document filed on the first day of the 2008 federal election campaign said the parties had settled the case.

What is known is that a few weeks into that campaign, Calandra sold the farm property for $950,000 to a local landscape contractor.

None of this is perhaps surprising for close observers of a federal government that has long placed expedience before morality; that Calandra is now Harper's Parliamentary Secretary and sits on the House ethics committee seems in some ways both appropriate and emblematic of a regime that has debased the body politic for far too long.

* I am indebted to my friend Dave in Winnipeg, the catalyst for this post. He sent an email alerting me to Calandra's questionable past, and pointed out that it has been dealt with in the satirical political magazine Frank. You can read the Frank assessment of this tawdry episode here.


  1. .. that's the cream of the noble talent pool Stephen Harper relies on to deliver his bleak & mealy messages to Parliament, the media and eventually to Canadians.

    In fairness, there are others, just as flawed foolish & weak. Peter Van Loan, Fred DeLorey, Jason MacDonald etc.. and here and there Joe Oliver smirks and utters a load of economic bombast.. Baird brays some greasy outrage quotes and we can always count on Ezra or Tony Clement.

    What is truly dispiriting is the complete absence of exemplars or leaders within the entire cabal. Instead Canada is inflicted with losers, ethical weaklings and shrill partisan political animals. What comes from their mouths are stunning deceits reflecting Stephen Harper's controlling ambitions.

    Its all a circus game to them and Calandra's recent weeping clown performance was just another replay or relay of yet another dim Harper dictate.To describe this menagerie of elected public servants as willful buffoons is being too courteous to them.

    We can also play the game of fools though. So riddle me this.. Just as Harper may see things only as black or white, so can we. Either all actions are dictated by Harper personally.. which is damning.. or he has no idea what his dull underlings are deciding.. equally damning. Which is it Batman ? Who is running the circus Batman ? What's going on under the big top ? It seems the circus freaks are out of control, the clowns as well..

    1. Your comments remind me, Salamander, of the ever-growing picture of Harper reprobates that Alison at Creekside periodically updates. Soon, it will be so big that even the widest computer screen will not be able to capture it completely. The entirety of this rogues' gallery is tied directly to our prime minster through personal affiliation with and/or selection by Dear Leader. However, the axiom "The buck stops here" has no currency in Harperland. All who have erred have done so, goes the narrative intended for the credulous masses, without his knowledge.

      Does such a poor overseer of personnel really deserve another term?

  2. Listened to an interesting round table discussion of B.R.I.C.S. nations want to be young policy makers and it was eye opening. They stated while they do want to have good relations with American puppet states like Canada it is very difficult to be in the same room as our leaders. They are quote "repulsive" and leaders like Harper make their "skin crawl when in close proximity to them". Could not have said it better myself. We have no one to blame but ourselves for putting these putrid excuses for human beings in power. Lets make this right.

    1. We have that chance to begin to put things to right, Anon, in October. Let's hope Canadians avail themselves of that opportunity in record numbers.