Helena Guergis A Victim?

It's been hard not to hear about the Helena Guergis affair. Just a few weeks ago, this Member of Parliament was a member of Cabinet and the Minister of State for the Status of Women. Recently, Guergis was forced to resign from Cabinet pending an investigation into her conduct by the RCMP and the Ethics Commissioner. The allegations against Ms. Guergis have never been disclosed to her. She has also been dropped by the Conservative party as a future nominee in her own riding.

Before I go any further, I should point out that I have never voted Conservative. In fact, I would rather stick pins in my eyes. However, in the Guergis affair there is a much bigger issue that is getting little air time--the Prime Minister and the Conservative Party's treatment of women, and not just any woman, the Minister responsible for the Status of Women.

Last February, in a rush to catch her flight at the Charlottetown airport, MP Guergis lost her temper, was less than polite with airport staff and made some disparaging remarks about the city of Charlottetown. She later apologized publicly for her outburst. First of all, I have never been to an airport without seeing a passenger throw a temper tantrum. Does this excuse the behaviour of a member of Cabinet ? No. But if it had been a male member of  Cabinet, it would have been a non-event, and if he had been forced to make a public apology--another non-event. Let's face it: men can still lose their temper in public, women cannot.

Guergis is a young MP who has made some mistakes, as people new to politics are wont to do. She is also married to former Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer, who was picked up by police last fall for drinking and driving, and possession of cocaine. He later paid a $500 fine and was charged with dangerous driving. There have also been reports that Jaffer used his wife's office, car, e-mail address and blackberry to conduct business, not great foresight on the part of Jaffer, a seasoned MP who knew the rules. But I'm sure that he is not the only spouse on Parliament Hill to use a government car or e-mail account for business. Jaffer also reportedly frequents strip clubs and has boasted that he has an "in" at the Prime Minister's office. Is it really out of the ordinary for businessmen to brag or frequent strip clubs? I don't think so.

Let's flash back to the late 1970s. The Prime Minister's wife partied in her hotel room with the Rolling Stones, one of whom, just a few days later, was arrested for heroin possession. Was the Prime Minister's reputation tarnished by his wife's behaviour? No. In fact, most people felt sorry for him, so much so that he was re-elected.

Now more than 30 years later, women who have been successful enough to reach public office are still defined by what their husbands do. Not only are women under greater scrutiny in the public eye, but they also are guilty by association. Guergis should not have let her husband use her office and communications devices, but this did not warrant her ouster from Cabinet, Caucus or the Conservative Party. Furthermore, employers are required to give reasons and warnings before a dismissal. Guergis received neither. She was clearly blamed and punished unjustly for her husband's behaviour.

I realize that many of you will object to my comparing Helena Guergis, a junior cabinet minister, with former Prime Minister Trudeau. Like comparing apples and oranges, some will say. But that's because I was hard pressed to find an equivalent comparison. Let's face it: if a similar series of events had happened to a junior minister who was a man, it wouldn't have made the front page. Double standards are still alive and well.

Ladies, if this is how the Conservative Prime Minister treats the Minister of State for the Status of Women, imagine how he will treat women if he wins a majority of seats in the next election. Just peel off your socks and head back to the kitchen.

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Fran├žois-B.Tremblay | May 15, 2010 at 2:01 PM

As longs as it's their wife and not a mistress, male Con Ministers can do pretty much anything. The worse that can happen is that they're put in the penalty box, like Maxime Bernier.

I hope we'll soon know what are the charges against her.

Heather | May 15, 2010 at 2:23 PM

As far as I can see, the charges against her involve being married to Rahim Jaffer. If the tables had been turned, ie, Jaffer had been in office and Guergis had been pulled over for possession of cocaine and drunk driving, everyone would have felt sorry for him. "Oh poor Rahim!" they would say. But as it stands, she's just as guilty as he is.

Anonymous | May 17, 2010 at 6:21 PM

I have never heard such a crock - if you want to eat at the public trough you must be squeeky clean. The 70s is long past, tell us why a politician driving drunk and in possesion of cocain only got a slap on the wrist instead of the jail time anyone else would get and deserve. Ignorance of the law or the actions of your spouse is no excuse. What goes around comes around, a lesson all politicians need to learn. PM Harper is a self righteous jackass and would never have been elected if the Liberals put a credible person in charge of their party. We create, invite and manifest everything that happens in our life. Her own actions created this situation in her life.

Heather | May 17, 2010 at 7:31 PM

I agree that PM Harper is a cold, heartless, autocratic leader who doesn't respect his own cabinet.

But, unless proven otherwise, Helena Guergis IS squeaky clean. Her husband has had a brush with the law. She hasn't.

Nor has she left a top secret document at someone's house NOR has she been named in a mortgage fraud scandal. Are they, eh, "squeaky clean?" But never mind, they're men. Doesn't count, right?

Anonymous | May 17, 2010 at 7:41 PM

I sppose you think Hillary didn't get elected because her husband messed around as well. Time to wake up and get real. You missed the bra burning rally by years. Maybe her husbands minimal punishment was because his wife was an active politician, he wasn't. You are simply making excuses to avoid facing the facts. People that constantly blame their misfortune on others have no business representing honest tax paying members of our society. Personally I resent to pay the salary of drunken drug addicts or their spouses regardless of which one is the criminal. It's called guilt by association and it's nothing new.

Heather | May 17, 2010 at 8:26 PM

LOL. You're right: it is guilt by association; it isn't new. BUT it doesn't make it right.

But tell me, if Rahim Jaffer had been re-elected and Helena had been pulled over for possession of cocaine and drunk driving, would Jaffer have been thrown out of Cabinet and Caucus and barred from running under the party banner?

Anonymous | May 17, 2010 at 9:18 PM

He probably wouldn't be booted I mean this guy got away with a DUI and cocaine possesion but your still skirting the issue. There is a lot more here. She says he used her office and not only met clients there but conducted calls from her office. She also states that she was unaware if he was creating a conflict of interest (give me a break), she is either not telling the truth or terminally stupid. Angels DO NOT sleep with devils and claim they didn't know better. If she dumped this goof to save her career I am sure no one would blame her but she must be in love (obviously in the eyes of the beholder). She picked him. How would you feel if your spouse started associating with known criminals. To be sure it would reflect on your own credibility and justifiably so. Unfortunately a pretty smile won't be enough this time around. Deep down she may be a lovely lady but let's face it, she IS a politician and I doubt if she is the only honest one. She is torn between saving her marriage or her career which is also not new. She elected to
use her maiden name so maybe she she will go for the career, we can only hope. In the meantime, I
think Tim Hortens is looking for help. May God bless and protect us all from those who think they know what's better for us.

Heather | May 18, 2010 at 8:06 AM

Great! We agree that there is a double standard. That was the point of this post.

I did state above that she shouldn't have let her husband use her office and communications devices for business purposes.

Just one last question, if you were to let your spouse use your communications devices and offices for his/her business, wouldn't you assume that s/he wouldn't do anything that would reflect badly on you?

Sadly, here was Guergis's lapse in judgment. BUT a lapse in judgment, like living a top secret document at your girlfriend's house, does not merit an ouster from your cabinet, caucus and party.

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