Politics, and more specifically how parties run themselves, can be a strange thing. That management can be far from being consistent or even rational, with some people getting tossed over the smallest things while others get kept around despite running up a laundry list of issues that would get just about anyone else booted. When you see the “laundry list” caucus members survive you really end up asking yourself “how this person is still there?” and “what will it actually take to get them booted?”
Back in June I wrote about the case of British Columbia Liberal MP Joe Peschisolido and the allegations made about him and his former law firm. The details that came out from that story were very striking and in the political sphere were extremely dangerous for the Liberals. It’s was the kind of story that attack ads are made of, so normally such an MP would be given the heave-ho. Yet Mr. Peschisolido is still there, as Liberal MP in Steveston-Richmond East and as the Liberal candidate in the upcoming election. So it was with those facts in mind that I recently saw two other news stories connected to this MP, one an update on the original story from Global News and the other a new story, one that brings questions of it’s own:
Let’s start with the Global update first, because this takes that whole story up a few notches. This came out two weeks ago, with Global stating that the RCMP had opened a file on Peschisolido after confidential informants told them that he was “knowingly associating with Chinese organized crime figures through his former real estate law practice in Richmond, B.C.” These new details jump this up because the RCMP doesn’t just do this kind of thing willy nilly.
To put it lightly, from the legal side this is an escalation of this story. From the political side, this is a four-alarm blaze of a problem, or at least it should be. With everything that’s been going on in BC around money laundering issues, the casinos, around organized crime and everything else, this case could make Peschisolido the posterchild for everything that’s wrong right now. So why in God’s name would you still want him in your caucus at this point, let alone as one of your candidates? That story alone makes it a very legitimate question to ask.
Then you add the new story that came out yesterday from iPolitics.ca, where a couple from Hong Kong is suing Peschisolido in small claims court for “allegedly mishandling their application for permanent residency.” Now for most MPs coming from a background where they ran their own business, a case going to small claims court seeking $6,457.84 in damages wouldn’t necessarily be the end of the World politically. It’s not a good thing, don’t get me wrong, but on the scale of potential problems that by itself would be further down the list of things to worry about.
But in the case of Peschisolido that is not truth. This is another case to add to the growing pile of others that forces you to ask more questions. You can’t look at this case in isolation because there is just too much there to ignore. All of this comes back to Peschisolido’s now-shuttered law firm and his alleged business practices. Also what makes this just as potentially damaging to the Liberals is having a sympathetic human face put on those allegations, especially given all of the turmoil that is now taking place in Hong Kong. Imagine living through everything that’s happening there now, and to know that you couldn’t get to the relative safety of Canada because of alleged paperwork and email bungling from the law firm you hired? That is a strong story to tell, one that would not look good on the candidate in question, and would raise questions of the party he is representing.
When all of this is put together and added to the original stories that came out in June, I’m left wondering all the more how Joe Peschisolido is in the Liberal caucus and how he is still their candidate for the 43rd General Election. Politically it’s gotten to the point where you have to wonder what else could possibly happen for it to finally be too much and why the Liberals seem to be willing to go so far to keep him in the fold. Other MPs in their caucus have been punted for less and you’d think that as soon as the RCMP was involved, that would at the very least call for Mr. Peschisolido to step aside from the caucus until the allegations were cleared up. Yet none of that so far.
In stories like these, eventually a point gets reached where a parties’ unwillingness to punish, suspend or remove a caucus member for allegations like these starts to transfer the blame for the acts. If a party acts quickly and decisively, it’s much easier for them to separate themselves from the alleged actions against that caucus member. But the longer they wait to act, and the more details that come to the surface, that starts to put some of the blame on the party itself. That delay or refusal to act sends a signal that they don’t have a problem with these allegations, that they feel they aren’t that serious or that they are above it all. And the longer that seeps into the public conscious, the harder it is to undo.
The Liberals are aware of this as much as anyone else, yet still Mr. Peschisolido remains. So today we have to ask ourselves “how this person is still there?” and “what will it actually take to get him booted?” We still don’t have those answers but these new stories have left a lot of people asking those questions. We’ll see which happens first: Peschisolido getting the boot or featuring in the staring role of a parties attack ads against the Liberals. The answer should be obvious, yet here we are none the less.