Yesterday, I was interviewing NDP leadership candidate Nathan Cullen over coffee in Vancouver.
We ended up discussing the expense-account scandal swirling around Defence Minister Peter MacKay
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation has revealed that MacKay spent $1,452 a night for a two-night stay in a Munich hotel, and another $770 per night for three nights in a luxurious hotel in Istanbul.
In the past, MacKay has come under fire for the use of a military helicopter to retrieve him from a fishing trip. And the Canadian Taxpayers Federation has also hammered MacKay for the cost of his flight to the recent Grey Cup game in Vancouver.
The founder of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation is Jason Kenney, who is probably the cabinet minister closest to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
As Harper's parliamentary secretary, Kenney criss-crossed the country to forge deep ties with groups representing new Canadians. Later, Kenney was promoted to oversee the immigration ministry.
Cullen and I both surmised that these revelations about MacKay are designed to put Kenney at the front of the line as Harper's successor as Conservative leader. As the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Kenney is well-positioned to make the types of connections that will help him in a future leadership race.
Meanwhile, another potential successor to Harper, Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore, has been put in the awkward position of cutting the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation after promising that funding would be preserved. It makes him look like a liar.
Cullen noted that Moore's earlier defence of the CBC put him in a bad light in the eyes of Conservative party members who want the Crown corporation killed.
"James has been handed a poison pill," Cullen commented. "It's too bad, because James is a very talented guy. He might even be a Red Tory."
Kenney is clearly one of the most right-wing members of cabinet. As a Calgary MP, he's not likely to reverse Harper's head-in-the-sand approach to climate change.
In addition, Kenney has been an opponent of abortion and same-sex marriage, and supported the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Kenney also has the support of Charles McVety, the head of the Canada Family Action Coalition and Canada's homegrown version of Jerry Falwell.
Unbeknownst to many Canadians, this country is already in the grip of a culture war similar to what we've seen south of the border. And Kenney is one of the generals leading the fight on behalf of the reactionary forces.