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Young MPs think Alcock should grow up  

[PoliticsWatch Posted 4:40 p.m. December 3, 2004]

Treasury Board President Reg Alcock
(www.PoliticsWatch.com News Services File Photo) .

OTTAWA —A 25-year-old Conservative MP is accusing Treasury Board President Reg Alcock of youth bashing after a dust up during a committee meeting on Thursday.
Pierre Poilievre, a Conservative who defeated former defence minister David Pratt in the June federal election, said Alcock used his age as a way to distract from allegations of government cronyism.

Alcock was defending the hiring of Gordon Feeney as chair of Canada Post, who some suggested got the job partly because of his friendship with Revenue Minister John McCallum, before a committee when Poilievre asked him questions.

The Treasury Board President made references to Poilievre's youth while dismissing his questions, saying, "You're young. Give it a break." 

The minister, who at 56 is 31 years older than the Poilievre, also told the MP that wisdom comes with age before later apologizing.

"I was flabbergasted," Poilievre told PoliticsWatch. "I've never met the man. This is the first exchange that we've ever had.

"I was surprised when the first remark he ever made to me was not addressing the content of my question but rather the year in which I was born. I think it was an insult to all young people."

Poilievre said Alcock was not joking when he made the comments. "He was totally serious. There was no joke about it. He didn't even crack so much as a smirk. He was totally and utterly serious."

"He believes that anyone under the age of 30 should be disenfranchised from the political process and be relegated to the position of coffee carriers and photocopy managers. That is tremendously insulting the next generation of Canadian voters."

The MP said Alcock's comments are a "startling hypocrisy" given the millions of dollars Elections Canada spent during the election campaign in television advertising and other campaigns to get young people involved in the political process and vote.

Alcock's confrontation with Poilievre is the latest controversial incident involving the Treasury Board President since he entered cabinet nearly a year ago.

The Liberal minister had built a great reputation for himself as chair of the Government Operations committee and in the investigation of the extreme travel and hospitality spending of former privacy commissioner George Radwanski. 

But since coming into cabinet, Alcock has lost a bit of his shine.

"Reg Alcock represents the manifestation of the diminishing expectations of the Martin government," one Liberal insider told PoliticsWatch

In the winter, Alcock told CTV's Question Period that a private audit had found the Auditor General's assertion that $100 million had been misspent in the sponsorship program was wrong and the figure was $13 million. 

Alcock had to later retract that number after it was discovered no such audit existed and Alcock was basing his number on an interpretation of figures released by Public Works.

He would later become involved in a heated discussion with Conservative MP Peter MacKay outside the House of Commons chamber after he challenged the MP to "step outside" during question period. 

Alcock had mistakenly thought MacKay said money was "stolen" in the sponsorship scandal, when he actually said it was "misspent," and wanted to get the MP to make the theft allegation outside the chamber without the immunity of Parliamentary privilege.

When Prime Minister Paul Martin unveiled his new cabinet committees in the summer, Alcock was taken off the expenditure review committee. This followed a number of stories in the media with unnamed public service sources criticizing his handling of relations with the public service. 

"It is impossible to overstate the damage done by Reg Alcock," said an unnamed source to the Toronto Star at the time. The Star story went on to say: "Alcock has operated on the assumption that candour is the cardinal virtue, throwing away his text and speaking off the cuff, dismissing descriptions of the complexity of a situation as 'That's all bull----,' and reducing public servants to tears."

Meanwhile, other youth on the Hill aren't happy about Alcock's latest adventure. 

Conservative MP Andrew Scheer, a 25-year-old who defeated veteran NDP MP Lorne Nystrom in the federal election, said Alcock's comments were "pretty insulting" and underlined the "fundamental arrogance" on the Liberal side of the House.

"I think it's a horrible message to send youth, especially after this election. We had Elections Canada and every party so actively trying to get young people involved in the process. And now his message is wait until you're 40 and then have an opinion, I guess."

Scheer said there is a history of young people coming to Parliament and making a difference, including the man he defeated in the election, Nystrom.

NDP caucus press secretary Ian Capstick, 24, felt compelled to weigh in on Alcock's comments as well.

"I'd say as a young person in politics, what Mr. Alcock did to Mr. Poilievre yesterday was unbelievable. It was probably one of the most offensive things I've seen said to a young person involved in politics."

Poilevre said part of the problem is that youth bashing is acceptable in society.

"What would we say if he attacked somebody for their race, their sexual orientation, their gender or any other relevant personal characteristic? The nation would be up in arms.

"It seems that young people are fair game for this kind of vicious, discriminatory bullying."

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