We Elect These Guys?!?
Does this piece of human garbage piss anyone else off? At least this old sailor told him where to stick it....
Liberal's apology to veteran rejected
Friday, May 11, 2001
OTTAWA -- Liberal MP Tom Wappel said yesterday that he's sorry for scolding an elderly constituent for not voting for him, but the man's wife rejected the apology, saying it was made under duress.
A storm of indignation broke on Mr. Wappel when he wrote a letter to 81-year-old Jim Baxter, asking why he should help the man win veterans benefits when Mr. Baxter hadn't supported him in November's election.
In an open letter yesterday, Mr. Wappel apologized for the letter to Mr. Baxter.
"With the benefit of hindsight, I accept the criticism levelled against me that the letter showed lack of judgment. I should not have sent it," he said.
"I sincerely regret any distress my letter has caused Mr. Baxter or anyone else."
Mr. Wappel added that he assured Prime Minister Jean Chrétien on Wednesday that he was prepared to help the former merchant seaman.
Mary Baxter, Mr. Baxter's wife, said they have not heard directly from Mr. Wappel, who was in Charlottetown with the Commons fisheries committee. She said one of the MP's aides read the statement onto their answering machine after a couple of tries to reach them directly by phone.
Mrs. Baxter said she does not believe the apology is genuine.
"I'm quite certain it was made under duress and his spontaneous reactions that we heard represent his true feelings," she said in an interview.
Mr. Wappel, who represents the Toronto riding of Scarborough Southwest, refused to apologize after the letter was publicized Wednesday, saying he was merely seeking a "clarification" from Mr. Baxter. He lashed out at the veteran for going public with his letter.
"The initial reaction is always more genuine than the reaction that comes after all the pressure," Mrs. Baxter said. "It's impossible to imagine someone not apologizing after all that bad publicity."
Officials from the Prime Minister's Office said yesterday that Mr. Chrétien has written to Mr. Baxter to assure him that Mr. Wappel will work to help him. Mrs. Baxter, who had not seen the letter, was unimpressed when told it was coming.
"Wow, aren't we lucky!" she said.
In Ottawa, Mr. Chrétien sought to close the door on the controversy.
"I think in the case of the member from Scarborough, he apologized and offered to help," the Prime Minister told the House of Commons.
"The minister of veterans affairs made sure that the person in question received an offer of help no later than yesterday. I am happy the situation has been restored to normality."
Mrs. Baxter confirmed that a federal official had phoned on Wednesday. She said the caller reiterated that Mr. Baxter did not qualify for newly announced merchant seaman benefits because he had also served in the Navy and had a pension from that service.
She said the official offered to determine whether he qualified for other veterans benefits.
Mr. Wappel also revealed how he had known about Mr. Baxter's political inclinations during the fall election. He said his campaign team had called people who were identified as supporters in 1997 to ask if they would support Mr. Wappel again. Mr. Baxter indicated he would not.
Wading into the controversy yesterday, Canada's privacy commissioner, George Radwanski, said Mr. Wappel had violated the spirit of the Privacy Act -- which does not cover MPs -- when he used the campaign information to decide whether to help Mr. Baxter.
"I think it is an action that is certainly regrettable and I would say reprehensible from the point of view of privacy," Mr. Radwanski said.
Canadian Alliance MP Peter Goldring said Mr. Wappel had apologized only for sending the letter, not for refusing to help Mr. Baxter because of his political leanings.