Beverly “Bev” Oda is a former Canadian MP and Cabinet Minister, having represented the Conservative party from 2004 – 2012. She was notable for being the first Japanese-Canadian to hold both of these positions but also for a number of scandals which dogged her career. These scandals generally concerned the misuse of taxpayer money to lead a lavish lifestyle.
Bev’s Political Beginnings
Maybe she felt deserving of the finer things in life following a long and varied career. Retiring after nearly three decades in TV and broadcasting, Oda became involved with various causes concerning the environment and education. A natural and strict organizer as well as a powerful public speaker, she was convinced by friends to run for election to the House of Commons in 2004. Initially sceptical she stated “if it’s meant to be it will happen” and happen it did.
Becoming a Minister
In the backrooms of the Conservative Party she was considered a poor communicator and to be very tough on her staff and aides. She was also accused of being “too much of a micro-manager” with her work, resulting in recipients failing to receive aid. Her political ideology also interfered with her work as she preferred the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) to give money to NGOs which espoused conservative values. Though this did not go far enough for some and she was castigated by many pro-life groups, for not refusing money for all NGOs which performed or gave information on abortions.
Despite the huge public fallout from events like the KAIROS and “$16 orange juice” incidents, Oda was lauded by then Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Conservative colleagues, for the great work she had done with the CIDA and the many international aid programs she had overseen.
The high-profile scandals never dissuaded her support base either, in fact she was always extremely popular, going from strength to strength during her tenure as an MP. In her home constituency of Durham, Ontario she was first elected with a 2.5% majority in 2004, which grew successively over the subsequent three elections to a stunning 24% victory in 2011.
One Scandal Too Many
Eventually however the uproar surrounding a trip to London in 2011 was to cause her political demise. The junket which saw her cancel a 5-star hotel (and pay a $367 cancellation fee) to stay at the $665/night Savoy hotel, where she ordered a $16 glass of orange juice as she “had been working hard… and working on a speech”, though she later admitted it wasn’t the best use of public funds. On top of this she had a $1,000-a-day limousine service chauffeur her to the conference she was attending… which was at the original hotel she had cancelled.
It proved one fancy juice straw too many for the Canadian taxpayers back and there was huge public outcry. She claimed everything had been done by the book but eventually refunded part of the expenses she had charged to the state, including the super-expensive OJ! She said she did not regret the juice and stated her resignation had nothing to do with the scandal, but she simply wished to get back to “real retirement” and spend time with her family, friends and pet dogs.