Senator Patrick Brazeau And Political Ethics
UPDATE: Since posting this article yesterday, Senator Patrick Brazeau has been formally charged in a Gatineau court to one count of assault and one count of sexual assault. The charges are unproven at this time and under our system of law, Senator Brazeau is entitled to the presumption of innocence until and if it is proven otherwise. This has not stopped the mainstream and social media from convicting him of these and every other charge they can imagine including just being too young to be in the Senate, misuse of Senate Housing Allowance and being rude to a National Post Reporter and Theresa Spence.
The feeding frenzy has begun and the sharks have gathered, maddened by the smell of blood in the water.
The Senate Board of Economy is now investigating Senator Brazeau for abuses of both the Housing Allowance and his expense account and many, including some in the mainstream media and many in the NDP, including that bastion of morality Charlie Angus, are calling for his expulsion from the Senate. Apparently the NDP don’t support the presumption of innocence unless it’s for one of their own and the mainstream media seem to just enjoy a good lynchin’.
As far as this blog is concerned, continuing events and attitudes only further legitimize the rest of this post.
Well – that didn’t take long.
Senator Patrick Brazeau was arrested this morning over a domestic disturbance incident and he’s already been removed from the Conservative Caucus in the Senate. We don’t even know what the actual charge is yet and he hasn’t been found guilty of anything but to hell with presumption of innocence. Social media has already convicted him and written him off as just another ‘irresponsible Indian’.
Apparently, so have the Conservatives. Politics is becoming increasingly ethically-challenged and not merely on one side of the aisle.
Conservative Dean Del Mastro is under investigation for illegal campaign contributions but he remains in caucus. Former Liberal Cabinet Minister Joe Fontana is charged with fraud but he remains Mayor of London. Former Liberal Senator Raymond Lavigne was convicted of fraud and sentenced to six months in prison. He was removed from both the Liberal Senate Caucus and the Senate but only after he was convicted an most likely only because it’s pretty much impossible to attend sessions from prison.
The New Democratic Party was charged with illegal fund raising and was fined more than $300,000 and the Liberals got caught hiding the fact that one of their Senators was suffering from dementia and had been declared legally incompetent; a fact they tried to cover up in order to try and prevent the government from replacing her.
Various senators are being investigated for misuse of the residency grant that is available to senators who live in other parts of the country but who require a residence in Ottawa to attend to their duties. Liberal Senator Mac Harb, for example, represented Ottawa Centre in the House of Commons prior to being called to the Senate. He worked and lived in Ottawa before moving into politics. As a resident of Ottawa, Senator Harb would not be entitled to the residency grant but no need to worry, he suddenly has two residences with his primary residence declared to be in Pembroke, Ontario.
Too many politicians lately just don’t seem to get it. If you have to do some fancy dancing to qualify for extra cash, then you aren’t really entitled to it.
Despite the continual accusations about the Conservatives undermining democracy with fraudulent RoboCalls, the only politician actually charged was in fact a Liberal. MP Frank Valeriote, who after being found in violation of both CRTC regulation and the Elections Canada Act, remains a sitting member.
And, of course, there was AdScam where Liberal bagmen literally handed out taxpayer cash to supporters in dingy diners in Montreal in brown paper bags. Some of bagmen went to prison but no politician was ever removed from office or the caucus.
Are you seeing a pattern here?
Our government – the people’s government – is being played like a cheap violin by political parties with situational ethics and practices. People like Senator Brazeau and Helena Guergis are removed from office before anything is proven while some who are actually convicted sail on through.
It almost makes you feel sorry for Ms Guergis who was unceremoniously booted from her position as a Cabinet Minister based on unsubstantiated rumours and from the Conservative Caucus on flimsy accusations that were later found to have no basis in fact. I said almost. The woman was a train wreck as a Cabinet Minister.
We don’t make it any better for ourselves because we play right along.
Instead of demanding the highest possible ethical standard from all politicians and their parties, we ignore the sins of those we support while loudly condemning those we oppose. We are quick to judge harhly our opponents, usually before the facts are known and even quicker to defend our guy long after the facts have revealed wrong-doing and ethical breaches.
We litter social media with hysterical accusations and self-righteous comments about the accused or in his or her defense and the media throw gas on the fire. The National Post lost no time in getting up a poll to measure support for having Senator Brazeau removed from the Senate.
Well why not? He hasn’t been found guilty of anything yet but why wait for the facts or a trial. Grab a rope and string the bastard up. We have other things to do.
Nobody has bothered to stop and ask, “What happens if the allegations turn out to be fraudulent and he isn’t even charged let alone found guilty?” There was a time when it was considered appropriate for a member of the government to step aside when they came under investigation. It was understood that they would be welcomed back should their name be cleared. This sometimes slash and burn and alternatively deny, deny, deny is simply corrupt gamesmanship.
This isn’t the first time this kind of lynch-mob mentality has occurred and it won’t be the last but every time I watch it happen, I always have the same thought. I always wonder just how happy those who are so quick to condemn without knowing the facts would be to have themselves condemned before the truth in their situation was known, especially if they were innocent.
Judging by how hurt and even crushed many are when somebody unfollows them on Twitter or unfriends them on Facebook, I doubt they would handle being harshly judged by the mob very well at all.
I don’t expect much from many on social media. It’s a jungle that you take seriously at your own peril but I do have a higher standard for those who govern us and it isn’t being met.
Either everyone should be removed from their cabinet position or their caucus when arrested and charged or none should until after they have been convicted. This selective approach to the appearance of ethics is a sham designed more to protect the party and some loyal members than to protect the institution of the people’s Parliament.
I find it disturbing that so many of us not only simply accept the game but support it. But to be honest, I don’t find it all that surprising that we are seldom satisfied by the government we get because quite frankly, based on our own convenient and ideology-based ethics, we usually get the government we deserve.“I know a lot of fancy dancers – people who can glide you ‘cross the floor they move so smooth but have no answers, when you ask them “why’d you come here for?” - Cat Stevens
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