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The Stink of Desperation is Rising in the Senate Scandal

Senator Mike Duffy speaking yesterday in the Canadian Senate and tabling documents he states supports his allegation of an attempted cover up of the Senate Expense Scandal by the Prime Minister’s Office and others.

There is an air of desperation in the Senate Expense Scandal now and its first casualties were personal dignity and the truth.

What a cheap and indecent vaudeville show this has become.

Yesterday’s revelations by Mike Duffy and the constant changing of the narrative by pretty much everyone concerned, including the Prime Minister have done nothing but elevate what should have been little more than an administrative issue into a series of desperate acts, defensive statements and accusations by a group of politicians and their supporters becoming increasingly more desperate.

There are allegations of personal vendettas, conspiracy to cover up the truth, denial of facts and even racism. It is unbelievable that this tawdry affair could be made even more sleazy by everyone involved but they have and it has.

I listened to Senator Duffy speaking in the Senate yesterday and while his information is relevant and may even be significant, his demeanour had all of the charm of a used car salesman desperate to close the deal. It was a real challenge to remember that this was a Senator speaking in the Upper House of Canada’s Parliament.

He was almost drooling with excitement at the prospect of the effect his revelations would have.

It is one thing to defend yourself with the facts; it’s another thing completely to gloat and delight in the damage those facts might cause.

The first question I asked myself as this Rocky Horror Picture Show unfolded yesterday was, “Do any of the people involved remember that this is the people’s Parliament?”

The media were on the new revelations like flies on rotting garbage but you can’t blame them. This entire situation is garbage and it is, unfortunately, the media’s job to report on it no matter how much it smells.

And smell it does – all of it.

Consider Senator Duffy’s primary defense: The Prime Minister’s Office is as dirty as I am. We conspired together to lie to Canadians and to hide the truth. As defenses go, it doesn’t inspire much in the way of respect or sympathy.

But then nobody else connected to this does either.

They’re all desperate now – decency, integrity, leadership are all casualties of this expanding scandal that is now threatening careers, possible criminal charges and the future election prospects of the current government.

The three Senators involved have been slinging allegations of conspiracy, personal vendettas and even illegal acts in response to over-the-top accusations of having misappropriated hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money. It is a pathetic level of desperation that underscores just how low our government has been brought by those who seek to govern.

But the desperation doesn’t start and end with the three Senators being sanctioned. This disgusting burlesque starts and ends with Stephen Harper. Virtually everyone connected to this scandal was either appointed, hired or referred for appointment by the Prime Minister.

Senator Marjorie Lebretton who has talked out of both sides of her mouth on this issue was appointed Senate Government House Leader and to the cabinet by Stephen Harper. Senators Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau were referred to the Governor General for appointment to the Senate as was Senator Carolyn Stewart-Olsen who sat on the Board of Internal Economy that brought the motion to sanction the three senators and who is herself now accused of misappropriating expenses. Senator David Tkachuk who was referred to his Senate seat by Brian Mulroney was appointed to Election Campaign Chair by Stephen Harper.

Wright, Woodcock and Ben Perrin who were part of the PMO connected to this scandal were hired by the Prime Minister and others like Arthur Hamilton were hired by the Conservative Party of which Stephen Harper is the leader.

Senators, cabinet ministers, senior staffers of the PMO and lawyers were all involved.

What amazes me is that all of these people knew what was going and yet none, not his Chief of Staff, not his personal lawyer, not a member of his Cabinet told him anything – or at least that is what the Prime Minister is now desperate to have Canadians believe.

Stephen Harper’s defense is as odious as that of Mike Duffy. Where Duffy’s defense is about only being a little less dirty than those who conspired with him, the Prime Minister’s defense seems to be that he is so incompetent, he had no idea what his senior staff and appointees who report to him were up to.

I’m not sure that I find willful incompetence or stupidity to be a any more a credible defense than the victims of a conspiracy defense being offered by Duffy and the others.

As I watched Power and Politics last night, emails were pouring in from participants including Senator Lebretton. These folks are worried. They’re watching the news and working feverishly to try and defend themselves from every nuanced revelation.

It isn’t working.

Too much has happened – too much has been revealed for Canadians to be soft-pedaled into believing this or that now. We’ve reached that point at which all scandals arrive when they are this poorly handled. Nobody except the die-hard fans of the Prime Minister believes what anyone says now.

It has always been thus. When people try to hide their misdeeds, no matter how trivial, inevitably they blow up into something far worse than the original sin.

Truth floats and always finds its way to the surface no longer how long it takes.

Remember Watergate? It started as a penny-ante break-in by ‘the plumbers’, a sad sack group of Republican campaign staffers who stole documents from the Democratic Party Offices.

If the President and his senior staff had taken responsibility and provided full transparency, it would have been little more than today’s news and gone tomorrow. But, just as with the Senate Expense Scandal, everyone concerned was too clever by half and the cover-up become far more serious than the original crime. Eventually people went to prison for the cover-up and the President was forced to resign from office to avoid being impeached.

The police are investigating the circumstances of the widening scandal in the Senate and there are real possibilities of criminal charges. It’s absurd. Due process, presumption of innocence, accountability, transparency and integrity have all been trashed but what is worse is that our democracy has been demeaned and diminished by the way this is being handled.

Whether he, or the base, likes it or not; the only one responsible for that is the Prime Minister. He promised accountability – as he has too often before, he has provided blame, accusation, bullying and a continuously changing narrative but no matter what else you call it – it ain’t accountability.

The bottom line is that the buck stops with Stephen Harper and it’s time he accepted that, addressed all Canadians and told them the full truth. These fifteen minute radio interviews on selected stations isn’t cutting it. That’s just one more desperate attempt to try and ‘manage’ the situation rather than be honest with Canadians about it.

This has now gone beyond partisan politics and the Prime Minister has a responsibility to all Canadians to look them in the eye and accept responsibility for his actions and those of all of those he hired and appointed. In any other democratic nation, there would already be a full-blown inquiry underway and the head of government would have addressed the nation in a televised statement rather than this desperate PR campaign that’s been concocted.

On Monday, a member of a Conservative PR firm actually delivered some of the message. Canadians don’t want to hear more spin. We want to hear the truth; all of it. We’ve heard from Senator Duffy; it’s time we heard the full story from our Prime Minister.

To quote Mitt Romney, “Leadership is about taking responsibility, not making excuses.”

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  • sharon wilson

    According to Norman Spector, the PM must take responsibility for everything that happens in his office/ministry,
    and in the case of being left in the dark by your staff, the prescribed action is to ‘clean up the mess’.
    He also said PMSH did clean up the mess, everyone involved or mentioned in the reports is gone gone gone.
    He took responsibility.
    What’s obvious is that as the ever changing details were dripped out over 5 1/2 months, PM Harper has never changed his story nor has one person come forward in’ loose lip land’ to dispute the fact that he was not aware of the secret agreement between Wright and Duffy.
    And if this is some sort of cover up, Conservatives need to take lessons from the Liberals,
    because there are chq stubs and documents 3 inches thick, 4 lawyers involved, some using their trust accounts to disperse funds.

    • MaggiesBear

      I watched the interview with Spector and he was referring to rewritten guidelines that reduced ministerial responsibility. How convenient. Mr. Harper has changed his story many times. First there was nothing wrong with Senator Duffy’s expenses, then there was. He stated that he had personally reviewed Senator Wallin’s expenses and found them to be in order. Now he claims she took money to which she wasn’t entitled. After the famous $90,000 check came t light, he stated that he had full confidence in Nigel Wright, then that he accepted Mr. Wright’s resignation with regret then that he dismissed Mr. Wright and today he denounced Mr. Wright.

      He cleaned up his mess and that excuses him? How about the Senators corrected their mistakes but that doesn’t excuse them. The hypocrisy is reaching flood proportions.

      The simple fact is that all of these people were appointed or hired by him and in one way or another they reported to him. He now claims that he knew nothing. He is Prime Minister and the Leader of the Conservative Party and yet he knew nothing. So either he is not telling the truth or he is grossly incompetent. He clearly didn’t follow anything up after May 15 if his story is to be believed.

      As for your comment about the Liberals, it’s quite true but so what? The fact that somebody else may have robbed a bank doesn’t excuse you if you get caught robbing a store.

      This unbelievably incompetent and viscious handling of this issue has seriously weakened the conservative brand. 98% of Canadians now believe that the PM should be held accountable for the actions of his staff and 40% believe Senator Duffy is telling the truth compared to just 18% who believe the PM is telling the truth. He will win this battle and get his way but the cost to the conservative brand and our agenda may well prove to have cost us the war.

  • Gerry

    I would like to hear the truth but the problem is I am not sure I would recognize it if I did for the simple reason that if I accept one of the shifting explanations I have no means of verifying its veracity other than it appeals to my particular biases. This is what makes it frustrating with the multiple versions of the ‘truth’ and pointing to what the liberals or ndp have done is not relevant. I accept, unfortunately, a certain level of venality in our politicians. I expect them to be oriented to self preservation as in getting re-elected to secure their rather large pension. What I cannot figure out in this current mess how any of the obfuscation by the PMO (the Senators are clearly motivated by self preservation) adds to theirs. Venal and dumb is really really bad. One thing I will give the liberals historically is that while they may have been the most venal of all by in large they weren’t dumb about it (ok so they picked leaders that did not market well). To repeat, I would love to hear the truth; I just don’t know if I would recognize it now.

    • MaggiesBear

      I don’t know the truth either and I agree with you that we’ve reached a place where almost none of us will ever really believe the truth even if it is revealed. But I do know this much.

      This sordid mess was unnecessarily viscious. No taxpayer money is missing, there are serious and legitimate questions about the validity of the audits, it is clear that some in the Senate and definitely in the PMO are culpable and the PM himself is responsible for having changed positions on this from from the beginning.

      I think the entire affair is a disgrace. It’s a disgrace to Parliament, a disgrace to conservatives and a disgrace to Canadians. If these Senators should be turfed, then it is my belief that all involved, including the PM, should step down.