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This Isn’t Tombstone & Stephen Harper Ain’t Wyatt Earp

When I look at the NDP I remember the old saying, the more we throw mud, the more we lose ground.
Stephen Harper


Here we go again. Can this unbelievable farce over senate expenses sink any lower? It is already lower than gutter politics – it’s becoming a sordid and sleazy affair that is beginning to make AdScam look like a misdemeanor. AdScam was merely about stolen money. This current scandal is becoming less about expenses and more about the absolute abuse of power and the assault on our democratic institutions.

The story changes almost daily now and with each new revelation come new attempts to sell the unsalable.

The Prime Minister even took to the airwaves today in an attempt to justify his actions to oust Senators Wallin, Brazeau and Duffy as if he has the authority to treat them like they are merely his employees.

This entire mess stared when questions arose over the claim of residency expenses by Senator Mike Duffy. You will recall how quickly the government defended the Senator and that defense continued even after he was ordered by the Prime Minister to repay the money – the now famous $90,000. I still remember Pierre Polievre rising in the House to claim that the good Senator had done the honourable thing and repaid the money.

When it came to light that the money to repay the expenses had come from the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, it changed the entire scandal. Now it was no longer about repaying expenses to which the Senator may or may not have been entitled; now the issue was whether or not the Prime Minister or at least his office, had orchestrated the payment in direct violation of the law.

At first, the Prime Minister defended Nigel Wright for having given the money to Senator Duffy and that he had full confidence in his Chief of Staff. When that didn’t quell the growing scandal, he accepted “with great regret” Nigel Wright’s resignation.

He went on to say that Mr. Wright had acted on his own and told no one else. We now know that at least 13 other people, including his office’s lawyer and others in the PMO, knew about the payment to Senator Duffy.

The payment made by Nigel Wright may turn out to be not only inappropriate but illegal and yet we are expected to believe that the PMO’s lawyer did not counsel against making the payment or advise the Prime Minister of the potential violation of the law.

Then it was Pamela Wallin’s turn.

She was audited but against new expense regulations that were not in effect when she incurred and claimed her expenses. The new rules were applied retroactively which is not only unfair, it’s just downright unethical. How can anyone be held accountable for something that became wrong only after they committed the act?

Nonetheless, when questions about her expenses were raised, the Prime Minister rose in the House to state that he personally had reviewed her expense claim and found them to be in order. Apparently he sees no incongruity in hanging her out to dry now even though he personally never found anything wrong with her expense claims using the old rules that were in place at the time she made them.

Ultimately, Senators Brazeau, Duffy and Wallin were removed from the Conservative caucus and all three ordered to repay the ineligible expenses they had claimed. The RCMP were called in to investigate for possible criminal wrong doing and the Auditor General called in to audit all remaining senators.

The matter should have rested there with the investigating bodies being allowed the required time to do their work and make decisions about charges but, of course, it didn’t.

The Prime Minister decided to use the Conservative majority in the Senate to remove the Big 3 – to suspend them without pay before the investigations were completed or any charges have been laid.

By what right? While an argument can be presented that a Prime Minister may have some authority over the Senators from his own party, no argument can be made that he has any authority over the Senate or to demand that it discipline senators that are not in his party.

Senators Brazeau, Duffy and Wallin may have been Conservative senators but no longer. They are now independent and the Prime Minister should have absolutely no control over them or the disciplining of them. The Senate is not part of his government nor is it under his control.

And that my friends changed this from being an administrative issue about expenses to an issue of abuse of power and the trampling of the basic rights of due process and presumption of innocence.

Who’s telling the truth? None of us know, we just think we do. This has been handled more poorly than my last proctology examination and with about the same result.

It is an issue that should have been left to the determination of the investigating authorities. Instead, it has become a polarizing issue that is dividing Canadians and conservatives alike.

Conservative Senator Don Plett stood in opposition to the motion and Senator Plett is not a casual voice. He is the founding former president of the Conservative Party of Canada, a staunch supporter of Stephen Harper and he is troubled by the lack of due process and the trampling of the right to presumption of innocence. He has announced that he will likely vote against the motion to suspend. He is joined by other Conservative voices including Senator Hugh Segal.

It was leaked today that Senators like Senator Plett and Hugh Segal my be given a pass to vote their conscience but that the balance of the Conservative Senate Caucus will be whipped to ensure the motion to suspend carries.

There’s nothing like a keeping your thumb on the scales of justice to make sure they come down in your favour.

What I find even more troubling is that one of the sponsors of the motion, Senator Stewart Olsen is now under investigation for exactly the same thing for which she is pushing to have Senators Wallin, Brazeau and Duffy suspended. Yesterday, she was thrown under the bus and had to resign from her position on the Board of Internal Economy.

None of this, of course, disturbs the party faithful. They turn a blind eye to the incongruities just as Justin Trudeau supporters turn a blind eye to his lack of experience and policy initiatives.

But regardless of what the willfully blind wish to believe, this is politics at its worst and makes a mockery of our democracy and our parliament.

And today it got worse.

Today, Senator Patrick Brazeau stood in the Senate and revealed that he had been offered a deal for a lesser ‘sentence’ by Senate Conservative Leader, Claude Carignan who is the prime mover to suspend the three senators.

The terms of the deal are irrelevant. What is relevant is that Senator Carignan could not deny the conversation although he did try to characterize it a little less bluntly. He admitted that he had suggested Brazeau apologize in exchange for a lighter sanction than the one being proposed to “find the right balance.”

Why wouldn’t he offer the same ‘deal’ to Senator Wallin? It’s not like she’s some chippie that walked in off the street and decided to help herself to the all you can eat expense buffet. Senator Wallin is a cancer survivor; a former Consul General to the United States and a Member of the Order of Canada, as well as being, an honorary colonel of the Royal Canadian Air Force. But even though she was audited unfairly by rules that were not in existence when she filed her expense claims, no deal was offered to her.

So much for consistent application of principle. It’s clear that the government was trying to get an admission of wrong doing on the record to try and legitimize the rush to judgment.

Conviction before charged; sentence before conviction. This whole sorry mess has more in common with the former Soviet Union than a modern democratic nation like Canada.

Conservative senators who vote for this motion can attempt to legitimize their support as defending the dignity of the Senate all they like but the Canadian electorate isn’t fooled. They see it for what it is; a desperate attempt by the Prime Minister to distance himself and his party from the scandal by throwing former colleagues he himself appointed under the bus of self-righteous sanctimony. Senators who lack the courage to defend the independence and the integrity of the Senate by rejecting the demands of the PM reduce themselves to little more than trained seals doing the bidding of their master.

They will discover soon enough that in Stephen Harper’s world, loyalty is strictly a one-way street and that since becoming Prime Minister, he has thrown more Conservatives  under the bus than Liberal and NDP combined.

The story on this scandal has changed repeatedly. The double dealing that started with a pathetic and possibly illegal attempt to cover everything up continues with a new deal offered today. This is no longer simply about an inept handling of a serious issue. This is about integrity and fairness.

It is also about the arbitrary exercise of power with a complete disregard for our political institutions, our democracy or due process and the presumption of innocence. It is the kind of sanctimonious and hypocritical political manipulation and grandstanding conservatives accuse Liberals of doing only this time – it’s conservatives!

In the Speech From the Throne, the Conservative government tossed a few trinkets to Canadians in an attempt to buy middle class support and votes. It should now be clear to Stephen Harper that a majority of Canadians are not so easily bought. Nobody is talking about the Throne Speech but just about everyone is talking about his handling of these three Senators. While his heavy-handed lynch mob justice approach may appease some of the party faithful, it offends the moral sensibilities of most Canadians because most Canadians believe in decency and fair play.

Stephen Harper was right about one thing though; we do lose ground when we throw mud and he should know. In the past decade, nobody has thrown more mud at opponents and former colleagues alike than he has and it is dividing conservatives and has severely weakened the conservative movement in Canada. The Conservative Party is bleeding support to the Liberals and the Liberals haven’t even entered the game yet.

If Stephen Harper truly wants to clean things up he would do well to start with his own attitude and his office rather than trying to delude himself into believing that the Senate is Tombstone in the 1800s and he’s Wyatt Earp.


© 2013 Maggie’s Bear

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  • Robert Connon

    Hired , Fired, Entitled Not entitled I don’t care. Lets take this at a common working stiff level. I go to work and am fired for whatever reason. My employer does not have to continue paying anything because he fired me. I can either accept the dismissal or take the jerk to court for wrongful dismissal. While we are in court

    • MaggiesBear

      A police officer shoots someone or is charged with use of unnecessary force — suspended with pay until charged. I was a senior executive in the private sector and it isn’t quite so black and white. You have to have your ducks in a row or you will find yourself facing more than a simple wrongful dismissal suit. Due process demands that you have established the facts and notified the employee of those facts and given them a chance to respond. That has not happened in this case. It has been handled in a boorish, sloppy manner which was completely unnecessary. Handled properly, not only would the country not be divided on the issue, in all likelihood, some of these senators would now be gone.

  • Pingback: This Ain’t Tombstone and Stephen Harper Ain’t Wyatt Earp | Grumpy Opinions()

  • sharon wilson

    PMSH hired them, takes all the heat over their actions,
    so I say let PMSH FIRE them.
    We the people can’t fire them, can’t even set term limits.
    They are unaccountable to anyone, except, perhaps, the man that hired them.

    • MaggiesBear

      Stephen Harper did not hire them. Under our constitution, all he can do is make the recommendation to the Crown. Senators are appointed by the Queen or her representative, in this case, the Governor General. The Senate does not report to the Prime Minister or his office.

      • Cytotoxic

        He essentially got them hired, so little difference there.

        • MaggiesBear

          That doesn’t give him the authority to order the Senate around. You may support it in this case with these three somewhat unsympathetic characters but think about the precedent it sets. What if the next time, it’s a Liberal majority that simply wants to create a few openings so that it can refer new Liberal appointments to the GG? It’s not like politicians have proven more than a small willingness to abuse whatever authority they’ve got their hands on.

  • Randy

    It is truly amazing the amount of angst that is shown over a group of people
    who have been appointed for the rest of their productive lives to an unelected
    body that is unaccountable to the public ever, except for now.
    I really do not care what happens to any of the senators and if all went well,
    not a single one of them would have a job and there would be no Senate. The
    sense of entitlement from all of them is very distasteful.
    However, what should concern everyone is the process that is used to discredit
    them. Rule of law dictated that you are innocent until proven guilty and as far
    as I know, that is still the process in Canada. While they have been accused
    of abusing their position and the perks that accompany it, until it is proven
    beyond a doubt they have every right to stay there. They have every right to
    defend themselves until the law says they are done.
    Some people are concerned with the Prime Minister dismissing them from
    the Senate and to a point I agree. I would say that if you did not mind the
    Prime Minister appointing them on his own, then you shouldn’t mind it when
    he dismisses them. Remember, these people are unelected, appointed to an
    unaccountable body that “can” have a great influence in the affairs of the
    country if it chooses to.
    This whole affair just shows how our democratic institutions are being
    degraded, not just by the current government but past ones as well.

    • MaggiesBear

      With all due respect, I think that most people don’t have a clue what the Senate is constituted to do, how Senators are appointed or the work they are actually doing. Senators are appointed by the Governor General, not the PM. He can only recommend the appointments. That isn’t a moot point. While the GG seldom refuses to appoint those the PM recommends, he/she does have the constitutional authority if they so desire. It also means that the Senate does not report to the PM.

      The Senate is a legislative body. It can create legislation and send it to the House for review in the same manner that the House sends legislation to the Senate for review.

      As for abolishing it outright, be careful what you wish for. Imagine a Justin Trudeau majority Liberal government with no Senate to exert some influence and revision to Liberal legislation. How happy would you be then that there was no Senate? I am pretty sure that there are more than a few in Ontario who wish there had been a second legislative body to try to rein in Dalton McGuinty before he almost destroyed the province.

      • Randy

        Some people do have a clue with regards to the Senate and it’s
        workings, although I will agree it is most likely a minority.
        To my knowledge, in my lifetime, the G.G has not appointed a senator to the Senate. This has always been done by the Prime
        Minister at the time, approved or disapproved by the G.G. While
        the Governor General can refuse an appointment, this has been
        rare. Thus the Senate make up has been the result of the current
        and previous Prime Ministers.
        Conservative PM’s appoint conservative senators, Liberal PM’s
        appoint liberal senators. The first qualification to be a senator is
        party membership and following the prime minister’s wishes.
        The Senate can produce legislation to send to the House of Commons and it can turn back legislation from the House. This
        last duty is why the Senate is no longer the ” House of sober
        second thought” but is now just another partisan rubber stamp.
        And this is why I truly dislike the Senate and think it has lost it’s
        usefulness. Plus I think if elected representatives have decided
        on a course and follow it, they have the right to do so and will be
        held accountable in the next election.
        If Trudeau gets a majority, he has earned the right to run the
        country as he thinks he should. Unelected and unaccountable
        senators have no right to change this, in my mind. McGuinty
        was elected by the people, governed for the people and will be
        judged by the people. That is democracy!

        • MaggiesBear

          Constitutionally, it is always the GG who makes the appointment. We tend to consider that it is the PM because he presents the recommended names and in my lifetime, I’m not aware of a GG ever refusing any of the recommendations but he does have that power. It is based on the fact that the Senate is appointed by the Crown and that would be the Queen or her representative.

          It isn’t a stable democracy when there is no accountability between elections. The Senate provides some check and balance on the power of the Commons when it operates effectively. We tend to dismiss the Senate because of the way it has been perverted by the political parties and the people it recommends for appointment but a properly constituted Senate that is independent of the Commons can be a significant asset.

          As for the fact they aren’t elected. Pfffft. If we don’t trust the people we elect to select highly qualified people to sit in the Senate or on the Supreme Court, we shouldn’t elect them. The US has an elected Senate and it’s as dysfunctional as ours and even more corrupt.

          Electing people to some position is not always a guarantee of quality.

          • Randy

            While electing people is not a quality guarantee, we do have
            the opportunity to change them. I suspect the current
            government will find that out, to my chagrin.
            When the Senate becomes an independent body, filled with
            independent people with independent thoughts, I may
            reconsider my position.
            Some people do not mind having someone who is appointed
            having a say in how the country is run, some people prefer
            that those officials be accountable. I am in the latter camp.

  • CanadaGoose1

    Isn’t it a scandal that P.E.I. has a Senate seat? And that the Maritimes and Quebec can block any Senate reform.
    Would like to hear a hundredth of the coverage of the Senate scandal about the Ontario government’s spending hundreds of millions to move gas plants unnecessarily. But yes, I am disappointed in how Harper has handled this. Not worthy of this leader.

    • MaggiesBear

      There has been significant coverage and criticism in the media about the gas plant closures. The difference is that provincial media tend to report on provincial issues – national media report on national issues.

  • oldwhiteguy

    this whole thing is ridiculous. that we are running around like chickens with no heads and bemoaning the actions of a group appointed to an undemocratic institution drives me nuts. are we arguing for or against keeping unelected people at the government trough? we have Indians running around disrupting legitimate businesses and we pay these Indians and their bands hundreds of millions of dollars a year. what the h-ll is wrong with us. this senate nonsense is just that nonsense.

    • Bert_1

      I agree and I can’t help wonder if any of these Senators (except the liberal guy in jail already) actually broke any laws. I have seen no end of people *claiming* that many laws have been broken but have seen nothing either definitive or official that anyone di anything illegal. Is this another robocalls “scandal”? Or, more likely, just a ruse to deflect attention away from the abject failure of Harper’s enemies to make anything in the robocalls “scandal” stick.

      • MaggiesBear

        All we know is that Harper is at the centre of this. He appointed the Senators, he defended them, now he’s throwing them under the bus. Somewhere in all of that is the truth about the man’s integrity and his character.

    • MaggiesBear

      I agree with you except this is no longer about money. This is about integrity, due process and presumption of innocence. In other words, we’ve moved beyond pigs at the trough; now it’s about the trampling of rights and abuse of power.

  • Bert_1

    I’m truly at a loss for words. Stephen Harper has always struck me as an intelligent man with integrity. In spite of anything else that has happened, I have found that to be true. He seem to be deliberately giving the next election to Trudeau now, though. If he does, I will never forgive him.

    • MaggiesBear

      Because of his attitude and actions, we are bleeding support to the Liberals. Justin Trudeau now has a 9 pt lead over Harper and it’s growing. What’s worse, the Liberals haven’t even fired any of their guns yet. They haven’t introduced their policy initiatives or campaign promises. In other words, they aren’t even in the game yet and they’re winning.We can all thank Stephen Harper for that.

      • Bert_1

        I’m sitting in a hotel room right now listening to Danielle Smith deliver her opening speech at the WildRose AGM in Red Deer. Very moving and thoughtful. We need someone like her heading the federal Conservative Party.

        • MaggiesBear

          I think you’re right.

          • Bert_1

            I sincerely hope that this turns out to be a simple matter of poor communication on the PMO’s part, I’m not holding my breath, but I am hoping.

        • Cytotoxic

          You know Smith is about to gut the WR platform right?

          • Bert_1

            How so?

  • Ian Shields

    Senator Plett said today that when he was appointed and asked about expenses was told by the senate leadership that what he saw as expenses are senate expenses. Senator Wallin is being hung out to dry based on no rules.

    • MaggiesBear

      They all are and there will be more. Senator Stewart Olsen will be next but wait until the Auditor General’s Report comes down. It’s going to make Stephen Harper look like a fool for acting the way he has. It is unbelievable that he has done this to the conservative brand.