The Senate Expense Scandal is no Longer About Expenses
I’ll tell you what – once the wheels start to come off, the hairy ride ain’t going to stop until the wagon crashes and the wheels are coming off the conservative party bus.
Remember Richard Nixon?
Somehow, the President of the United States and the smart kids in his office managed to turn a penny-ante break-in of the Democratic National Offices at Watergate, into a full-blown scandal that led to impeachment proceedings against the President.
The President didn’t know about the break-in until after he heard about it in the media; nor did he order it. What he did do was avoid taking immediate and decisive action to hold accountable any and all who were responsible. Instead he applied the ‘political’ fix. He denied, altered his story and eventually became complicit in the cover-up and it is always the cover-up that hangs you.
Fast forward to Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.
He denied for over a year that he had ever smoked crack or marijuana. Once the infamous video was released, the story changed. He had smoked it once, then on CNN he admitted he had smoked crack more than once. He also admitted to smoking marijuana but was adamant that he hadn’t touched either drug in over a year. That got changed Tuesday when it was made clear that the video in which the Mayor appears to be smoking crack was made only nine months ago.
That’s the problem with the truth. It’s buoyant and sooner or later, it’s going to float up to the surface. The only real issue is whether or not you want to put the truth out there and try to minimize the damage it causes or try to obscure the truth until it pops to the surface and hammers you.
Politicians are notorious for poor issues management and I believe it is because they have an uncomfortable relationship with the truth. You only have to compare their actions after an election with their promises before the vote to understand that.
In 2008, a listeriosis outbreak happened in Canada, linked to products from a Maple Leaf Foods factory in Toronto. Many got sick and a twenty-three people died. I always respected the way that situation was handled.
Maple Leaf didn’t bob and weave or try to mitigate the situation with excuses; CEO Michael McCain stepped up and publicly took responsibility for what happened. He ordered a voluntary recall of all products from that plant and not just those linked to the outbreak. He was quick to keep the public informed as the investigations unfolded; holding a number of press conferences where he released information and answered all media questions put to him.
I believe it was his open honesty that saved Maple Leaf’s credibility and allowed it to regain consumer confidence. The shame is that we never see that kind of open, accountable and honest leadership from politicians – including our premiers and prime minister.
In Ottawa yesterday, the Information To Obtain (ITO) was released by the RCMP investigating the Senate Expense Scandal and to quote David Aiken over at Sun News – “BOOM!”
The circle involved in the attempt to make the Mike Duffy affair go away has widened. It now includes the Conservative Party’s lawyer, Benjamin Perrin and The Party’s fund manager, Senator Irving Gerstein. The RCMP are also looking for additional material involving Senators Marjory LeBreton, David Tkachuk, and Carolyn Stewart Olsen.
In all, there are now a minimum of 13 people involved in the Senate Expense scandal and they are all directly connected to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
The RCMP affidavit alleges that the senators were part of the broader scheme to make the Duffy mess disappear by ‘softening’ the language in the Deloitte audit of Duffy’s expenses.
It should be made clear that nothing has been proven in court and there are no charges laid – yet; but clearly there is something unseemly about the government’s handling of this entire mess and who knew what or did what.
Senators Carolyn Stewart Olsen and Marjorie Lebreton were part of the recent cabal that pushed to suspend Senators Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau. Senator Gerstein and Benjamin Perrin both report to the Leader of the Conservative Party who, coincidentally, happens to be Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
It is becoming clear that while the Prime Minister did not know about Nigel Wright’s check to Mike Duffy, he had approved something and the suspicion is that he approved the Conservative Party repaying Duffy’s housing claims.
The Prime Minister has been clear and unequivocal in his denial that he knew anything about Nigel Wright repaying Duffy’s expenses and I take him at his word. He has, however, always dodged answering whether or not he knew about a plan to have the Conservative Party repay those expenses.
I’m not sure that I see much difference between Nigel Wright repaying Duffy’s expenses and authorizing the Party to do the same thing.
I suppose that this, like all political scandals, will be interpreted by people based on their particular bias. If you are a hard-core right of right conservative who thinks the Prime Minister can do no wrong, you’ll cling to the part of the documents that states there is no evidence that the Prime Minister did anything wrong. If you are suspicious of Stephen Harper, you’ll seize on the email in which Nigel Wright says the Prime Minister has given them a go ahead in the belief that email proves the Prime Minister did approve some kind of repayment and, therefore, did know about a plan to provide cover for Mike Duffy.
People have already begun lining up and the finger is being pointed at the usual suspects; first Mike Duffy, then Nigel Wright and as always, the conservatives favourite whipping boy after Justin Trudeau – the media. Just to be clear; this scandal was not manufactured by the media. They are reporting the news not creating it.
But in all honesty, does any of it really matter?
The simple fact is that this is just one more sordid attack on our democracy; one more situation in which politicians have conducted themselves in dishonourable ways.
The RCMP are investigating Senators and the Prime Minister’s Office. Isn’t that enough to bring us together to defend our political system and our values as Canadians? Isn’t that enough for all conservatives to demand straight answers from the Prime Minister?
Where is the accountability, the integrity or even just doing the honourable thing? What has always frosted my butt since this entire scandal began is that unlike all of his predecessors, this Prime Minister has never once sat down in front of a television camera and offered full disclosure of what he knew or knows to Canadians. He has never apologized for the actions of the people he hired and appointed and who reported to him and for whom he was responsible.
The arrogance and hypocrisy are palpable and in the end – deadly.
The Gomery Inquiry established unequivocally that Jean Chretien did not know what his minions were up to in the Sponsorship Scandal. It didn’t save him or his successor, Paul Martin, who actually had the decency to call the inquiry into the actions of his own party.
The simple truth is that the longer people try to hide the truth, the bigger the scandal grows until it has completely outgrown the original issue. That is happening now. The Senate Expense scandal is no longer about senators and their expenses. Now it’s about the integrity of the Prime Minister and of the Conservative Party.
The thought that the kind of stonewalling that has failed virtually every time in the past will somehow work this time – especially now that the RCMP are all over this like fleas on a junk yard dog – would be almost laughable except for the damage it does to our political institutions and the faith and trust people have in government.
It is also undermining the Conservative Party.
Once again, conservatives will take sides. Some will defend the Prime Minister, some will criticize him but those looking at the internecine conflict within the party will wonder why conservatives continuously squabble over less than honourable conduct by various individuals rather than uniting in defense of our values against all who would violate them; including some of our own.
We promised much including transparent government, accountability and more integrity. Instead we have delivered Rob Ford, the In and Out scandal, robocalls and the new allegations about misrepresentation by some conservative staffers against Michael Sona, illegal election campaign funding, how disgustingly the Harper government has treated our vets and tried to cover it up, and the ongoing Senate Expense scandal. Each new revelation leaves me feeling like I need a shower and what I find most troubling is that there are still too may conservatives trying to justify it all by blaming the Liberals for their past scandals.
That’s nothing but an admission that we’re as dirty as they were.
Quite frankly, blaming the media and the constant hysterical obsession with every stupid thing that comes out of Justin Trudeau’s mouth is starting to wear a little thin. The truth is that conservatives have a need for some serious introspection.
You can’t preserve, promote or protect conservative values by violating them and you can’t protect your democracy by blaming others while supporting those who undermine it.
Media commentary on the latest RCMP revelations
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