Duffy Trial Day 5: Framed!
I took the day off from writing yesterday. I needed a lazy day or as the public sector refers to it – a mental health day. Lots happened in the past 48 hours but I wasn’t motivated to write about it to be honest.
Hillary Clinton announced her bid to for the Democratic presidential nomination which caught two people in Colorado by surprise but not many others. She would appear to be the Democratic front runner because Democrats never seem to learn from past mistakes but she still has a long road in front of her. Her supporters are hoping she doesn’t blow it but I don’t think she will. I think it’s because she hasn’t blown it in the past that drove Slick Willy to Monica Lewinsky.
Just a few short hours later, Republican Senator Mark Rubio announced that he was throwing his hat into the race to be the Republican nominee bringing the total GOP candidates to somewhere around 1100 or so. They apparently don’t learn from past mistakes either it seems.
I’m not American so I couldn’t really work up much enthusiasm to write a full-blown post on either appointment.
I considered writing a post about the announcement by Ontario and Quebec to join forces on a Cap and Trade scheme and did, in fact, jot down a draft but it’s quite dull to be perfectly frank – much like the two premiers involved and I abandoned it.
I don’t follow hockey and wasn’t as captivated as my sister who sent out emails and Facebook posts about the Ottawa Senators making the playoffs. I’m not all that interested in the NHL Playoffs either which pretty much left me once again with the ongoing trial of Canadian Senator Mike Duffy.
The trial resumed yesterday and the harsh reality of scandal in Canada finally dawned on the news media. This trial isn’t anywhere near as exciting as interviewing a group of chartered accountants but there is hope.There is testimony still to come from other senators and from Nigel Wright, the Prime Minister’s former Chief of Staff but yesterday it was more like a meeting with a Canada Revenue Agency auditor than riveting courtroom drama.
Oh sure, there’s lots of testimony about taxpayers’ money but it seems we can’t discuss anything in this country anymore without dredging that up. It’s all been pretty penny-ante stuff so far – or would be if Canada still had the penny; which begs the question as to whether or not this country is capable of generating a world-class scammer or are they all just nickle and dime artists?
Today, it was mostly about framing pictures.
It appears that the Senate’s rolly polly Tory pitchman had some photographs framed at Senate expense. The specific number seems unclear but some apparently were personal and at least one was sent to Barbara Bush. Ms Bush you will recall has the distinction of having been both a mother to, and a wife of, an American President. This is a lady who has been around, hobnobbed as it were with the hoipoloi and why a Canadian senator would think she would want his picture has yet to be uncovered.
But it does raise an interesting question. Did the Prime Minister personally pay to have framed the autographed picture he sent to Senator Duffster or did someone on his staff have it charged to the PMO’s office budget which taxpayers so generously bestow?
It wouldn’t surprise me either way. We already know that Stephen Harper is the first Prime Minister to have a personal stylist traveling with him and up until a couple of years ago, we all paid for that. The PM does have a reputation for being frugal (some say parsimonious) even going so far as to eat at his desk but I’ve noticed he only seems to be careful with smaller amounts of taxpayer dollars. Respecting the big amounts seems to elude him somehow.
It appears, however, that no amount was too small to escape the clutches of the Senate’s chubby cherub of mirth. Penny by penny, the litany of questionable petty expense claims is starting to accumulate. It’s like a Chinese water torture, especially for the media which had high-hopes of breathtaking revelations. It’s become so monotonous for them, that the CBC’s Kady O’Malley was reduced to tweeting about all of the power outlets at the courthouse being high jacked by media folks recharging their tech equipment.
She could easily get a job at CNN with that level of reporting.
I suppose it is all a big yawn – at least for now but I don’t believe it should be. I think there are some serious questions beyond the scope of this trial that need to be asked and answered.
I would like to know who paid for the framing of that picture sent to the Old Duff by the Prime Minister for one but there’s another even more serious.
One of the expense claims submitted by the senator was for a personal trainer. That caught my attention because while I question less the validity of the expense, I do question the quality and the effectiveness of the services for which we paid. I don’t see any difference in the senator’s girth between the day of his appointment and the day of his suspension. I think the photos we see of him trotting in and out of court demonstrate that his girth is about the same size as the day he first strode into the Red Chamber.
So what did we pay for?
Either she (or he) was a terrible trainer or the senator didn’t follow the program or the two of them colluded to buy pizza and beer on a regular basis. If she (or he) was as successful for herself (or himself) as she was for the Duffmeister, she’d need a personal trainer just to level up to walking from waddling.
We need answers. It’s taxpayers’ dollars being thrown about here. We’re paying for weight loss and physical fitness but we’re not getting weight loss and physical fitness. Besides I’m not convinced that having a personal trainer is going to help much if you continue to chow down on the kinds of meals served to the privileged in the political class. Perhaps the senator should have considered dispensing with a personal trainer and just followed the Prime Minister’s example of eating at his desk.
Note – I said eating at his desk – not eating his desk.
The witness for the Crown has testified that she would not have approved these expenses but then she has also testified that the lesser expenses would have been left to the Senator’s discretion as it is with all honourable senators. The more significant expenses, like the personal trainer, would have been kicked up to a higher level (known in government circles as both risk aversion and avoiding accountability) and we all know what that means.
It would have gone from HR to the Finance Department who would have punted it to the Board of Internal Economy which is nothing less than a group of honourable senators approving expenses for each other. Who among us, besides today’s witness believes those expenses wouldn’t have been authorized? I mean, if Senators are prepared to expense a replacement breakfast for ice-cold Camembert and broken crackers, there doesn’t seem too much that isn’t considered an appropriate expense for taxpayers to pick up.
Personally, I don’t like Camembert, even at room temperature, and I don’t have a personal trainer either so some of this testimony is beyond my knowledge level. But I have had a couple of photographs framed – you tend to do a lot of that when you have grandchildren – and I don’t really see what all the fuss is about.
I recently picked up a dozen frames at Dollarama for less than twenty bucks and according to today’s testimony, Senator Duffy had only a few pictures framed. To me that would suggest that his expense claim would have been so small, he would have still had sufficient money left over to buy a $16 dollar glass of orange juice like former Cabinet Minister Bev Oda used to enjoy.
Bev Oda was another of Stephen Harper’s appointments that didn’t quite work out.
Like Diamond Bev, Senator Duffy seems to know the value of a dollar or more accurately, a taxpayers’ dollar. By all accounts he never found one he didn’t like but then, can’t the same be said for the political class in general?
So much of our money is spent keeping them in the manner to which they would like to become accustomed that it’s small wonder there isn’t enough money left for the more mundane things in life like cost-efficient government administration.
I doubt, however, that this trial will change that. We’re heading into an election and the Harper government has already committed $7.5 million of taxpayer dollars to advertise tax breaks to selected groups or The Chosen as I call them. The fact that it is using taxpayer dollars for partisan politics or that most of those tax breaks that have yet to be approved by Parliament seems to be as irrelevant as charging taxpayers for picture frames and warm cheese.
No worries – the selective tax breaks will be approved because the Conservatives have a majority which means that just like Senator Duffy’s frames and personal trainer; you and I can pay for it all.
Thankfully government is rapidly reaching a point where they will soon have all of our money and they will have no choice but to leave us alone and look to others to rob.
Day 2: The Trial, Taxes and Semantics
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