Thursday, August 13, 2015

Election 2015: The Duffy Effect

So this week the Mike Duffy trial started up again. The star witness being the former Chief of Staff of PM Harper, Nigel Wright. Wright, the man who gave Senator Duffy $90,000 to make his illegal expense claims go away. Wright's testimony may not bring any huge revelations, or a smoking gun, but this trial is a culmination of all of the other legally dubious if not outright illegal actions taken by people close to Harper over the past 10 years. Duffy, Wallin, Brazeau, Del Mastro. These are just the high profile cases. Politically, it's poison for any sitting Prime Minister. If one were to look at the overall picture, it would appear that Harper is a poor judge of character at best, and has created a culture in the PMO that condones illegal activity at worst.

Harper, when making his appointments, whether to the senate or the Supreme Court of Canada, has been more concerned about the political leanings of prospective appointees rather than their qualifications. And once he picks a bad appointment, he will insist that they did nothing wrong, until they are being hauled into court for doing something wrong. When that happens, suddenly he doesn't want anything to do with them. While this is understandable, Harper's suggestion that he "does not apologize for the actions of others", is just not going to cut it. One has to ask, at what point does the Prime Minister believe he does have any responsibility for those he appoints and surrounds himself with? At what point does it become about his judgement?

According to Wright, he worked with others in the PMO and people close to the Prime Minister to concoct a scheme in which they would pay back Duffy's expenses for him, but make it look like he'd pay them back himself, and then would clean up the audit report so that it would appear to be more favourable to the Senator. They were given talking points of what to say to the media, none of which were actually factual or true. He was then given permission by the Prime Minister to go forward with this plan to limit the political damage of Duffy's expenses. None of this was done with honourable intentions. It was done with political expedience in mind.

This is not about the $90,000 cheque, but about the people that the Prime Minister has surrounded himself with. People willing to bend the rules, and who feel entitled to anything they can get. Senators who cry about having to eat cold brie and broken crackers, and go to expensive hotels and drink 16 dollar orange juice. Who claim for a second house when their main residence is in Ottawa, Of course it would be unfair to say that the Conservative Party are any more entitled than other politicians we have had in the past, but it seems to be a problem that has grown over time among those closest to the Prime Minister and is coming to light more often with the Harper government. And it will hurt him in this election.

The other aspect of the Harper government which is equally troubling as the outrageous expense claims and sense of entitlement, is the hyper-partisanship. The Harper government has brought it to a new level in Ottawa. I have watched multiple MPs say things that I wondered if even they believed on TV when asked about things like the Duffy trial, or even about the varsity of their claim to have balanced the budget. These are people willing to do anything to avoid admitting a mistake, or taking responsibility. They refuse to consult, and they refuse to acknowledge any viewpoint other than their own. They even go so far as to insult the opposition instead of answering legitimate questions during question period. MPs like Calandra and Poilievre go to outrageous lengths to avoid answering questions. They repeat the party line over and over, hoping that somehow this will make what they are saying more true. If Canadians paid more attention to Question Period, or to committees, they would be appalled.

But the truth is most Canadians do not pay attention to these things. They trust that our government is doing its job. We shouldn't. People may ask, why any of the stuff like omnibus bills, muzzling reporters, refusal to grant access to information, berating the opposition and trying to starve them financially, or refusing to answer questions in the House of Commons matters. It matters because if we don't hold our government to account, stuff like Duffy happens. Bev Oda happens. Dean Del Mastro happens. Bad legislation that is costing us millions in court fees happens. Canada becomes less fair and less democratic. Less about Canadians' needs and more about partisan political needs. And it needs to stop.

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