Oh what a hectic month for political scandals. Seriously, one of things you notice doing a weekly radio show on politics is that there's really not enough time to cover it all, and it just keeps getting worse too. Happening at all levels of government, let's rundown what I like to call the Month of Scandal.
Local - And then there were six. Six staffers have left in the two weeks since news broke that there's allegedly a video in the ether that shows Toronto's mayor, Rob Ford, in the company of drug dealers smoking crack. To say that the issue is following him around like so much crack smoke is an understatement, as Ford can't even have a press conference about major flooding in the city without getting questions he doesn't want to answer, but really should. Although the controversy has generated a lot of laughs, and a lot of schadenfreude, I think the matter has gone from funny, to sad, to infuriating, to distracting, to having the desire for the whole thing to be over.
Ford also won't be attending the meeting of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities this weekend in Vancouver, which will be a sizable absence given that he's the mayor of Canada's largest city. He's also blindly insisting that he's election ready, even though his closest allies on city council have publicly said he should consider stepping aside. It's impossible to imagine with a mayor's office understaffed, and with new allegations arising even as the old ones refused to be answered, that the business of the city is getting done in anything resembling an orderly fashion. Considering how fast our media cycle moves nowadays, and considering how the controversy has been running hot for two weeks, it's also hard to imagine that this isn't going away until Ford seriously answers these allegations rather than waving everyone off with a simple, "anything else." No Rob, there is nothing else. Not right now anyway.
Provincial - The Ford story has also made its way to the provincial level as the Premier has been asked what, if anything, she can do to help stabilize the situation. Of course, Kathleen Wynne's options are limited, but its rather unlikely that Wynne will step into such a heated controversy anyway. (Although, kudos to the Toronto Sun for finding a picture of the Premier looking maximally deranged for today's cover though.)
Wynne and her perilous minority government get a respite now, but the month of May left a big question mark over their collective heads as to whether or not they were going to stay the government. Though right now, it might be a relief to Wynne to be now constantly asked questions about Ford's problems versus whether or not she'll give in to a growing list of demands from Andrea Horwath, Wynne will still have to navigate her tricky minority situation again in the fall, especially if the controversies for the Liberals continue to compound. But on the other hand, Tim Hudak's PCs continue to have a tough time making traction with the electorate, and like Wynne, Hudak has his own Ford drama. It was about a month ago that Doug Ford was looking good to be a PC candidate in Etobicoke, but PC House leader Jim Wilson couldn't separate himself fast enough from the elder Ford yesterday.
Federal - Issues in Ottawa remain abundant. Mike Duffy's getting the lion's share of the news, but there's also the partisan letters on the CIDA website, recent fines issued for robocalls, the expected report on Senator Pamela Wallin's expense accounts, and, as of yesterday, the Heritage Minister's mocking of Canadian dramatists as deflection.
Yes, James Moore really stepped in it when answering questions about the Duffy expense scandal and deciding to draw attention to the money issues of NDP MP Tyrone Benskin, who owes nearly $60,000 in back taxes. Moore also mocked Benskin's bill last fall, a proposed adjustment to the tax code that would have given artists a break in paying more tax in years when they earned well to compensate for leaner years. While pointing out the idea that the NDP were avoiding their own issues with money, Moore doubled down by suggesting that Benskin was using Parliament so that he didn't have to pay taxes, which would have been bad enough but the gallery was full of actors who were being honoured that day, and they didn't take too kindly having one of their own called a tax cheat.
The normally cool and collected Conservatives are swinging hay makers, the question is, are they connecting? On "Beyond the Ballot Box" yesterday my fellow panelist Oliver Rockside indicated that it was a bad week for Justin Trudeau because he's been a soft voice on senate reform, but the flipside is that Trudeau has stayed clean of all allegations throughout the month. Thomas Mulcair has the small matter of a cash-filled envelope nearly 20 years ago, and while that's small potatoes as compared to Duffy's transgressions, Quebecers, as we saw last fall, have a low tolerance for corruption, even if it is just whiff. That's bad news for Mulcair and the NDP if they want to keep Quebec in their corner. Time will tell what the end result of all this bad money news will be.
South of the Border - At least it's nice to know that Canada's isn't the only government with issues. U.S. President Barack Obama has been dealing with a heavy case of the second term scandals, a condition where a president's hopes and ambitions for his second term, free from the political constraints of needing to win re-election, is flushed away in a tide of drawn out controversies, be they petty as with Clinton and Monica Lewinski) or severe (Bush 43 and, well, everything).
Obama is dealing with three issues. The first is a holdover from last fall, Benghazi. Many Republicans are of the opinion that the president and his staff are hiding - something - they don't know what, concerning the September 11 attack that killed four members of the U.S. diplomatic staff in Libya. Somewhat more concrete is an incident in Cincinnati where IRS officials lent greater scrutiny to Tea Party groups looking for tax exemptions, but while its difficult to prosecute Obama for not knowing the intimate details of the Cincinnati branch of the Internal Revenue Service, one has to ask, is it such a crime to cast a closer look to an anti-tax group looking for greater tax freedom? The final scandal involves the administration's wire tap of an Associated Press reporter who has given access to classified material, and while that's pretty serious, and indeed more serious than the average person can appreciate, to many it just looks like the media complaining about not being treated like a privileged class. So for now, the president skates, but it remains to be scene: can he now get on with his agenda, or is this a sign of things to come?
In the meantime, it looks like sanity won in at least one aspect of American politics. Michele Bachmann, a long outspoken Congresswoman, Tea Party mouthpiece and former presidential candidate, is calling it a day. Many see Bachmann as the embodiment of a Republican Party that favours ideology over fact, religion over science, imagined past over the real present, but the question is, does Bachmann's retirement from politics mean the beginning of a return to rationalism for her party, or will someone of equal or greater crazy try to take her place? Time will tell.