There's been no shortage of scandal involving the Harper government, from robocalls to high-priced fighter jets to back-bench revolts and that $3 billion to combat terrorism that got lost in the cushions. I wonder though, when we look back at the prime ministership of Stephen Harper will it be the actions of the senators he appointed that will reflect the most badly on him?
Canada.com's Jason Fakete wrote a piece that was posted online last night called "December 22, 2008 — a day that Prime Minister Stephen Harper might like to forget." A different title might be, "A Day that Will Live in Infamy." It was that day that Harper appointed 18 new senators to the upper chamber, including current controversy-bait Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau. Duffy and Wallin are now out of caucus, and the only reason Brazeau hasn't followed suit is because of pending criminal charges where, if he's found guilty, will likely result in him being expelled from the senate entirely. All things considered, the PM must be in want of a time machine this week. (Not as badly as Rob Ford, of course, but that's another story.)
News broke yesterday that Wallin was joining Duffy in partisan purgatory, stepping down from the Conservative caucus as the audit of her own senate expenses drags on. So far, nothing as scandalous as the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff writing a $90,000 cheque has come to light, but there's now a morbid curiosity to make one wonder just what the auditors might uncover that could make Wallin leave caucus voluntarily.
“I have been involved in the external audit process since December 2012, and I have been co-operating fully and willingly with the auditors,” Wallin said in a statement. “I have met with the auditors, answered all the questions and provided all requested documentation.”
But then Wallin had this to say: “I had anticipated that the audit process would be complete by now, but given that it continues, I have decided to rescue myself from the Conservative caucus, and I will have no further comment until the audit process is complete.”
If there's a great example of arrogance and presumption of superiority, it's in that last line, one that was echoed in Duffy's statement of resignation Thursday night. "This has been a difficult time for me and my family, and we are going to take some time away from the public," the statement read. "I ask the media to respect our privacy while these questions are resolved through the appropriate processes."
Unfortunately for Duffy, the story isn't that his mother or some other close relation died suddenly, he treated taxpayer money like his own personal piggy bank. Not only was he exploiting a tax loophole to save money paying for two residences, not only did he take money from an influential party member with a direct connection to the Prime Minister, and not only is he doing all this while filling an unelected position with seemingly no accountability, but to add insult to injury he was allegedly claiming senate expenses while on the campaign trail for the Conservatives in 2011.
For Duffy to ask for privacy from media, as if he's the victim and not the architect of his own downfall, is insulting. No Mr. Duffy, you can't have privacy. If you walked into a bank and held it up with a gun and stole more than $90,000, would the alleged robber be allowed the chance to suffer in silence? I doubt it. And what's all the more galling is that Duffy and Wallin especially should know better than to insist they deserve special treatment from the media seeing as how they were once themselves media professionals. How many hours did they both spending digesting the ins and outs of financial scandals of governments past?
But in the end that might not be the real issue. Despite all those years working on the Reform/Alliance/Conservative platform and making a big issue of senate reform, Harper's beein power for nearly nine years and there's been not even a hint of senate reform. Instead, Harper's been very proactive in appointing new senators when vacancies open up, and I don't think I've even heard any Conservative MP use the words "senate reform" since securing a majority government more than two years ago.
The question Stephen Harper should be asking this morning is "What would Stephen Harper do?" That is, what would Stephen Harper like to see if he was leader of the opposition and the government in power had such rampant misconduct by that party's senators, up to and including a substantial bailout for one senator by the Prime Minister's own Chief of Staff. By any stretch of the imagination, I could not see Harper giving them a pass, and the Prime Minister himself now needs take some of his own medicine: he either has to admit that his appointees are dirty and demand the resignation of his own staffer, and/or admit that he's been behind the ball and join Thomas Mulcair's call for senate reform in a new by-partisan effort.
As for the artist currently known as Puff Duffy, he's finally found a use for that cottage "residence" in Cavendish, PEI: a hideout. CTV News, who have been pleasantly persistent in going after their old colleague, tried to interview Duffy at his PEI "home" only to have the Puffster call 5-0 on them, which is weird, because it's not like a conservative politician to call the police on a camera crew, right?