Chris Aylward

The Wright thing

Duffy with glass.JPG

I could hardly let the events of the last few days go by without mention—although almost everything that needs to be said has already been said.

The Senate as an institution has been dealt a devastating blow by some of its own members, led by Senator Mike Duffy. In the normal world, you can’t live in one province to qualify for office, then admit you don’t qualify for a housing allowance that you would indeed qualify for if you actually lived in that province. And continue in office as an Independent, while your Conservative friends tell the world that you showed “leadership” for paying back monies that you would, as noted, have every right to keep—if you actually were a resident in the province you had to be resident of to be a Senator in the first place.

Confused? Yeah, me too. I did my best there.

Then we have Nigel Wright, Prime Minister Harper’s right-hand man, who, as it turned out, wrote a personal cheque for $90K to cover off the good Senator’s improper claims, allowing the Senator to tell the auditors to take a hike and the Conservatives to declare the matter closed. And for good measure, the first audit report was suppressed by the Senate audit committee, because—and here we have to pause for a laugh—it would have made the Senator in question look bad.

Besides tersely accepting Wright’s resignation, the Prime Minister of Canada has had nothing to say. Nothing.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives are pressing ahead with Bill C-377, which would “force” unions to disclose financial statements that are already available to their own members, bury them in an avalanche of paperwork every time they make a move, and violate the privacy of countless individuals doing business with them.

“Accountability,” the Conservatives call it. “Transparency.” With straight faces. As the Duffy/Wright scandal, with its cover-ups and a mysterious resignation, continues to unfold.

And where is that Bill now? Why, in the Senate. And Harper has indicated he wants it passed fast, or no summer off for the Upper Chamber.

A story is building here that should pique the interest of even the most irony-challenged. Voices from pitch darkness are demanding that others switch on hot and blinding lights in their own houses.

One thing you can say about the Conservatives—they have standards. Lots of them. More than enough for everyone. Too many even for the Ottawa SUN. Take that, Skippy, for uttering some of the most inane lines in defence of Wright/Duffy that you are ever likely to read. (Well, in fairness he’s got competition.)

Could this be the tipping point for the current government, when even normally supportive media are becoming bluntly mocking and critical? An election is, after all, two years away, and that’s a lot of breathing room for recovery.

But this time something seems to have shifted: the supposed iron competence of the Prime Minister, almost a given in Canada’s recent political narrative, is now in serious question. And so is his personal credibility.

“Bend the rules,” said Harper in 2005, “you will be punished; break the law, you will be charged; abuse the public trust, you will go to prison.”

Short memory, or a change of heart? The spreading stain in the Upper House, with its exodus of Senators from the Conservative benches, reflects a culture that Harper helped to build. He personally appointed a majority of the current sitting Senators.

The rules, and very clear rules they are, haven’t merely been bent. They’ve been shattered. No one is being punished. Now the spotlight has been turned on, everyone’s scuttling for cover. And the same goes for Wright’s resignation, which Harper reluctantly accepted after first claiming Wright had his “full confidence.” Transparency? Accountability? Not on your nelly.

Harper is a micromanager who spends millions tracking his own MPs—yet we are expected to believe that he had no idea of what was going on in his own office. He didn’t have any idea what his own Chief of Staff was up to? Or that, as revealed last night, his then special counsel, Benjamin Perrin, inked the Wright/Duffy deal in February? Really?

And if he did…

Well, let’s not speculate. The truth, we hope, will out. In the meantime, I spent a pleasant long weekend, I hope you did too, and let’s stay tuned for the next installment. Is this better than Game of Thrones, or what?

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This page contains a single entry by Chris Aylward published on May 21, 2013 8:00 AM.

"Never a dull moment in BC politics." was the previous entry in this blog.

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