Robyn Benson, PSAC

Shenanigans on the Hill: an update

Parliament hill by night.JPG

The scandals that National VP Chris Aylward wrote about a while ago deepen and spread. Police and Elections Canada are now involved. Conservative MPs continue to sit who legally shouldn’t. Another Senator is confused by paperwork. A secret Conservative slush fund being run out of the Prime Minister’s Office is exposed. The Speaker of the House disgraces his office yet again. A former Harper insider questions the Prime Minister’s veracity.

And so the increasingly tacky reality show called “Parliament” continues to drag on, like Big Brother without the sex.

We haven’t heard much more about Mike Duffy since his desire to become a minister without portfolio was revealed a couple of weeks ago. Seems he wanted a limousine. He didn’t get it.

But fellow ex-CTV journalist Pamela Wallin has chosen the tactic of throwing herself upon the mercy of the public. She admitted to having “made mistakes.” She’s sorry about that. It was all the paperwork, see, “mounds” of it (Duffy apparently had the same problem) and she’s already paid back $38,000 worth of those mistakes.

(Shorter Pat Carney, former Conservative Senator: “Are you kidding me?”)

In any case, there may well be more oopsies:

Eyebrows were first raised after an examination of Wallin’s travel expenses from September 2010 to Nov. 30, 2012, showed she had claimed only $29,423 in what’s deemed regular travel to and from her home province of Saskatchewan, while racking up another $321,000 in other travel elsewhere in Canada and abroad.

An audit report will be completed in July and is likely to be made public in August. It’s later than it was supposed to be, in part because the auditors are now going back to the date of Wallin’s actual appointment in January, 2009.

The Conservatives, obviously tired of all the shoes that have been dropping recently, gave her an hour to leave the Conservative caucus or be booted from it.

Meanwhile Senate bad boy Patrick Brazeau and the charming Liberal Senator Mac Harb have been given a month to pay back significant amounts of what the Senate internal economy committee considers to be improperly-claimed housing allowances. Like Senator Duffy, these two had some problems, it seems, remembering where they live.

They’ve both decided to sue to keep the money. And it’s entirely possible that the Senate may have to pay their legal bills—which means, of course, that you and I will.

The RCMP has proceeded to launch a criminal investigation of former Harper Chief of Staff Nigel Wright’s $90K cheque which, in an impulsive fit of generosity, he gave to Mike Duffy to get the latter off the hook with the Senate internal economy committee.

The Prime Minister, famous for his micromanagement style, claims that he had no idea what his Chief of Staff was up to. A former PMO insider, soon to be tried for influence-peddling, expresses polite scepticism.

One question hanging in the air: would Wright have eventually been reimbursed his $90K out of the huge, and until recently, secret, PMO slush fund that he controlled?

Turning now to the House of Commons, another Conservative MP, Jeff Watson, joins his colleagues James Bezan and Shelly Glover in having been found guilty by Elections Canada of exceeding his election spending limits.

All three MPs are fighting Elections Canada in court. Watson is claiming that the independent agency is pursuing a “vendetta” against the Conservative party—as one Tweeter sarcastically put it, just like the way police officers are pursuing a vendetta against drunk drivers.

The three MPs continue to sit and vote in the House, contrary to the Canada Elections Act.

And that brings us directly to the Speaker of the House, a young Conservative MP named Andrew Scheer, whose perceived partiality in the House has become somewhat of a scandal of its own. It turns out that Scheer had been sitting on letters from Elections Canada calling for the suspensions of Bezan and Glover. When questioned about this after the story broke in the media, Scheer refused to table the letters, saying that the Opposition could go find them on the Internet.

This is the parody to which the ancient and honourable office of Speaker of the House of Commons has been reduced under the Conservatives.

Democracy under the Westminster system depends more on trust, custom and convention than on formal rules. That makes it fragile, and as we are seeing, a government can run roughshod over it if it chooses to do so. Even the rule of law seems to have no effect, at least up to this point, as the cluster of scandals continues to bloom.

And so the shadows swirl, the fog descends, and dim shapes skulk in the ever-deepening dark. Is this our Parliament Hill? Or Bald Mountain?

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This page contains a single entry by Robyn Benson, PSAC published on June 17, 2013 8:25 AM.

Conservative accountability was the previous entry in this blog.

And it's off to court we go is the next entry in this blog.

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