02.18.2013 08:08 PM

In Tuesday’s Sun: entitlements and the entitled

The only reason pitchfork-wielding Canadian taxpayers aren’t charging onto the Hill to string up assorted senators, of course, is this: They’ve seen it all before. It’s an old horror movie and they know how it ends: Badly, for them.

Suggesting that parliamentarians abuse the rules to line their pockets, therefore, isn’t exactly front-page news. Nor is it a uniquely Canadian phenomenon — the current allegations around Canuck senators Pamela Wallin, Mike Duffy, Patrick Brazeau and Mac Harb notwithstanding. It happens everywhere, and it happens all the time.

The Mother of All Expense Account Scandals, we reckon, took place a few years ago, at the Mother of All Parliaments in Britain. Then, dozens of Members of Parliament were caught up in an expense account scandal that makes our honourable members look like mere pikers.

In the Brit scandal, MPs were found to have expensed mortgage payments for mortgages that had been paid off. One expensed nearly $4,000 for a floating duck island for the pond in his garden. Another statesman charged British taxpayers close to $5,000 to clean out his moat.

Another parliamentarian, the “care services” minister, apparently cared quite a bit about his London flat, and expensed about $100,000 to furnish it. A minister of justice, no less, tried to expense a $5,000 flat-screen TV.

Other stuff expensed: Nail polish, panty liners and (my personal favourite) diapers.

Whenever an expense-account scandal happens — and they seemingly happen all the time — they tend to follow a time-worn trajectory. The media go wild, and publish more. The public gets mad, and votes less.

Meanwhile, the politicos always follow the five stages of scandal: Silence, followed by cover up, then denial, followed by acts of contrition, and concluding with resignation. (As in, actual resignations.) All to be followed by born-again religiosity and memoir-writing.

But, for all that, one question remains stubbornly unanswered — why do they do it?

Why do people in high-profile positions spend taxpayer dollars as if it were their own? Don’t they know they will always get caught?

One American psychotherapist, Judith Acosta, tried to answer the question in an essay. She was blunt: Politicians, she says, are sociopaths.

It’s a tempting analysis, but having spent most of my adult life around politicians I am inclined towards a different, admittedly unscientific, assessment.

Politicians are (clearly) goal-driven. They tend to regard the universe as a win-lose proposition. They believe that, upon election or appointment, they have been admitted to another plane of existence, wherein (as Acosta says) the rules do not apply to them so much, or at all.

I’ve also found that they harbour deep resentments. Every day, they meet rich and powerful people who want things from them. Because they work hard, and they don’t have much of a life anymore, they feel — and my heart sank the first time I heard this now-storied phrase — they are entitled to their entitlements. Rules, begone.

That doesn’t make them sociopaths. They are, instead, next-door neighbours.

They see the grass on the other side, they see it is greener, and they want it.

So they go after it, and they don’t give a damn who is paying the bill.


  1. Ronald O'Dowd says:


    I think it goes to personal self-esteem. How do they really feel about themselves? If they feel inadequate or inferior, they will tend to compensate by reaching for their comforts otherwise known as entitlements by the self-deluded.

    When they get there, they know what’s a go and what isn’t. Poor them, perhaps they should try sometime sleeping on a park bench. That should put things in perspective.

    • Swervin' Merv says:

      Not so much resentment or low self-esteem, based on my (provincial) experience. Most cabinet members, for example, work incredibly hard over long hours, so the sense of entitlement comes from feeling that they more than earn their perks and are too busy doing important things to worry about some picky regulations. Exhaustion and a sense of importance (rather than envy or low self-esteem) can lead to poor judgement but is not excusable.

  2. smelter rat says:

    I spent 35 years in a provincial civil service. I couldn’t expense a pencil without a receipt. I had an operating budget of over $300,000 which was audited regularly. Every expense was signed off by an Admin Officer and an Exec Director. Some went to the ADM and even the DM. I simply can’t fathom the corruption I’m witnessing in the Senate today. Unbelievable.

  3. Sean says:

    For every ten politicians who get into silly money scandals, there are one hundred who don’t. However, the media makes those 10 politicians 100% of the story. Thus everyone is tainted with the same brush. I blame the media for destroying our democracy. MSM has become a sleazy purveyor of hate, bitterness and envy.

  4. Mary Fitzgerald says:


    Still reading “Fight the Right”; the weird thing is, Jonah Goldberg also sees himself as a classical liberal, fighting the Right and libertarians:

    “Politics is about persuasion. If Ron Paul were out there converting neo-Nazis to classical liberalism I’d be cheering him … If your goal is to persuade people that the libertarian cause is free of bigotry, courting support from bigots is a really stupid way to do it.”

    Are you actually contesting for the same thought space?


  5. John Matheson says:

    Insiders find all of this something to chuckle about. If fellow insiders and cronies are found with their hands in the cookie jar, oh well, ‘self esteem issues’ caused by seeing people with greater responsibilities and burdens were to blame.

    The average Joe or Jacques has to come to the conclusion of “No sense in voting. They are all criminals who play games with ideology to con us into thinking they are different from each other”. It’s what I call the F ‘M All constituency, which is 50% bigger than the largest party elected, no matter who wins.

    None of them have a mandate.

  6. Steve T says:

    Very true, but quite frankly as a taxpayer, I don’t give a flying f**k why these a-holes do it. They need to be fired, period. Unfortunately, they can’t really be “fired”, due to the structure of the Senate. At least when an MP acts this way, they can be voted out during the next election.

    Therefore, I concur with your earlier approach – abolish the whole damn Senate.

  7. Billy boy says:

    Interesting, first time I’ve seen the old “status frustration” argument for deviance and crime applied to relatively rich, well educated, mainly white, mostly men who are some of our most powerful people. Poor exploited politicians, are these the true temporarily embarrassed millionaires?

    What most politicians and Bay St brokers have in common is precisely that they have sociopathic, highly narcissistic tendencies.

    We need to return to the roots of democracy and its advancement through intellectual honesty and debate, not through electoral success at any cost. We need more than hype and other cynical appeals to human emotion and must refocus on the common good.

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