10.26.2013 07:23 PM

In Sunday’s Sun: the Senate virus grows deadly

Political scandals aren’t like viruses — they are, in fact, viruses.

For those wielding power, the objective is to avoid getting sick — or, at the very least, to prevent the virus from infecting vital organs.

For the critics of the powerful, the objective is always to encourage the spread of the virus.

It’s an unpleasant metaphor, but surveying the wreckage wrought by the Conservatives’ Senate scandal, it fits. What started as a one-day story has now metastasized. The Senate scandal virus is spreading, and it is edging inexorably closer to the one man the Conservative Party of Canada cannot afford to lose — Stephen Harper.

The opposition and the media love political scandal viruses.

The media, because we are drawn to bad news — if it bleeds, it leads. The opposition, because they take their cues from the media.

All of this is so basic, so obvious, it barely merits saying. Which is what makes the Harper regime’s inept response to the spreading Senate scandal virus so mystifying.

Harper and his followers seized power because of a scandal and the Liberal party’s inability to rebut that scandal. How they did not heed that lesson — how they did not inoculate themselves against the likes of Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau — is beyond understanding.

If you are a sane person, you do not watch parliamentary proceedings every day. But last week, it was worth tuning in — first, for Duffy’s Checkers-like discourse, in which he sought to shift blame to the man who appointed him to the Senate.

And second, for the government’s pathetic response to Duffy’s unproven allegations.

One part of Duffy’s statement has been quoted widely.

On Feb. 13, he said he met with Harper and his chief of staff, Nigel Wright, to discuss inappropriate claims for living expenses.

Duffy insists Harper said the following: “It’s not about what you did. It’s about the perception of what you did that’s been created in the media.”

Harper ended the discussion, Duffy said, with this: “Pay the money back.” The CBC and others called it a “bombshell,” but it wasn’t.

One could easily picture Harper impassively listening to Duffy’s lame protestations of his innocence with Wright as his witness and then saying what many a political boss has said before to an underling they were readying to discipline or fire: It’s not what you did, it’s the perception of what you did. And then: “Pay the money back.”

Where, exactly, is the “bombshell” in any of that? In his Senate tour de force, Duffy was clearly attempting to infect Harper with the Senate scandal virus.

Harper’s response to opposition and media questions, therefore, should have been equally clear.

He should have said the following: “I met with Mr. Duffy.” (Don’t call him a senator, and thereby give him legitimacy.) “I did so with a witness.” (To insinuate Duffy was not trustworthy.) “I told him that his explanations and his rationalizations did not matter. I told him that he was seen to have done wrong.” (And, of course, an army of auditors and the RCMP wouldn’t be probing Duffy were this not so.) “I told him to pay the money back.” PAY THE MONEY BACK.

Duffy, by quoting Harper uttering these words, thought he was placing a prime minister in the proximity of a dangerous virus.

In reality, he was providing Harper with the best talking point of all: “I told Mr. Duffy to pay the money back.”

Why Harper didn’t personally say that — why he relied on his useless parliamentary secretary to make matters radically worse in question period — will be a mystery historians will ponder for many years.

Mike Duffy and his free-spending cabal were a case of the sniffles.

By forgetting the lessons of the past, Stephen Harper and his minions have turned them into a raging virus.

And they are a virus that is lethal.


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    Chris O'Brien says:

    he weirdest thing to me in this story is the neatly attired, obvious skin regimen Nigel Slickyboy cutting a cheque and then vanishing like a someone in witness protection. Makes absolutely no sense on any level. I mean it is Ratfucking 101, use cash. Hell, Mulroney even knew that when he was taking that enevelope of cash in the hotel room.

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    MCBellecourt says:

    Just a teensy little detail, WK..you referred to Mr. Wright as “Noel”–otherwise, a really brilliant summary of all the happenings and shenanegans.

    Ya gotta admit, it’s been a fun week. Oh, and…


    …for your reading enjoyment, if you haven’t already.

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    Nic Coivert says:

    It all has a kind of Nixonian hubris.

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    Kelly says:

    It’s actually fairly hard to pull together that much hard cash quickly without anyone noticing, at least via formal, channels. Had he used cash to make the payment and gotten caught the optics would have been far worse. The problem was ever appointing guys like Duffy or Brazeau to the senate in the first place. Stupid.

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    Jnap says:

    I have it on good authority that the Leader of the Government in the Senate, after 2006, cancelled the sessions to teach new Senate appointees how to fill in expense claims. Why did she do this without replacing them with clear written guidelines that would be applied consistently?

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      Matt says:

      Harper didn’t begin making Senate appointments until the fall of 2008. The Conservatives didn’t have an outright majority until 2009 or 2010.

      From 2006 to 2008 there were no new Senators appointed, and the Liberals had the majority. So, how could Senate leaders cancel sessions in 2006 to teach anything to new Senators that didn’t arrive for 2 years?

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    Peter Jackson says:

    Actually, Harper, himself did essentially say, ““I told Mr. Duffy to pay the money back”: “I told Mr. Duffy when he asked, in fact, when he asked I told our entire caucus and staff, that my view was that his expense claims were inappropriate and they should be repaid,” * Harper said.

    This “virus” is actually legions of forensic accountants armed with sophisticated database applications combing over ever penny, every senator has ever claimed and will likely be spreading to others – MPs, MLAs, high level functionaries, etc. And can the Liberal Party, or the NDP for that matter survive that great microscope? Have you ever considered Harper deliberately brought these three dunces into the Red Chamber to deliberately destroy it – losing a battle to win the war?

    “It’s not about what you did. It’s about the perception of what you did that’s been created in the media.” No truer words have ever been spoken – whoever created them: “when it came to outstanding intellectuals in the thirties, they sometimes considered it cleverer to fabricate a case based on some shameful violation (like pederasty; or, in the case of Professor Pletnev, the allegations that, left alone with a woman patient, he bit her breast. A national newspaper reports such an incident – and just try and deny it!)” – Solzhenitsyn – The History of Our Sewage Disposal System.

    That is how it all ends. Dark times.

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      Michael says:

      I for one am getting a little tired of the “Harper as great strategist” schtick. It is used by fart catchers and pillow biters to explain away the PM’s bad decisions.

      Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. And sometimes a bad decision is a bad decision and comes back to bite you in the ass. Appointing Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau was no genius scheme to abolish the Senate. I don’t know about Brazeau, but Wallin and Duffy were put into the Senate for one thing and one thing only. They were put there so they could fund raise and campaign for the CPC. That’s it, that’s all folks.

      I live in Jerk Water, Ontario. We have a hard time getting anyone of any note, from any political party, federal or provincial, to come here. How our local CPC EDA was able to attract not one, but two Senators, for fund raising dinners tells you everything you need to know about these appointments.

      The fact that Harper did not realize they would be entitled to their entitlements, well that’s where the bad decision part comes in.

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        Lynn says:

        Thank you so much. I too have been very puzzled about the rep as the great strategist, IMO he is a mean spirited, possibly paranoid man with an agenda to destroy “enemies” and those he people who do not share his vision, end of. How he does it does not matter, bend the rules, lie, deny, hide the facts — mind like a steel trap, hardly — dead eyed, meanie who thinks we are not up to his intellectual prowess. Master strategist, only if the rest of the group are Curly and Larry.
        Mean, single minded, underhanded, devious, pathological possibly, but master strategist, not in my books.

        I have a 6 month old cat (Walter the wonder cat, who joins a 4 year female in the household) who appears to put more thought into how to escape the net on the balcony than dear leader did on this one. Those little wheels are turning as the birds fly by– just maybe if I stand on the bbq I can launch myself–ah, on second thought

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    Donovan says:

    As another reader pointed out, Harper did answer all questions regarding the affair on Wednesday’s Question Period the day after the whole shebang (I frequently watch CPAC so yeah, insane). Should he have said it as soon as the media called the Duffy quotes controversial? Absolutely…but he did answer the questions less than 24 hours after the statement was made.

    There are still viruses though. One virus is is a damned if you do and damned if you don’t scenario the public has created:

    The public agrees the senators did wrong…the public also agrees they are being prosecuted way too harshly. No matter what Harper does or says at this point he is screwed by what happens.

    Another virus, and far more disturbing, that involves the Duffy quote, is how, to Stephen Harper, if you do something illegal and unethical, keep it under wraps and nothing will happen to you…if you get caught you are thrown under the bus. THAT is another perception of the quote that is rapidly getting traction and for good reason.

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    the salamander hordes says:

    .. again.. timely article & analysis .. well said

    Hindsight is perfect (almost) and certainly wannabe hindsight wizard ‘the facts are clear’ Harper aint..

    The cascading circular & spiraling downward series of controlling strategic flubs just points out
    that even Harper can’t spend every hour of every day, supervising asshats .. dull minions & cranks
    Its a class he skipped would seem at Fort Flanagan.. or was never on the toxic curriculum

    That when the toilet flushes.. most things descend.. even legacies

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    Greg Vezina says:

    Harper will resign and Senator Hugh Segal will run for the leadership as an outsider to cleanse the party and try to keep the progressives from staying home, or more importantly, voting Liberal.

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      Cynical says:

      I’d vote for Segal if he ran in my riding, and I’ve never voted PC or CPC in my life.

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    Terry Maloney says:

    I just heard Senator Baker on CCC saying that this motion in the Senate might shut the door on any future criminal proceedings. Murphy agreed that this could be possibly “Machiavellian”, whether intentional or not … in that — forget which one of them spelled out — it might ensure that no one from the PMO ever has to testify in court under oath.

    No idea if this is true, but it would be obstruction of justice of a Nixonian scale if it were. Warren?

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    doris says:

    Stephen Harper is a LIAR

    “Nigel wright did it on his own”
    Nigel Wright told a few people”

    In one of those statements he lied, you guess which one but it doesn’t alter the fact that PMSH LIED IN THE HOUSE

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      smelter rat says:


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        Steven says:

        Harper also “reluctantly accepted Mr. Wright’s resignation”. Was that before or after he dismissed Mr. Wright?

        Classic cross-examination: “were you lying then or are you lying now?”

        This is becoming almost a farce – Harper reminds me more and more of Jon Lovitz’ Tommy Flanagan (Pathological Lying Guy) character on SNL.

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    mauser98 says:

    Dalton McGuinty should be should be made a senator. he would clean up this financial mess.

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      Warren says:

      Should be should be? What you what you want to say say?

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    Steven says:

    Harper farts and points to the guy beside him.

    As Andrew Coyne reminded recently, did the ( great economist, master strategist ) PMSH not know that Duffy didn’t live in PEI when he appointed him?

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