10.28.2013 09:58 PM

In Tuesday’s Sun: enjoy your convention, governing Harperites – it could be one of your last

Could Stephen Harper be taken down by the growing Senate scandal?

Sure he could. Of course he could. His poll numbers are dropping, his caucus is rebelling, and his trade-and-economy message is a fading memory. In recent days, he has looked simultaneously enraged and astonished that his authority is slipping away from him.

The fabled Conservative communications discipline is no more. Conservatives are attacking Conservatives, and caucus members are resisting Harper’s agenda. In political strategic terms, PMO is operating like a monkey with a machine gun.

The names of Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau – once the stars of the Conservative fundraiser and talking head circuit – are now synonymous with scandal and sleaze, in perpetuity. They know it, and they’ve decided that, if they’re going down, they’re bringing all of their fairweather friends down with them.

Now, it is true that scandal stories get overplayed all the time. The Opposition, and those of us in the media, consider scandal to be far more important than the public does.

Case in point: Toronto mayor Rob Ford. Media report he smokes crack cocaine, he writes letters of reference on official letterhead for convicted criminals (one of them a murderer), and he regularly shows up to work after lunchtime. But, serial scandals notwithstanding, polls suggest his white angry male constituency remains (for now) with him.

Why should anyone think, then, that Harper’s Senate scandal – because it is now indisputably his, whether he was briefed by his senior staff or not – could fell him? Because, mainly, Harper is in the middle of a perfect storm. For some time, he was being buffeted by two storm systems – and then, to make matters appreciably worse, the Duffy-Wallin-Brazeau cyclone hit.

One the one side, Harper was losing support to the same thing that every government eventually faces: he was nearing the ten year mark. After a nearly decade in power, Canadians were wearying of him. His partisans were becoming less loyal – and his detractors had stopped merely disliking him, and were starting to hate him.

On the other side, Justin Trudeau appeared. Conservatives arrogantly and foolishly dismissed Trudeau’s appeal. They did not take seriously, even for a moment, the durability of the Liberal leader’s popularity with older Canadians (who still revere his father) and younger Canadians (who have been seduced by his undeniable charisma).

As Ipsos pollster Darrell Bricker has said to tin-eared Conservatives: “Trudeau is the real deal.” He is young, positive, energetic and progressive – in effect, he is the polar opposite of Stephen Harper. And he arrived when (see above) many Canadians were getting sick of Stephen Harper’s face.

That, then, is why the Senate scandal could indeed hasten the end of the Conservative Party’s time in government. Not because the scandal, in and of itself, is deadly. Because the scandal has come along at precisely the wrong time.

Politics, like comedy, is all about timing. For Stephen Harper’s fading Conservative regime, the timing of the Senate scandal could not possibly be worse.


  1. Michael S says:

    Paul Wells seems mighty upset that this has interrupted his book launch.

  2. Kev says:

    I’m not happy till Paul Wells is not happy.

  3. sean says:

    as a Liberal watching this shit happen to the other side… the last three days remind me a lot of May 31st to June 2nd 2002.

  4. Robin says:

    The title of Paul Well’s book is a jinx: “The longer I’m Prime Minister”. It compels people to contemplate what that would mean for Canada in the context of the Senate scandal. And, no mistake about it, Canadians are seriously contemplated the ramifications of that thesis. They will issue their verdict in 2015 if not sooner.

  5. Matt says:

    Ipsos Reid poll on the subject.


    I always wonder what the reasoning people have for answering “somewhat agree” or “somewhat disagree” to what seem to be straight forward questions. Example:

    “Thinking about whether ‘the Senate itself can conduct a thorough and trustworthy review of issues related to the expenses of Senators’, two thirds (62%) of Canadians ‘disagree’ (32% strongly/30% somewhat) and just four in ten (38%) ‘agree’ (12% strongly/26% somewhat) that it can.”

  6. Robin says:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r62RG_pZ3Ic Harper makes the rules. He changes the rules when it suits him, too.

  7. .. still hoping a name(s) swims up out the bubbling oil of the PMO
    Who actually removed the emails and docs from the Harper PMO ?
    Who ordered the action ?
    Who has the data now ? Where ? Why ?
    The information & data belongs to Canada and Canadians
    though Harper appears to believe everything is his
    .. except responsibility, truth and accountability.

  8. Of course the timing could have been worse; the RCMP could have started raising a stink in the middle of election season…

  9. PeggyW says:

    There are so many strands to this story that it is easy to muddy the waters. The Conservatives would love to make this all about abolishing the Senate, and the NDP continue to try to score political traction with the public by pushing that as well, in spite of the fact that it may be totally unrealistic constitutionally. Now would be a good time for a political ad that distills the issue down to its essence as far as Harper goes. It would be easy to put together a series of clips of what he said then, compared to what he says in power/now. Mr. Accountability is a total hypocrite.

  10. To me it’s still about the fact that the ‘new’ conservative parties of the 21st century are incapable of unification and seem intent on tearing themselves apart. In the US the Republican’s plummet to the bottom is due to electoral failure while here in Canada it’s oddly due to success at the polls.

    Mr. Harper was seen as the unifying force for Reform-PC members and while I doubt any such person will emerge in the US, any unification was probably doomed from the beginning since it seems to have been based on a shorter term objective, namely gaining power. Without a true party-wide platform and a common orientation the party will eventually splinter as far right members, now acquainted with victory, find it impossible to voice their concern and displeasure within the party.

  11. Rob says:

    I think the convention will tell us what’s in store for the next two years.

    Will it be a Stephen Harper pile on? Or will the conservatives regroup behind their leader and push forward, Rob Ford style?


  12. Brad says:

    Harper will step down before the election and Doug Ford will run for party leader

  13. Matt says:

    It was funny watching the opposition and media salivate over Harper apparently changing the wording of how rWright left the PMO. They reported Harper now says Wright was DISMISSED (which, yes he did in a radio interview yesterday) while as late as last week he was saying Wright resigned, again also correct. CTV even strung together a series of about 7 clips whe Harper talked about Wright’s RESIGNATION.

    The problem? The media and opposition need to buy a dictionary.
    Merriam Websters:
    DISMISS – dis·miss transitive verb \dis-ˈmis\
    : to decide not to think about or consider (something or someone)
    : to send (someone) away
    : to cause OR ALLOW (SOMEONE) TO LEAVE
    : to officially make (someone) leave a job
    : to end the employment or service of (someone)

    To cause OR ALLOW someone to leave. So , yes, in accepting Wright’s resignation, Harper allowed Wright to leave the PMO. Harper can say he dismissed Wright. Despite what the opposition and media say, he changed a word, not his story.

    • Nic Coivert says:

      Ah but its the perception of what he did, he’s changing his tune according to how the wind blows.

      Truth for Harper is what he thinks people will believe.

    • Attack! says:

      Really? You’re literally reaching for a dictionary & pointing to the 3rd sense the military use when telling someone to leave the room/their presence (usually after chewing them out, and also usually only temporarily, until they’re summoned or are supposed to reappear for their next briefing) as if it could reasonably be used to apply to a civilian employment context for a permanent leave-taking without actually meaning either of the last two? Pathetic.

    • Kaplan says:

      Even if Harper hewed back to the strict “resignation” message, anyone with a knowledge of how government and politics work would’ve strongly suspected Wright’s resignation letter was written for him.

    • ROFL, Yeah right, If, as Duffy claims Harper was worried about explaining the Senate expense rules to his base, what makes you think he is able to contort himself through this particular far-from-obvious explanation of his words?

  14. tdotlib says:

    Could we see a Harper who, having lost support of the money-men in the party, decides that the party would be better off installing a new leader sooner than later? With two years left to the election, it would be plenty of time for the old stink to wane and the new leader smell to stick.

    That would be assuming that Harper is a party-over-all conservative.

    • Ottawa Civil Servant says:

      Liberal Party answer: We are hurting and found unelectable: Quick, change the leader! No introspection, no new policy forum, no grinding it out to change people’s perceptions. Nope: Put a new coat of lipstick on the pig and let’s go to the Fair.

      Federally and Provincially (Wynne) live by the code.

    • david ray says:

      which of this vast pack of fat rats would you cast in his place?

  15. james Smith says:

    I seem to remember someone saying “I have looked at the numbers. Her travel costs are comparable to any parliamentarian travelling from that particular area of the country over that period of time,”. So the question is what changed to want to chuck these folks out now, especially if they paid the money back?


  16. Fred says:

    What’s the best day for the Puffster to drop the big bomb, Thursday or Friday?

      • Well I guess we shall be seeing Duffy and Harpers names together in headlines every Thursday for awhile to come. I have no doubt he (Duffy) is after revenge now, and will drop a turd in Harpers lap every Thursday until the turds run out. Having heard him claim he ‘knows where ALL the bodies are buried’ I suspect that there are many Thursday gifts to come.

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