10.25.2013 10:35 AM

Senate scandal, international edition

The newspaper of record notices.  To wit:

It began as a seemingly mundane dispute over expense claims from four members of Canada’s Senate, an appointed body rife with patronage and long a source of minor scandals. And while the amount of money involved is not vast, it has become a major political scandal for Canada’s prime minister and his government.

What effect is it having, if any, on voter opinion?  We shall see, obviously.

But it’s a classic case of what I said on Sun News this week: big political graves are dug with little shovels.



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    Robin says:

    Given this controversy, I wonder if Stephen Harper will “prorogue” the upcoming Conservative National Convention? LOL

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    sean says:

    Exactly Warren… Any poll shift now isn’t due to this alone… It is due to Cadscam, Coalition Crisis, attack ads, Bernier affair, Guergis affair, Afghan detainees, Economic Action ads, Del Mastro affair(s). The last of which conveniently starts in court in about two weeks I believe. Most corrupt government in the history of Canada. Time for a change.

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    The salamander horde says:

    Trying to imagine the Halloween Harper theme as the PMO scandal escalates. So far, nobody is asking the identity of persons who would have actually shredded, deleted, wiped or hidden Harper Government communications re PMO/Duffy. One assumes the RCMP is curious. And the identity of anyone ordering this task?. Email servers, hard drives, binders, hard copy, thumb drives, PMO computers, ipads, cloud based storage.. It’s a Herculean task to eliminate it all. Was the task outsourced in part? Lots of questions to be asked during a no doubt funereal convention. I hope we don’t hear the word ‘leadership’ used.. Or see any standing ovations by a crowd of greasy buffoons.

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      Robin says:

      The Conservative National Convention was strategically scheduled for Hallowe’en so that delegates could wear masks and costumes instead of bags over their heads in shame; then, the PMO spin doctors can say the delegates are simply celebrating Hallowe’en for three days.

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    Robin says:

    Ironically Brazeau and Del Mastro are both criminally charged, one was offered a back room deal of leniency and the other remains in the House of Commons; maybe Wallin and Duffy should be charged so they can get a better deal; apparently being criminally charged is better than not being charged in Harper’s world.

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      smelter rat says:

      There was a time not too long ago when i would have said this was sarcasm.

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    Michael S says:

    Ian Austin is shy and painfully polite and probably the most important journalist in Ottawa.

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    Al in Cranbrook says:

    Probably pretty close to reality…


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    Elisabeth Lindsay says:

    I like what Andrew Coyne said,” politics is the Sopranos without guns.”

    I believe this is about the Senate, not the Prime Minister.

    If this whole affair gets us closer to doing away with the Senate, I say yay Prime Minister!!

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      smelter rat says:

      If teh Senate is abolished without meaningful electoral reform, the door is wide open to a quasi-dictatorship run by whoever obtains a majority in the H of C. That would be devastating for the country. Senate reform is a much more preferable option.

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    Elisabeth Lindsay says:

    P.S. to Scot……I DO believe the Prime Minister didn`t know. I read P.M. Chretien`s Chief of Staff`s book.

    I`m 78 and I can`t remember his name at the moment. Help!

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      Scotian says:

      No, it IS a PMO scandal first and foremost because of the 90,000 dollar bribe from the CoS of the sitting Prime Minister, that is a far greater scandal than any expence scandal can be because that is not merely a money scandal but also a abuse of power and criminal in all likelihood as well. One of the problems I find too many people have, especially but not limited to Conservatives, is this belief that unless it is about money/tax dollars it really isn’t a true/real/serious scandal. However, there really are things of greater concern and seriousness than theft of tax dollars when it comes to wrongdoing of politicians and members of governments, and that is abuse of power corruption, and it is clear that this is a serious abuse of power scandal unheard of in living memory on the federal stage when we see the CoS of the PM clearly break the law regarding “gifts” to Senators (leaving aside the lack of reporting by ?Duffy and Wright, still another one of the laws being broken), done so to try to bury a Senate expence scandal of a Conservative Senator and until it was exposed a couple of months later had clearly been working as intended.

      As to the idea of Harper not knowing based on the record of prior CoS to PMs, that would have far greater credibility if we did not have a many years record of how Harper unlike other party leaders and past Prime Ministers goes out of his way to be very well informed about such minutia normally delegated to staff, there is a valid reason why he has been known as the greatest micromanaging PM in history (and indeed it was seen as an advantage and strength of his overall until this scandal broke, so it is very well documented from those within his circle. not just speculation or criticism from those outside and against him) after all. So for in this one instance for Harper to claim total lack of any information or awareness, this despite the role Duffy has played in CPC fund raising and media image work for Harper and the CPC is without any credibility. Even so, one might have been able to consider it possible despite that if not for one other element, that being the 4 days between Harper going public about Wright’s check writing to Duffy being known to him to Wright’s departure, strongly defending Wright as a most honourable man doing a most honourable thing for the most honourable Senator Duffy in protecting taxpayers being left on the hook (despite the obvious avenue of Duffy’s wages being attached for the money repayment meaning the taxpayers were never at risk for such a bill), and even after that only accepted Wright’s resignation instead of firing him, which any PM regardless of party truly in the dark and offended by this clearly criminal exposure of the PM this money “gift” most surely would have done. Not to mentioned also launched an investigation in his office to see who else was involved to make sure that the damage was properly dealt with AND to reinforce the notion that such actions are totally unacceptable

      When you combine those two aspects, Harper’s track record on being informed about things most leaders leave to staff, and his actions from when he first came out about the “gist” from Wright to Duffy through the next 4 days until he accepted Wright’s resignation and still called him an honourable man who simply had made a mistake, well then it becomes extremely difficult to believe Harper was out of the loop on this one. Given how serious the potential exposure to the CPC brand Duffy being in scandal could cause as well as the personal damage for Harper and his judgement since not only did he appoint Duffy he embraced Duffy once a Senator for massive amounts of fund raising, even using him as a mock media moderator for staging media presentations during appearances to accept this was the one issue he was uninformed on until he found out from the media strains any reasonable person’s ability to give benefit of the doubt.

      So it is not credible to believe Harper was ignorant of what was being done by his CoS, the only people by this point that can believe that are those who want to believe it or have to believe it for whatever reason. Anyone else when looking at the facts that are on record as I listed them in this comment is forced to conclude the far more credible belief is that Harper was aware of Wright’s actions and major decisions on this file, the only question would be along the lines of when he was aware and whether he originated the idea of the Wright check or merely gave the go-ahead, because there is no way a check of that size would be done like this with the level of risk exposure it represented for Harper personally as well as professionally. After all Harper, his government, and his party would be running the level of risk that destroys sitting governments and leaders with this action were it ever to come out and be proven true not least because of the inherent criminal code offences involved not just civil laws.

      As well the idea that the most controlling PM with the greatest micromanaging record would hire to be his CoS someone that would expose everyone to that level of risk on his own initiative and manage to keep Harper out of the loop (except possibly with Harper’s active collusion, I could buy Harper not knowing because he made a concerted effort not to know and instructed Wright and company to keep him out of the loop which does not excuse nor escape the level of responsibility as if he were actively informed) is also extremely difficult to believe. Not to mention that to accept that premise means also accept Harper showed not just very bad judgement but clear incompetence in doing so, something I rather doubt either Harper or his supporters/defenders find a more palatable explanation (at least not yet, as the noose tightens political speaking that could well change)

      No, when taken together Wright’s history makes it clear that he would not be someone to go that far only on his own initiative (that he claims so in his resignation is because that is part of the job of a CoS, to take the blame for something that blows up, as I am sure you also read in the book you referenced regardless of whether he actually is solely responsible or not), Harper’s history of being incredibly well informed and controlling about minutia normally left to staff, and the fact that Harper kept Wright on and vigorously defended him for 4 days before accepting his resignation when it was becoming obvious no one was able to swallow the honourable friend doing the honourable thing argument/defence being offered to support Wright’s actions on the check leaves only one credible option, Harper knew. Taken together I suspect you could get better odds on winning lotto 6/49 and lotto max on the same week with the same numbers, the possibility exists because we live in a universe governed by probability, but it is such an extremely low odd one that for most people it can only be seen as effectively impossible.

      The idea that this is a Senate scandal mainly is a false idea, and one being used to deflect from the very ugly fact that this is clearly not just a PMO scandal but one of the worst such scandals in our nation’s history. At the core of it is the image of a sitting PM using his position to illegally protect a sitting legislator with illegal monies so as to bury a scandal to his government by having that Senator be able to refuse to further cooperate in an audit of his expences by the appropriate authority to do so by using said illegal monies to repay the outstanding debt. This is on the same level as trying to buy votes if that is easier for you to understand it, or obstruction of justice (which it essentially is), and to argue that such a level of abuse of power scandal is less serious, or even as serious as the expence scandal in the Senate currently shows a level of partisanship, ignorance, or both in my view, and I suspect once it is clearly understood by most Canadians.

      What we have here is quite possibly on a par with seriousness for the Canadian political history books as was WaterGate for the USA and Nixon. This is not hyperbole or rhetoric, this is a cold assessment of both the seriousness and essential nature of this scandal that is clearly rooted at the heart of the PMO. If this were merely about Senators abusing spending privileges we would not be seeing the level of attention this has commanded, that kind of scandal story has been around so many times from the Senate over the years it evokes very little passion on its own anymore even from Senate abolitionists. No, it is the involvement of the PMO in this with what can be and is seen by most people (and is currently under criminal investigation by the RCMP) as a criminal action by the PM’s own CoS with 90,000 dollars of private money being given to a Senator to hide his expence scandal away from the public and the subsequent attempts to cover it up once it went public that explains why this so called Senate scandal is drawing the interest it is from those within politics and the wider citizenry. AS one reads the criminal code and the appropriate statues governing the rules of gifts for Senators it is very hard to find any way to describe that 90,000 as anything other than a criminal act, the only question is exactly what kind I would suggest. It is that which makes it different, and the evidence of that public reaction and interest to this scandal versus all the others from the Senate (of which there have been more than a few over the years) which proves this is at heart a PMO scandal whatever you and others that want to believe/defend PM Harper would like to believe.

      As much as I have my issues with the man politically speaking and want to see him defeated I find little pleasure in watching this unfold. The damage all of this does to our political culture’s health is not minor, and it harms us all to have people willing to take such actions in such positions of power regardless of their political flavour. This scandal stains all Canadians with its nature, dishonours those that fought and died for this nation in two World Wars, and in general makes Canada look not like a nation where the rule of law matters and is valued, but much more like on of the old Soviet Block type nations in how we operate at the highest level. This is a very sad time for anyone that cherishes this nation and its political history/culture regardless of where you are on the political spectrum.

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    Fraternite says:

    That’s a lot of words to say you have a hunch.

    That said, I agree he either 1) knew or 2) went out of his way not to know the details. That’s why CoSs exist, after all — they’re there to do their boss’ bidding AND protect him by adding in another layer of management that can fall on the sword.

    I have enough confidence in Harper’s general competence (and Chretien’s before him) at this point to believe it was #2.

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      Scotian says:

      Assuming you mean my comment (which given I tend towards run on sentences and rather wordy prose by nature, mind you my verbal speech tends to be fairly similar, alas it is just how my mind works, and yes I know it can be a bit of a pain to try to read), it is more accurate to say not merely that I have a “hunch” and what it is but also I am showing in detail *why* I have this “hunch” as you put it, the reasons for it and why it also passes a logical scrutiny based on all currently known facts about the issue in questions, the personalities involved, and the circumstances they exist in. I look at it very much the same as showing how you solved a complex math equation back in school, the old “show your work” approach which I know is not the current preference with more people preferring short snappy declarative commentary. It is both the way I was raised to do things and the way my mind works, but at least I know how to insert some paragraph spacing instead of leaving it as one solid mass of text, as I’ve seen others do from time to time, although I know the complex run on sentences are still a bit of a pain, sorry.

      As you can well imagine I am not a Twitter user, just not my thing,

      I would be more willing to buy number 2 as well with almost any other party leader/PM, but Harper’s record makes it too difficult for me for the reasons I laid out. I started watching this man back in the late 80s when he cropped up as one of the policy wiz kids in the Reform party movement and kept an eye on him from that point on you see, long before anyone, even him, thought he would be a PM, so I have gained a fairly deep appreciation for the way he and his mind work, as much as can be done without first hand contact at least. So I am more inclined to believe he knew, indeed I could even see him originating the idea, although I am not willing to assume that, I would need more evidence to accept that as the most probable, but that he knew well before it broke in the media, now that I do find the more credible given his actions. Even if he didn’t want to lose Wright’s services, no person with as much awareness of the political realities as Harper could have missed how incredibly damaging a 90,000 dollar payoff to a Senate would be politically not least because of the obvious criminal code issues surrounding it, and that the first thing necessary after it went public would be to remove the person via firing tied to it from the office, whomever it is. It is those 4-5 days of defending Wright, and then still not firing him that convinces me he knew, it is not the micromanaging element alone.

      The refusal to fire Wright and instead to accept his resignation after almost 5 full days of full bore defence of Wright’s actions and to try and leave him his honour intact by saying he only made a mistake, a bad judgment call trying to do the right thing is telling for me. I cannot think of a comparable act in prior PMOs to what we know Wright did, the actions clearly violate civil and criminal law, there was the clear attempt to hide it happened (if this was aboveboard it should have been declared by both men, it wasn’t). and to not recognize that this needed to be a firing offence, especially from a man so obsessive with being seen as always doing the right thing as Harper is telling. It indicates the possibility that he is doing so not because of his high regard for Wright alone but also because he is subconsciously defending his own actions to himself within it. These are the actions of someone complicit, not someone outraged to find out in the media that his CoS exposed him and his government to criminal code investigation and potential charging, no uninvolved/unaware PM in that position I would argue would act in such a manner, but someone that was also involved, or at least already aware and having sanctified it even after the fact, well that is a different story. This also is where Harper’s record of understanding political dynamics and realities so well as the great strategist comes back to bite him, and while I’ve never thought he was the greatest strategist politically speaking I have seen him as a great political tactician, and there is simply no way for me to buy any tactician at his level would need more than 24 hours to understand the political necessities I’ve laid out.

      I tend to agree with you btw regarding Harper’s general competence, I would never have found the need to be so opposed to the man as my own record indicates since from pre CPC days if I didn’t see him as generally competent. He could not be a real threat politically speaking without it. My issues have been with how he uses that competence and in what ways, as I tend to be politically speaking more interested in the process side of things than the partisan/policy side of things (not saying I have no interest in those, just that mainly I care more about the institutions than the individuals in them at any given time). I am a true swing voter with no long term commitment to any party or leader, although ever since the sell out of the PCPC by MacKay and the betrayal of core principles willingly by Layton of the NDP my choices have been narrowed greatly and I do not thank either man for that, I liked having a wide variety of political choice, and I thought it healthier for our process as well.

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    Scotian says:

    Elisabeth Lindsay says:
    October 27, 2013 at 11:02 pm

    “Sorry Scotion…..I am WAY too ADD to plow through your comments.”

    Sorry, that excuse does not fly, I have severe ADHD, so much so that I was getting medical treatment for it (back then it was called clinical hyperactivity) from the early 70s onwards, when you had to be really bad just to be even noticed. Indeed, it is because of that ADHD that my speech and writing style is the way it is. ADD is IMHO used by too many as a cheap cop-out to get out of doing things that actually take having to work at it and instead wanting the lazy way to be the only way. Sorry, not going to happen from me, and personally I would appreciate it f you didn’t use a real disorder with real consequences for so many in such a flippant manner to give yourself a flip answer for not actually dealing with a substantive comment that disputes what you said.

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