Musings —11.02.2013 09:42 PM—
Dear Conservative Party delegates:
We hope you enjoyed your convention in Calgary!
We would recommend where to get the best pizza (Michael’s, on Tenth Ave.), or the best burgers (Peter’s, on Sixteenth Ave.). But, after the Parliamentary session you’ve had, we suspect none of you are in the mood for a festive meal.
You’ve seen your party slip in the polls. You’ve seen caucus members openly castigating each other. You’ve seen your former luminaries – Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau, who your party rewarded with Senate appointments – round on your party, and spill lots of Tory blood.
Most notably, you’ve seen your leader turn like a cornered, wounded dog on his former Chief of Staff, Nigel Wright. Five months ago, Stephen Harper – your leader, not mine – defended Wright in the then-embryonic Senate scandal.
On Tuesday, Harper was a changed man, and it was ugly. When asked about the $90,000 Wright gave to Duffy to cover questionable expenses and protect his leader, Harper was vicious. “One person [is] responsible for this deception that person is Mr. Wright. It is Mr. Wright by his own admission!” Harper thundered.
It was an extraordinary spectacle, and not merely because Harper knows that his authority is slipping away. It was extraordinary because Nigel Wright is no ordinary Conservative.
Full disclosure: my ex-wife was Wright’s partner for many years. They met in the office of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.
Wright and I didn’t socialize, me being a hardcore Alberta Liberal, and him being a hardcore Ontario Conservative. We weren’t friends.
I didn’t ask my wife-to-be much about him. But, eventually, I learned a few things. A picture emerged.
Nigel Wright was adopted and brought up in a loving, good family. His parents were not wealthy, and Wright worked hard for everything that he got. He was a deeply religious Anglican who, for a time, contemplated the priesthood.
He devoted himself to his studies, and charitable causes, his faith and – almost as much – the Conservative Party.
Wright conquered on Bay Street as a lawyer and a deal-maker, to be sure, becoming a millionaire at a very young age. But blue Tory blood ran through his veins – and there are only a handful of unelected people in this country who gave as much to conservative causes. Fundraising, policy, organization: Nigel Wright did it all.
On Tuesday, while Stephen Harper cast him as a liar and a wrong-doer in the privileged confines of the House of Commons, Nigel Wright maintained a stoic silence, as he has throughout this sordid affair. While the most powerful man in Canada attempted to destroy his reputation, Wright said nothing.
Unable to believe what I was witnessing, I tweeted that he needed to fight back. Part of my motivation for doing so was empathy: during the federal Liberal civil wars, some of Paul Martin’s thugs had attempted to destroy the reputations of those of us who remained loyal to Jean Chretien. I knew a little of what Wright must be feeling.
But, mostly, I could not believe that this was happening – of all people – to Nigel Wright. If there is anyone of my generation who has devoted themselves more selflessly to the Conservative Party, I do not know who it is.
It goes without saying: I don’t know the full facts in the Senate scandal, which has become a cancer on the government. But I do know that blaming Nigel Wright for all of it is not merely dishonest – it is disgusting.
That man who you cheered and applauded in Calgary, this weekend, Tory faithful? He’s not the formerly young Conservative aide from Calgary. He’s a career Ottawa politician, and all he cares about is his survival.
He doesn’t care about anything else, Conservative delegates. Take my word for it: if he could turn on Nigel Wright, he could turn on someone else, too.
You, for example.