08.10.2015 07:52 AM

KCCCC Day 9: scandals don’t matter anymore


  • Yes, yes, yes: we all know.  Former Harper Chief of Staff Nigel Wright is back in Canada, getting ready to testify in the interminable Mike Duffy trial.  So what.  In the larger scheme of things, it doesn’t matter.
  • Two things.
  • One, Nigel Wright.  Almost two years ago, I wrote about him in the Sun.  Here’s what I wrote.
  • 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 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 St. as a lawyer and a dealmaker, 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 wrongdoer 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 this was happening to — of all people — 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.”

  • Me and Nigel weren’t drinking buddies or anything, but I knew him by reputation.  And I knew him to be a decent and honest man.  He doesn’t deserve what Donald Bayne, Duffy’s lawyer, is going to be doing to him commencing this week.
  • That’s Nigel. But what about scandal? Does all this incessant histrionics about Duffy scandal stuff matter, at all? To me, it matters as much as any scandal does, these days: that is, not at all.
  • Here’s something else I wrote about the subject of scandal, back in March, with bonus caps to better express my exasperation:
  • “Scandal-mongering DOESN’T WORK.Cole’s Notes version as to why:1. The media/politico chattering class call EVERYTHING a scandal, and always append “gate” to the end of same, to no discernible effect.
    2. The public ALREADY think EVERYONE in politics is a crook, so the breathless revelation that someone involved in politics is a crook ISN’T A REVELATION TO THEM.
    3. Joe and Jane Frontporch, the aforementioned public, HAVE HEARD THE HYSTERIA AND HISTRIONICS TOO MANY TIMES, and don’t believe any of it UNTIL THE PERP IS LED AWAY IN AN ORANGE PANTSUIT AND HANDCUFFS.
    4. Joe and Jane believe THE REAL SCANDALS are things like the lack of a JOB, or having to lay in a hospital corridor to get HEALTH CARE, or spending BILLIONS ON SECURITY and deranged, lone-wolf fanatics still figure out a way to kill innocent people – those are THE REAL SCANDALS, not someone expensing something by bona fide mistake, or consensual adults with zipper problems.”
  • Bottom line: you can’t fabricate a scandal involving Nigel Wright.  And, even if I’m wrong, scandals don’t matter anymore.
  • Carry on as you were, which you were planning on doing anyhow.


  1. ABlanas says:

    I would agree with all this in a regular news cycle. But in the context of a national campaign, it’s going to be a full-on pile-on, a complete saturation in both the news coverage and the opposition’s voluminous outrage. Saturation coverage will be insufferable. Which of course will also lead to it all being generally ignored!

    • bobbie says:

      If there’s one thing that people hate about the constant drone of scandals by the MSM it’s the constant drone of scandals during a campaign. Most people hate the media more these days than they hate scandal ridden governments.

  2. Alex says:

    There is a lot of truth in this post. However, I would add a few things. First, the key question here is not what Nigel Wright did, but rather if the PM is telling the truth when he says that he was unaware of the $90,000 cheque. If there is evidence that Harper lied then all bets are off.

    Second, we have already seen a Conservative convicted and led away in handcuffs (Dean Del Maestro), another convicted for the Robocalls affairs (Michael Sona), several disgraced Senators (Wallin, Brazeau, Duffy), and let’s not forget Bruce Carson, who if memory serves correct begins his trial next month for influence peddling. In short, one could argue that more Harperites have been involved in criminal activity than Liberals during the sponsorship scandal. If it turns out that the PM lied about the Duffy affair, or is being loose with the facts, then he will be lumped together with all the other criminal activity that has taken place in his party.

    Finally, scandals often don’t register because many (most?) people don’t pay attention to politics during normal times. However, an election period is an exception, and a lot of people who are unaware of the criminal activity of many Tories may start finding out now, which could influence their votes.

  3. Alex says:

    I forgot to mention all the Tories who have been convicted and/or accused of engaging in criminal activity. The longer list is contained in this NDP attack ad (https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=30&v=CmmSV1jtK3s).

  4. Maps Onburt says:

    Warren is right. Scandals only matter to the press and hard core partisans who weren’t going to change their votes anyway – election or not. The fact is voters believe all politicians aren’t trustworthy and are only in it for themselves. Look at what happened to St. Jack after details that he’d been regularly attending a cheapo rub and tug in Toronto during the election campaign …. He won more seats than any previous NDP leader and was eulogized as nearly a saint.

    I believe that Nigel Wright is a very good and honest man and he did what he thought was right (and frankly I don’t see anything wrong with him helping Duffy pay back what shouldn’t have been claimed and think stretching it to be seen to be somehow bribing a public official is nuts – hence no charges from the RCMP). I also don’t believe PM Harper did anything wrong – except perhaps to throw Nigel under the bus so shoddily but he was consistent to his values which are to immediately discipline anyone caught doing anything wrong. Most Canadians will think he’s a cold hearted SOB but they don’t want pansy pants in office up against other world leaders either. Look how long Joe Clark lasted against Trudeau Sr. PM Cretien was a real SOB at times too.. Canadians didn’t mind that.

  5. doconnor says:

    I think that most remaining Conservative supports agree with Wright’s payment despite its alleged illegality because “taxpayers” got their money back and understand Harper’s need to lie about it because it is technically illegal. It’s unlikely this scandal will push the Conservative vote any lower then it already has, but reminding Canadians of it can prevent it from going up.

    • GFMD says:

      It’s a shame that people would think so little of their country they would rationalize this kind of thing. And so glibly. Almost proudly, like it’s a badge of honour to say criminality doesn’t matter.

      Conservatives are just getting less and less Canadian.

  6. Derek Pearce says:

    I would agree that the public doesn’t care much about the specific details of this case, but I think it can still harm the Conservatives because it’s just added to the pile of sleaze that has built up after almost 10 years in office. It happened to the Liberals after roughly 10 years and to the Mulroney Tories before that.

  7. Peter says:

    As scandals go, this one was always hard to understand. The PMO paying a Senator is the reverse of what most folks think smells of influence-peddling. The scandal was appointing Duffy in the first place.

    A lot of Harper’s support is soft. Even folks who once liked him are tired of the constant suspicious nature and the blandness (has he made one memorable speech?). What is giving them pause is whether they dare vote for the other two without waking up to find Trudeau has sent winter camping gear to the Middle East and declared his budget self-balancing, or Mulcair has doubled the national debt, appointed Linda McQuaig as his Minister of Energy and declined to fight for Canada in Quebec. They would both be well-advised to focus on reassuring the electorate rather than indulging in the hundredth reading of The Lies of Stephen Harper.

  8. billg says:

    I think the Ontario Liberals led by a very masterful and skilled politician proved that a laundry list of scandals can be overcome.
    Wynne just kept telling voters that the other party’s would damage the economy with crazy schemes….sound familiar?

  9. rww says:

    I will never understand how someone can be accused and charged with accepting a bribe but the person who gave him the money is not accused or charged with offering a bribe.

  10. davie says:

    Sometimes scandal can work if the media paints it one way…as with fast ferries here in BC in 2001…

    …and sometimes it means nothing, again depending how the media paints it, as with BC Rail trial more recently here in BC.

  11. Jon Evan says:

    There exist a large contingent of people of faith who vote conservative. But, Harper has alienated many. While many (not all) have overlooked Harper’s refusal to get involved in the issues of abortion and gay marriage because they understand that Canada has changed and being a fringe party accomplishes little, there are those (? many) who will not tolerate blatant lies from their PM!
    If the PM lied regarding Mr. Wright and allowed him to be the scapegoat for this pathetic affair, then they, these jaded ones, will just stay home on election day and pray for a better day!

    • Maps Onburt says:

      Nonsense… who would people of faith vote for… Trudeau who MANDATED his MP’s to vote for abortion or Mulclair who believes the same thing? You think they are going to stay at home and let that happen???? Who do you think has been filling the Conservative war chest? I’m about as a big an atheist as is possible to be but I still find the Conservative position to be the most compelling and I’m not staying home nor are my friends who think likewise. PM Harper has a very solid 30% spread heavily over ridings that he can win… he just needs another 5-8% to get a majority. Trudeau and Mulclair are fighting for votes in the very same urban ridings and Mulclair is also now battling the Bloc. Trudeau isn’t competitive in Quebec and will not do much better than the Conservatives who will probably hang on to what they have. Pile on top of that the Greens fighting for those very same ridings and you have three parties fighting over 55% (at absolute best) of the vote. Mulclair’s probably got most of Quebec sown up but he’d need to pull every urban riding in Ontario and BC to get a majority on top of his sprinkling of prairie (excluding Alberta) votes. People in NS won’t vote for him after their experience with the NDP… NB is lost. He might pick up a seat in PEI but who cares. Nfld maybe one. Most Liberals I know would rather stay home than vote for Mulclair. You’re fooling yourself if you think the Conservative voters are going to do that this time around.

      • terry quinn says:

        The conservatives have quietly approved the abortion pill through health Canada and religious Tories are well aware of that approval.

  12. P. Brenn says:

    geez ..guillt everywhere really …NDP finances offices with taxpayer money , harassment on the hill, senate scandal not just conservatives – Harb , others who arent even answering questions , more than one NDP candidate forced out before things even begin , pre selected liberals candidates , likes of Eve Adams, I amazed though that will all retirements etc that conservatives still where they are at after 10 years …doesnt say much for others ..

    • Maps Onburt says:

      Exactly… that’s why Warren is exactly right… Canadians tune this stuff out. Chretien wasn’t booted out by Canadians (it was a palace coup internally). I suspect if he ran a fifth time he’d have won. Same for Mulroney. If you want evidence of how little Canadians care for so called scandals look at how they re-elected the Ontario Liberals even when they got caught red-handed during a by-election. Incumbency builds a very strong wall and most governments are toppled by themselves. It’s sad but it’s true. We’re just too used to opposition parties crying foul at every opportunity. It revs up the partisans but does nothing for the average joe who thinks all politicians are corrupt.

  13. AK says:

    Nowadays, all’s fair in love, war and politics … and it’s gonna get worse …

  14. Hawaii Five Oh says:

    Wynne OPP investigation re: gas plant , Sudbury election fraud scandals etc… Billions $$ missing…water under the bridge

  15. Moishe Pipik says:

    Just because somebody called it a scandal doesn’t make it a scandal. Folks understand that there is always, always more to the story and that what is reported is often just a spec of what is really going on. Folks also understand that there is always, always political or media manipulation on some level helping to edit facts, suppress context and spin, spin spin. Yawn.

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