A conservative government is an organized hypocrisy. – Benjamin Disraeli
The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted the spoons – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Frank A. Pelaschuk
NOT SO FAST MARJORY LEBRETON
Not all that long ago, (May 9th, 2013), with the recent release of the audit on the three senators who had made false housing and travel claims, Conservative Sen. Marjory LeBreton, Leader of the Government in the Senate, stated the matter was over as far as Mike Duffy was concerned. This declaration was made after the public had been informed that Mike Duffy had repaid $90 thousand dollars he had collected while not entitled to do so after making false claims. LeBreton also threatened Liberal Sen. Mac Harb and Sen. Patrick Brazeau, Stephen Harper appointee, now an Independent, with garnishment if they didn’t repay their false claims on time. Neither Harb nor Brazeau, it would appear, would be offered any leniency by the Conservative dominated senate. The difference between the three cases, as far as the public was led to believe was that one, Duffy, had “voluntarily” offered and made restitution to the tune of $90 thousand. However, with the latest revelations regarding Conservative Sen. Duffy, it is clear that LeBreton spoke far too soon.
When word came, with much fanfare, that Duffy had repaid the $90 thousand, Stephen Harper and the rest of the Conservative chorus began to sing his praises. Duffy, who had admitted to no wrongdoing, had done the right thing; he was honourable. So went the line. The way they sold it, it was unlikely there was a finer, more honest individual to be found anywhere across this great land. Well that sounded good, didn’t it? Of course, not everyone was buying it.
Some suggested it was time to call in the RCMP. Neither LeBreton nor Harper would have any of that. The matter was closed as far as they were concerned. For others, however, there was still that nagging question that needed a response: If guiltless, why would Duffy feel impelled to repay the housing claims to which he was entitled? The forms were confusing, he had claimed. He may have made a mistake. “But I would not knowingly fiddle,” he had said. He had also said, “Canadians know I am an honest person…”
The audit results suggest otherwise. And because they do, more than repayment is called for.
But Duffy’s refund was not the whole story, was it. Not by a long shot. For weeks the public had been led to believe that he had repaid the money out of his own funds, presumably the money he had illegally claimed as his entitlements. We now know that Duffy, forewarned by another senator, Conservative David Tkachuk, about what to expect, that the audit would, as it did, find that he had abused his office, could not afford to repay the money on time. Not to worry; he had a good friend in the PMO willing to help. The money was repaid. The name of the benefactor was Nigel Wright, Chief of Staff to Stephen Harper. But none of this was made public until May 15. Intriguingly, once the refund was made, good ol’ Duff no longer co-operated with those investigating him and LeBreton declared the matter closed.
Unfortunately, the narrative as the cretinous Duffy, Stephen Harper and the Harper gang may have sought isn’t as straightforward as they would have us believe. It was true; the government was repaid money Duffy had undeservedly claimed, but the repayment was not from Duffy’s wallet nor was it even with the taxpayers’ own money. Instead, the debt was paid with a “gift” from Nigel Wright, Harper’s right hand man. But none of this, as stated above, was made public by Duffy, Wright or anyone else who may have known. If the $90 thousand was a loan, Duffy and Wright had a duty to inform the auditors as well as the Leader of the Government of the Senate, LeBreton, and the Ethics Commissioner. But not a whisper for weeks until May 15th, when the story broke. Only then did Wright finally inform the Ethics Commissioner of the $90 thousand cheque. If, however, the $90 thousand was a “gift” rather than a loan from Nigel Wright to good ol’ Duff, then surely the rules were broken. As cited in the Globe and Mail (May 15th), “senators are prohibited from accepting gifts that could reasonably be seen to relate to their position.” No ambiguity there. Clearly the $90 thousand “gift” had everything to do with Duffy’s senate position, the anticipation of the audit outcome and the preserving of his position and whatever reputation he had left. Forewarned, the debt repaid, Duffy no doubt expected that that would be the end of the matter. With LeBreton’s help, that’s exactly what transpired. Now the public might be forgiven for shaking their heads with disappointment if not disbelief. The public might also be forgiven for wondering if these people have any clue as to how this looks, if they even care or if they experience any sense of shame. If Harper and gang have any inkling what ethics entails, they obviously are unfamiliar and indifferent to the practice of it and they certainly don’t care what you and I think. And they will continue to not care until you and I loudly scream: We are not going to take it any more!
THE CONSERVATIVE CONCEPT OF HONOUR
When the story broke out on May 15, something interesting but unsurprising began to take shape. The Harper regime went into full spin mode. On CBC’s Power and Politics that afternoon, Pierre Poilievre, that Conservative stooge who can always be relied upon to give the government spin on almost any story, kept insisting that Nigel Wright had “done the exceptionally honourable thing” for the taxpayers by paying off Duffy’s debt. Wow. Now that is spin. Wright had saved Duffy’s hide to spare you and me!
So, according to Poilievre, Wright is “exceptionally honourable”. But what is so honourable about this secret pact requiring negotiation between Wright, Duffy, the senate and, for all we know, Harper himself? What is so honourable about a deal bailing out a double-dipping senator who, once the debt was repaid, went mute, became uncooperative, and refused to share records with investigators, and was found to have deliberately made false claims to money that wasn’t his to take in the first place? To suggest, as Harper stooges have, that Wright’s act was pure selfless generosity, just an old friend helping out a pal and attempting to spare the Canadian taxpayers from the pain of the loss of the $90 thousand dollars illegally obtained by Duffy, the same honest Duffy who claimed expenses from the senate while campaigning for Harper and the Conservatives last election, rather than a measure to protect the senator, stretches all credulity. But that is precisely what Harper and his gang want us to believe. This was no attempt at a cover-up. No, indeed. Wright “had done the exceptionally honourable thing”. So said Poilievre. What is remarkable about that statement is that Poilievre and other Harper Conservative pinheads (Kellie Leitch, Michelle Rempel, Chris Alexander et al) had said almost exactly the same thing of Duffy when they went about attempting to convince us that it was Duffy who had paid off the debt he claims he did not owe! It’s remarkable how easily Harperites can shift. Pat phrases always helps; myth making bullshit for any and all occasions.
One could almost be excused for laughing except this is no laughing matter. In the past, Wright himself had been looked at and cleared for ethical breaches. But this $90 thousand gift from one so close to Harper’s office deserves full public scrutiny. Why the secrecy if there was nothing untoward? If this was simply a pal helping a pal, what was there to negotiate? Did Marjory LeBreton and others in the Senate know? If so, how much did they know and to what extent were they involved? Once the $90 thousand was paid, why did Duffy stop co-operating with the investigators, falling silent and refusing to hand over documents that could have cleared him if he is innocent of wrongdoing? Did Stephen Harper know of this gift? Did he play a role in any way? The PMO’s office says Harper knew nothing. With Harper’s well known penchant for control, is that even credible?
The day following the Wright revelations, the Ottawa Citizen ran the following headline: “PMO’s integrity thrown into question” (May 16). Now that is a howler. What integrity are they talking about? This is a government from day one that has demonstrated that it will exercise any excuse for any act, lie or deed committed by one of their members, cronies or friends. Time and again Harper and gang have demonstrated readiness, even eagerness, to point fingers, throw staffers and colleagues under buses, and smear those who dare question its style of governance. It’s even been cited for contempt of parliament. Ministers have been forced to resign for padding expense accounts and accepting illegal corporate donations while campaigning. The truth is, Harper and gang will take a line, any line, twist it, hammer it, chisel it, and hack it to pieces until it fits the filthy portal of lies they insist it must fit. This is a government so ethically challenged that even the staunchest of Conservative supporters are beginning to understand that the promise of an open, honest and transparent government offered by Harper has not only never flown, it has never even sprouted wings.
CONSERVATIVES AND THE ELUSIVE NATURE OF TRUTH
The nature of truth is irresistible. It cannot be stopped. But it can be delayed, interfered with, and denied for some time. Harper’s gang have been doing such for some time; they are well practiced in obfuscation, obstructionism and plain old-fashioned lying. Eventually, truth will out, but occasionally it needs a little help. The RCMP must be brought in.
Notwithstanding Harper’s support of Wright, itself a key insight into Harper’s dark nature, the deal between Wright, Duffy and the senate must be thoroughly investigated. Even if what transpired was legal, it certainly poses some ethical questions. That Harper cannot understand that or, based on his response to past issues, most likely doesn’t care, speaks volumes but should surprise no one. To this regime, ethics, integrity, honesty, truth, shame are just words and little more. Some people just don’t understand them and they never live by them. That so many in Harper’s circle including Harper himself could be devoid of the moral compass that guides most of us is shocking. These people are like zombies, devoid of the things that give a person value and meaning as a human being. They live in a vacuum in which anything goes and the only thing that offers them sustenance is not the doing of the right, just, honourable thing, but the main chance, i.e., what they can get from anything and anyone however and by whatever means. They are beyond redemption and contempt. Harb, Brazeau and perhaps all members of the senate and even parliament should be investigated as well with the books examined and the record set straight. If laws have been broken, charges must be laid. If found guilty, those senators and/or MPs must be booted out of office, they must lose their pensions and they must pay fines and serve time.
When that is done, the public should then turn its attention to the senate and drive a stake through its rotten, pustule plagued, useless, patronage burdened heart.
And then the public should turn its eyes on Stephen Harper and his gang of amoral thugs who can excuse and justify anything vile that suits their needs.
When will the anger turn to rage and the rage to a whirlwind?