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LIFE IN THE SEWER WITH THE STEPHEN HARPER GANG

We have watched American democracy at close hand for many years and we believe few governments are institutionally so susceptible to dictatorship as this one. – Gerald Johnson

Democracy is a device that insures we shall be governed no better than we deserve. – George Bernard Shaw

 

Frank A. Pelaschuk

 

When the Mike Duffy story first broke out regarding the questionable expense claims by the senator, with leaks of the whitewashed Deloitte report ordered by Senators David Tkachuk and Carolyn Stewart Olsen of the Senate’s internal economy committee, with t Duffy’s televised claim of repaying what he felt he did not owe because everyone knew “that the Old Duff, the Duff they’ve known and trusted, would never do anything wrong. I would never knowingly fiddle anything”, with the declaration by Marjory LeBreton, Leader of the Government in the Senate that the Duffy matter was closed once he’d repaid the false expense claims, with the discovery that it was Nigel Wright who had in fact paid off the debt and not Duffy, with Stephen Harper, that mean-spirited control freak, claiming he and none of his staff other than Nigel Wright, knew of the deal made with Duffy, most observers, particularly in the media, might have been forgiven for voicing scepticism with declarations that something was rotten in the PMO and it wasn’t just the cooked up deal between Duffy and Wright. It smelled; it stretched credulity to believe Harper did not know. But he’s the leader of your country and though you feel in your cynic’s heart of hearts all is not as he claims you want to give him the benefit of doubt and take him at his word and do so for two and a half years: he didn’t know.

But not all in the media and the real world were or are persuaded by Harper’s claims to ignorance in that particular matter, probably not good enough, compliant enough, to be really good Canadians (if you’re not for us, you’re against us), too much like those “radical” environmentalist foreign stooges or those lefties working at CBC always trying to trip up Harper and the Conservatives. No wonder they’re so loathed by the Harper Conservatives.

So both sides worked, the Harper gang at avoiding and ignoring the media and the media not buying the Harper line, still worrying the bone in the belief stories were still to be told and secrets exposed and that Harper and those vile bodies in his circle in the PMO and the Conservative party knew more than they were letting on.

ONE TRIAL BEGINS, ANOTHER RESUMES

With the adjournment of the first stage of the Duffy trial June 18 without inflicting too much damage, Harper and gang likely heaved a huge sigh of relief. He had extended the war in Iraq against ISIS, a vote winner for some, introduced the income-splitting plan and was loudly touting the childcare benefits raises that those with children finally began to collect on July1st with sizable retroactive cheques. Doubtless Harper was feeling confident; the worse was likely over as far as the Duffy matter was concerned and he, Harper, was still standing, hardly bruised, his credibility seemingly intact. Perhaps feeling somewhat emboldened, he stood before cameras on August 2nd and called what will prove to be for taxpayers the longest, most expensive election in Canada’s history.

Ten days later, the Duffy trial resumed and it would be with a star from the PMO, Nigel Wright, Harper’s former chief of staff.

Now Harper gave as reason for calling the longest campaign in Canadian history his desire for all parties to foot the bill for their own campaigns. That was sure to please his supporters, those who believe (or want to believe) the myth that he is fiscally wise with our money, those same supporters who can be bought with shiny trinkets and cheap promises (to be fulfilled at a later date). The thing is, he simply wasn’t telling the truth. Changes to the Elections Act, now popularly referred to as the Unfair Elections Act, allows parties to not only spend more, but to recover more from the taxpayers. In the past, spending costs were fixed. Now, for every additional day over 37 days the election goes, the parties can spend an extra 1/37th of the limit. For all campaign costs, including the extra 1/37th per day, the taxpayer is on the hook for 50%! So, when Stephen Harper suggests he was sparing taxpayers and saving them money, he lied. As with many of his decisions, as with military planes and helicopters, this election will cost taxpayers much, much more than he would have us believe. According to the National Post (July 20, 2015), “Although per-vote subsidies have been eliminated, the rebates that parties and local campaigns receive will mean the taxpayer could be on the hook for up to $53 million per party…this on top of the estimated $300 million it costs to run the election itself” Joan Bryden outlines some of the costs to taxpayers. Tax credits for donations are “75 per cent on the first $400, 50 per cent on the next $350 and 33.3 percent on the next $500.” She also points out that for each day added over the 37 days allows each party to spend an extra $675,000 for its national campaign and an extra $2700 a day for each candidate. That is a lot more money being spent but also a lot more money the taxpayer is being forced to reimburse when parties can claim 50 per cent and candidates 60 per cent (Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press, July 28, 2015 http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/longer-federal-election-campaign-would-cost-taxpayers-millions-more-1.3171793).

The Conservatives are by far the richest party in Canada raising about $20 million in 2014. There is nothing wrong with that. But there is something wrong in calling an early election so that parties, the Conservatives in particular, can pilfer from the public purse to spend more and recover more. The early election clearly benefits the richest party. It also allows that party the added advantage of bankrupting the poorer opposition parties. The real pilfering of public coffers by Conservatives, however, began long before the election was called when they employed taxpayer-funded ads masquerading as informational ads to promote the Harper government brand as strong, patriotic supporters of the military and the party of family values, tax cuts, and sound, fiscal management. Well, that’s their myth. The manoeuvrings, such as promoting their pre-election budget this year, has cost taxpayers $13.5 million (CBC, Aug. 3, 2015)! Yes, indeed, Harper and the Conservatives certainly know how to handle their money wisely. They just use ours to pay their bills and enrich their coffers.

But if Harper suffers in justifying the long campaign, he suffers even more when it comes to an accounting of what he knew and what others in his office knew about the shoddy Duffy/Wright affair. The emails released during the first days when the Duffy trial resumed and the testimony of Nigel Wright under cross-examination by Duffy’s lawyer show Harper’s version is at variance with the revelations of his one-time close and most trusted advisors at the time the Duffy story broke. While Wright loyally maintains Harper knew, “in broad terms only that I assisted Harper” and not of the cheque affair, it is clear that more knew than Harper claimed.

The doubters, those who would not, could not, simply take Harper at his word about what he did or did not know had been on to something after all. After almost ten years, Harper’s word holds little value, too carefully crafted and full of “outs” about matters that, if not illegal, certainly appear ethically iffy and difficult to be taken seriously.

When the Duffy trial resumed Aug. 12th, so did Stephen Harper’s, in a real sense, with Nigel Wright on the stand and with the release of copious emails. As Harper went on the hustings across the nation promising tax dollars on new programs, harsher punishment, more tax cuts and with the re-introduction of the home renovations program he had scrapped in 2010 but never quite able to get his message out as, each day, he was confronted with the same questions by reporters and responded with the same tired, worn, unconvincing line, that he knew nothing of the deal between Wright and Duffy and that, when he learned of it, had made all public and fired Wright.

You may want to believe him, after all he’s the leader of your country, but you just can’t. He’s lied too many times.

But some do believe him, willingly suspending their incredulity or simply too partisan, too ignorant if not downright stupid, to fret about ethics, honesty, and moral compasses; it’s about shared values having nothing to do with those touchy-feely things: What do I get out of it? is the real issue for such as these.

So, when Harper is constantly peppered by questions his supporters don’t like and believe hostile, it is hardly surprising there is push back from the partisans siting behind Harper as he attempts to offer his message of the day: “Stick to the topic”. We have that image of that foul-mouthed moron, later identified as Earl Cowan, shouting at Laurie Graham of CTV calling her a “lying piece of shit” and accusing her of cheating more on her income tax claims than Duffy. When CBC’s Hannah Thibedeau stepped in, he turned on her as well, an inarticulate bully who had clearly refined imbecility to its lowest and most base level. He didn’t care about the fact the two were doing their jobs or about the legitimacy of their questions. What values he shared in the way of policy with the Conservatives could not be easily discerned except the willingness to bully, intimidate and blame others as well as demonstrating a willingness to shoot the messengers and spew poisonous vitriol as only the truly vicious and ignorant can. So there is one, at least, who seems indifferent to the questions raised by the Duffy Affair, indifferent that Harper refuses to be forthcoming though the evidence of Nigel Wright and then Benjamin Perrin, once Harper’s personal lawyer and lawyer for the PMO, during the Duffy trial appears to cast doubt on his claims of ignorance in the matter and that no one else in the PMO was involved. But the buffoon who attacked Graham and Thibedeau is of a type easily identifiable simply by the Rob Ford button he was sporting: that says all one needs to know about him. Or almost all: he is the same individual, according to some reports who, when Olivia Chow ran for mayor of Toronto shouted she should go back to China. The face had seemed familiar to me, a reminder of something unpleasant. When I learned who he was, I wasn’t surprised: As much as one might wish to, it’s difficult to completely erase the memory of these types.

While this behaviour from Tory supporters is entertaining and likely damaging even if only minimally as far as Harper’s core base of supporters go, it is the greater matter of Harper, of his competency and apparent lack of a moral compass that should be of more concern to Canadians. Cowan, and such as he are unimportant in the grand scheme.

HARPER’S CHANGING TALL TAIL

For some, it may have been puzzling Harper would call the election knowing full well that the Mike Duffy trial with all its risks was about to resume a few days later. One plausible explanation was Harper and gang believed most of the bad news has already been made public and the Nigel Wright testimony would likely not be damaging and what damage there was could be weathered and likely forgotten by October 19th under an onslaught of Conservative ads and large promises and constant reminders that the world is full of terror and that Canada has been specifically targeted by jihadist barbarians.

If that is the hope, Harper and gang must be sorely disappointed, the campaign not going quite as Harper and gang would have it unfold, the questions tough and on the Duffy trial testimony, What did Harper know and who else knew? followed invariably by his stock answer: he knew nothing; the deal was only between Duffy and Wright; once he learned of it, he acted decisively making it public and firing his chief of staff. But that is his story today. The fact is it was the media, Bob Fife of CTV, who broke the story in 2013. At that time, Harper defended Wright. A few days later he had accepted Wright’s resignation for acting with the best of motives, then, May 28, Harper was saying, “By his own admission, Mr. Wright made a very serious error. For that he has accepted sole responsibility and has agreed to resign.” You can already see Harper distancing himself from his own man and then the break became overt and real, when, on October 28, 2013, Harper says, “I had a chief of staff who made an inappropriate payment to Mr. Duffy – he was dismissed”. So we have Harper defending his chief of staff, then Wright resigning and then Harper firing him. The only true thing is Harper accepts no responsibility nor does he admit to knowledge of the Duffy/Wright debacle as it was unfolding. He is robotic in his response, one who believes if he sticks to and repeats a story often enough, the rest of the world will eventually tire and accept what he says: his story, whichever version it is that day is the right one; if the world points out that his story has changed, no matter, it’s the world that has got it wrong. It seems to work with some of those who support him.

But for anyone paying attention to the trial, even if with half a mind, if becomes evident that Harper is not credible. Who to believe and which version? To believe Harper, one would have to believe others in the PMO did not know. Testimony and emails refute that. If you believe Harper you will likely believe some of Wright’s story. But you will also have to believe the emails are not what they seem and that Benjamin Perrin, a lawyer, as is Wright, is either mistaken or has lied on the stand about who in Harper’s office was in the know. If Harper, this man who is so careful and so controlling did not know, why not? Did all those many staff members in the PMO who knew of the deal, the attempts to rewrite the Deloitte audit on Duffy, who worked on scenarios to be used by Duffy to explain his, Duffy’s, payback of the money (as the public was supposed to believe), really conspire to lie to Harper?

So now it’s out there, Harper’s story unravelling though there has yet to be any concrete evidence of him knowing about the deal. He says he didn’t and you’re forced to take him at his word.

Still, the questions are persistent and the answers troubling. Why was Duffy insistent that he was innocent, had done no wrong? Well, clearly from the evidence, it was Harper who certified that he was okay, that he could claim to be the resident from PEI even though he hadn’t lived in PEI for decades.

Wright’s testimony and the emails, while not placing Harper directly in the loop regarding the cheque affair, certainly show PMO staff desperately working hard to clean up the mess, to keep it from becoming public, and “to make Duffy whole”. Again why? Well, again from the emails, we learn that the PMO was concerned that if Duffy was to fail to meet the residency requirements, other senators might also fail and it was the Conservative senators that the Harper gang wanted to protect at all costs. The emails in particular reveal interference by Wright in the Senate’s sub-committee audit report of Duffy by Deloitte. It was not just Duffy who was coached regarding repayment, the whitewashed Deloitte report, and how the news was to be made public. The Leader for the Government in the Senate, Marjory LeBreton was coached as well: Duffy had repaid the money and the matter was now closed. Only it wasn’t, of course; before long the story unravelled. Duffy had not repaid the money himself. It was Wright who had cut the cheque. Duffy was primed on how to respond to questions regarding residency but also on what to say regarding the claims with several script options carefully crafted to demonstrate “‘There has been an historical lack of clarity in the rules and forms. I had thought I was doing the right thing, but I was mistaken. I will be repaying…etc.'” (email excerpt from Wright to Chris Woodcock, Andrew MacDougall, Stephen Lecce, Patrick Rogers, Benjamin Perrin, Feb. 20, 2013 3:27 PM). Clearly, there was nothing innocent going on here.

In another email (Feb. 21, 2013, 8.18 PM), Wright wrote, “Mike is going to do this (although I don’t consider that final, final until I see an email from his lawyer….I have to weigh on Sen. Tkachuk, and I will call Sen. S-O (Carolyn Stewart-Olsen) too, to insist that Mike’s ‘may have made a mistake’ will be accept as sufficient to call of (off?) Deloitte.” Lest anyone still have doubt that none of this was for public eyes or ears, the following might dissuade him. “I would like to understand who if anyone Sen. Duffy ever intends to inform about point 3 (or, for that matter, the entire arrangement). I assume that I know the answer, but I would like it to be explicit. For its part, the Party will not inform anyone” (email excerpt, Wright, Feb. 22, 2013, 11:39 AM).

And there is this: “One issue: she (Duffy’s lawyer, Janice Payne) wanted it all in writing. I explained that was not happening. We aren’t selling a car or settling a lawsuit here. She seemed to get it eventually” (email excerpt, Benjamin Perrin, Feb. 22, 2013 12:50 PM).

These are very small examples of what was going on in the PMO and none of it is pleasant.

While Nigel Wright was on the stand, a name that cropped up again and again was that of Ray Novak, at that time deputy chief of staff and considered by insiders a close personal friend of Harper’s, almost a son. Of the major players during the Duffy scandal, he is the only member of the PMO still working for Harper, now as chief of staff and senior campaign director. According to Perrin, Novak certainly knew about the cheque deal having been informed by email from Wright saying he was paying Duffy’s debt and being present during a conference call to Duffy’s lawyer when Wright informed Perrin Duffy would be repaying the money “because it’s coming out of my pocket” (excerpt of a statement by Benjamin Perrin to RCMP Sgt. Greg Horton, Feb. 20, 2014). This contradicts Wright’s testimony that Novak, while popping in and out of the room, wasn’t present when the matter of the cheque was raised and challenges Harper’s claim that no one in the PMO knew about the deal. Too, in his testimony while on the stand, Perrin says he was blind-sided by the news of this deal. He was the lawyer for the PMO and yet was clearly out of the loop in this, he claims. Had he known of it, he says, he would have gone to Harper and resigned if corrective steps were not taken.

If Perrin is correct in recalling Novak being present when Wright brought up the matter of the cheque, then Novak had lied to the RCMP when he denied knowing Wright had paid off Duffy’s debt. Too, there was the matter of the email in which Wright wrote to both Perrin and Novak saying he would send a cheque on Monday following the conference.

It stretches one’s credulity to believe Harper did not know. Especially when Conservative campaign spokesman and long-time Conservative loyalist Kory Teneycke made the observation that Ray Novak did not know of the Duffy/Wright deal because, if he had, it was “unfathomable” to believe he would not notify Harper. Was Novak in the room? Did he not read his email from his boss? That question could easily be answered if Novak set aside a few minutes from his duties as chief of staff and campaign manager to clarify publicly what he did or did not know. Unfortunately, these days Novak appears to have much in common with Big Foot: sighted but not to be found or heard. Which suggests that there is more than a bit of truth to Perrin’s testimony.

If Novak knew about the deal, and it seems he did, and if we accept the word of one of Harper’s closest advisors, Kory Teneycke, who should know, it is extremely unlikely that Harper could not know of the manoeuvrings of his staff. So why is Novak still working for Harper and the Conservatives?

If the PMO staff lied to him, why did they? Was it to offer Harper the shield of “plausible deniability”? Possibly, but unlikely. Did Harper, knowing something was up and suspecting he might not like it, make it known to his staff he did not want to know? If that’s the case, while it may save him, it still does not look good for Harper. That kind of avoidance behaviour, “Don’t tell me, I don’t want to know” is merely legalese, weaselly wriggle room: I knew something was up but I didn’t want to know and they didn’t tell me and because they didn’t tell me, I can’t say I know as fact what I suspected and neither can you. If that’s how it went, what kind of leader does that make Harper? Not a very good or honest one, I suggest, and certainly not one to be trusted. Perhaps the same kind of leader who, according to an email by Wright, held the rather loosey-goosey view “that ownership of property equates to residency” (Nigel Wright, February 19 2013, to Benjamin Perrin, Ray Novak, Patrick Rogers, Joanne McNamara, Chris Woodcock, Myles Atwood). A nuanced interpretation, but laughable and one unlikely to be accepted by most folks. But that assurance was enough for Duffy, it seems. Benjamin Perrin, however, testified to being taken “aback” by this broad interpretation and had attempted to dissuade Harper from using it because the position was legally and practically untenable. Harper ignored that advice. No surprise there, either. Remember, Harper and his gang have a history of knowing more about everything than all the experts in the world: they know more than climatologists about climate change, more than environmentalists about the effects of toxins on the environment, more than legal scholars about jurisprudence, more than Supreme Court Justices about matters brought before the Court, and, it appears, more than the PMO lawyer at the time. And yet Harper, this most learned of men, did not know a thing about the Duffy/Wright deal.

IF I’M A LIAR, PROVE IT

That seems to be Harper’s line as he hits the campaign trail refusing to answer questions and trying to get his message across which appears to be based on the theology that anyone can be bought, anyone made fearful. When not attempting to buy our votes with shiny promises to be fulfilled down the road, he is attempting to move us with fear reminding us daily of those slathering jihadist barbarians who have singled out Canada and are coming for us pounding at our doors.

It is fear Harper and gang want us to experience and fear by which they would have us live. And, because he is one of extreme arrogance, without shame or integrity, who holds little regard for the opinion of others, he wants us to imagine, and to be frightened by the prospect, a world without himself as prime minister. The NDP and the Liberal economic policies will lead to the disaster that has befallen Greece. Greece, for Christ sake! Desperation on the fly. It is through our fear that he seeks to find his salvation October 19th.

Stephen Harper is no visionary. He is not even a leader. He is not one to be admired but rather loathed and dismissed tossed into the trashcan of history. A leader does not bully. A leader does not set out to frighten those whom he represents. Nor does he change electoral laws to rig the vote in his favour. Harper, with the assist of odious Pierre Poilievre has done precisely that. A leader does not threaten to his critics, he does not lie to his citizens nor does he deceive them and he does not smear and target those who oppose him. A leader is not afraid to admit to being wrong nor is he afraid to face his shortcomings and to seek, and accept, wise counsel from others, even his enemies. A leader does not take credit rightly belonging to others nor does he blame others for his mistakes and for his bad decisions. A leader does not refuse to answer questions, does not hide behind legalese, does not adhere to a policy or a line that he knows is wrong, false and harmful. A leader does not work to meet the goals of corporate interests by sacrificing the well-being and interests of workers, especially those holding minimum wage jobs. Nor does a leader conspire with corporations to suppress wages of low-income earners by importing cheap, compliant foreign workers to replace Canadian workers. A leader does not hide behind his staff nor does he continue to support those who have abused their positions. Harper has done that. Ray Novak still works for him. Marjory LeBreton who, as Leader for the Government in the Senate, oversaw the whitewashing of the Mike Duffy audit, still works on the Conservative election campaign. Why aren’t they gone? A leader does not alter facts and rewrite history to paint a rosy picture of himself. He does not change laws to increase his power and undermine democratic principles. He does not abuse his majority nor does he wield it as a club to beat his opponents into submission.

Harper is no leader because he has done all the things a leader should not do.

By any measure but his own, Stephen Harper is no one to be admired. He has led a government that is corrupt, amoral and unrelentingly dismissive of all other voices, especially those of dissent in opposition to him. Contrary to the Conservative myth, as a fiscal manager, he is a total bust, ignoring manufacturing for the oil tar sands and for having overseen eight deficits in a row taking responsibility for none by blaming external global forces. Yet, not too long, he was taking credit while the world was falling apart, wagging his fingers admonishing other world leaders of their failings and reminding them he was the model to emulate.

The Conservative party, Stephen Harper and his gang, all of them, some more so than other, have corrupted our electoral process and set out to rig the vote. They have worked towards the systematic erosion of our democracy and have passed legislation that threaten human rights and that could brand one a terrorist simply for acts of civil disobedience that may temporarily disrupt the economy. They have brought disrepute to Canada with their relentless dismissal of the UN, with their targeting of refugees, with their assault against the courts, and with their fixation on trade at any cost with brutal dictatorships with abysmal records of human rights violations.

The Conservative party, Stephen Harper and his gang, all of them, have become corrupted by the allure of power. They govern for the interests of corporations and work to dismantle the things we cherish as Canadians. Our nation is falling apart; the signs are everywhere and can be seen everywhere in our failing infrastructure and disappearing jobs. Under Harper, we have become a wasteland led by lizards. He has proven himself reckless with facts, indifferent to ethics, absent of integrity and too many are still eager to suspend their incredulity and support him. He cannot be believed or trusted. He is the god who has failed because he began with lies and broken promises. Over the years of misrule, abuse and error, he threatens to turn what’s left of our democracy into a grotesquery, a Corporatocracy that may only allow memories of a day when humans matter more than profit.

By then it will be too late. There will be no memory.

***

But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing. – Thomas Paine.

***

They that can give up essential liberties to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. Benjamin Franklin

IS STEPHEN HARPER A LIAR?

Most ignorance is invincible ignorance: we don’t know because we don’t want to know. – Aldous Huxley

And here, poor fool, with all my lore/I stand no wiser than before. – Johann W. von Goethe

 

Frank A. Pelaschuk

 

Last Thursday, October 24, Harper, in a rare appearance in the House in over 160 days, gave his strongest performance in months. It took place two days after Mike Duffy lobbed a few grenades at Harper while speaking in the Senate defending himself in hopes of avoiding a two-year suspension without pay. Harper was firm, pugnacious, and oh, so, so, self-congratulatory in his responses to questions by the opposition wanting to know if he had, indeed, ordered Mike Duffy to repay his expenses as Duffy had claimed. “Darn right I told him he should repay his expenses,” replied Harper. Solid, no nonsense, unequivocal. But no answer to the underlying question prompted by Duffy’s remarks: Had he been in the same room when the Duffy/Wright deal was made?

Nevertheless, members of his caucus that day must have felt a lifting of their hearts, a soaring in their spirits. Harper was back. In fact, so enthused were the members, and so forthright and eager Harper, that all leaped to their feet many times in Question Period, Harper responding forcefully and enthusiastically if not always satisfactorily. No matter, his Conservative gang clearly loved it all each appearing to out-leap and out-applaud the others as if, by such ardent public display of support, loyalty and love, hoping to garner public support or, more cynically, to forestall being thrown under the bus by Dear Leader for lack of enthusiasm.

Without doubt, they felt good, you could see it writ on their faces. But that glorious sensation was illusory, fleeting, another chimera of many in a regime of smoke, mirrors and thunderous white noise.

The following day, Harper and his party were exactly where they were before the spring/summer break, floundering, evading, fingerpointing and responding with scripted non-answers. It has been a shameful display by a majority governing party. The extended break had done nothing to improve matters, the Senate scandal had not gone away; it was cheap, loud, performance art and gong show. Is this how a leader of a Democratic nation behaves? Is this how Conservative Democracy works? Talking points, scripted bobbleheads, repeated phrases, lifelike dolls fingerpointing, mouths flapping and saying – well, saying nothing but yet, clearly, somehow, signifying the adoption of a new tack: Harper’s Conservatives had suddenly suffered a fervid, dizzying conversion; they were high, high on ethics and ethical behaviour. Villainous wrongdoers would be severely punished and Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin, Patrick Brazeau and Nigel Wright were, without doubt, villainous wrongdoers. Never mind that Wright was gone; he was the chief villain, the architect of all this mess; it was all his fault. Yeah, right.

While I have little to no sympathy for Nigel Wright or the three senators, I have even less for Harper and his gang of thugs who appointed the three to the Senate, apparently less for their merits as contributors to society than for what they could bring to the Conservative Party. Brazeau’s inclusion was likely the result of the potent symbolism he offered: young, intelligent, brash – and First Nations member. Duffy’s and Wallin’s inclusion was, without doubt, a result of their recognisability as respected and trusted members of the media and the promised ability to raise funds as Conservative shills. They were loved (and loved being loved) because they offered something that could be used, traded upon: the native gave them a certain cachet and the fundraisers? Well, they raised a lot of money, didn’t they? Yet, for the three, one can almost work up sympathy. Almost. When suddenly no longer loved, troublesome liabilities now, they were not only thrown under that massive, brutal Tory blue bus, they were to be made an example for all others: cross Harper, this, too, could be your fate. For these three, there would be the public damning, shaming and punishment; a Harper sanctioned lynch mob. Still, there would be a hint of decorum, a suggestion of fair play; the three were allowed to speak in their own defence in the Red Chamber and they did so, Duffy twice. Had cameras been allowed, the scene would almost certainly have closely resembled the Stalinist show trials between 1936 and 1938. Yes, yes, Harper and gang were going for the jugular, no more playing nice; these three would pay, and severely, and Conservatives, when done, could finally wash their hands of them for good while loudly proclaiming their virtue as defenders of ethics in politics. They were the good guys, white hats and tall in the saddle once again. That was the scenario they likely imagined. The party faithful would be happy and the soft supporters? Well, put on a good show, they’ll swallow anything.

The problem is: Would people really buy this? Is Harper and gang right? Is the world filled with simpletons? Well, forty per cent at one time. Enough to elect this gang of vicious thugs.

Unfortunately, for Harper and gang, when Duffy spoke October 22, Conservatives in the Senate and the House must have felt as if they’d been mugged. Regardless of the merits of Duffy’s defence, the sad spectacle says a lot about the character of this government. It is desperately wanting and severely challenged in matters of ethics and integrity. That’s been obvious to many, but this speech was just another nail. Canadians should be worried by now and do something; the foxes are in the henhouse and have been for some time.

In 2006, Harper announced that he would reform the Senate. Well, we saw how that worked out. Over half the Senators are Harper patronage appointees. During his latest foray in the Senate, Duffy posed the rhetorical question: Are we independent Senators or PMO puppets? He knows the answer to that. We all do. The days of a truly independent body had passed some time before the virulently partisan Harper entered the scene, but it is Harper who drove the final killing stake through its heart. The days of a truly independent Senate, if they ever were, were now well and truly dead.

WHICH TRUTH? WHOSE TRUTH?

Do you remember how it went? Did you care then?

When Duffy announced to the world that he and his wife had decided to repay the housing claims to which he was not entitled, Harper and Poilievre and all the rest of the thugs were loud and effusive in their praise of him. He had done the “honourable thing”, they had said. When that proved false, when we learned that it had been Harper’s chief of staff, Nigel Wright who had paid off Duffy’s debts with a cheque, Harper, Poilievre and the rest of the Conservative thugs were loud and effusive in their praise of Wright. He had done the right, honourable thing, they said, Pierre Poilievre even going so far as to declare Wright had done the “exceptionally honourable thing”! Duffy was suddenly toast. The man who had shone in the Conservative glow, who basked in the limelight and hammed it up as “hard hitting” journalist with puffball questions for Harper during faux “townhall meetings”, was suddenly, and sadly, pariah. Oh, that must have hurt.

When Harper was asked in the House what he knew of the deal, he claimed to know nothing and went so far as to state that no one else in the PMO knew of the deal. It was a matter between Duffy and Wright and no one else, he said. He also said there were no documents. Months later, when the RCMP revealed that there had been others in the know, Irving Gerstein, who controlled party funds and was apparently prepared to help Duffy out when he believed the debt to be $32, 000, David van Hemmen, Nigel Wright’s executive assistant, Benjamin Perrin, a lawyer who once worked in the PMO, and Chris Woodcock, director of issues management in the PMO, Harper played dodge ball evading questions in the House, claiming Wright had accepted responsibility for the matter and had done the honourable thing: he had resigned. As for documents, well, they were there and one involved another cheque, which, until Duffy’s revelations October 28, no one knew about except for the parties involved. Still, Harper, until last week, had maintained the deal a private matter between Duffy and Wright. But that wasn’t true, it never was. The question is, did Harper know? Evidently not, if we are to believe him.

When Brazeau and Duffy, October 22, and Wallin, October 23, defended themselves in the Senate, it was clear from Duffy’s impassioned defence that he was placing Harper in the know, Harper had been there when the deal was made, “just the three of us” (Duffy, Wright & Harper), and that he, Harper, had ordered Duffy to repay the money and take the deal. Harper’s vigorous and proud, “Darn right I told him he should repay the expenses” “sort of” supports what Duffy says without actually placing Harper in the room.

But, if Harper wasn’t there, and he says he wasn’t, and, as we now know four others knew, were there others? In June, Harper said no one else knew. But last week he did allow that “a few” others had known about the deal. That was a small change but extremely significant. It had gone from no one to a few knowing. So, had Harper lied at the beginning? Or did he really not know? Harper and his bobblehead parliamentary secretary, Paul Calandra, were now back to the scripted lines in the House, “Nigel Wright had taken full responsibility and blah, blah, blah.” That was Harper. For Calandra, the script went something like this, “The prime minister has answered the question. Nigel Wright had taken full responsibility and blah, blah, blah.” Oh, how wearisome the script.

On October 28, Mike Duffy took the opportunity to address the Senate again as his judges, jury and executioners prepared to debate his penalty, if any. This time, there was even more astounding news from Duffy even as the Senate Conservative sought to lessen the damage they had inflicted on themselves with this move to suspend the three. Arthur Hamilton, long-time lawyer for the Conservative party, a hardball troubleshooter often called to handle high profile incendiary events involving Conservatives (the Helena Guergis debacle for one, the robocalls scandal for another), had written a $13, 560 cheque to Duffy’s lawyer paying off Duffy’s fees with Conservative funds. There is documented evidence of the cheque. So, how many people did know? What constitutes “a few” as acknowledged by Harper? Some figures go as high as 13. If so, going from none to thirteen appears to be more than a minor discrepancy. Was Harper lying, mistaken, or just wilfully out of the loop on this, as well?

Too, Conservatives had previously denied that they had a secret Conservative fund run from the PMO for discretionary purposes. That was in the past. But that changed with Duffy’s speech in the Senate and with Harper’s recent admission that it did, in fact, exist. Had he lied then or simply been mistaken?

It was from this discretionary fund that Duffy’s lawyer was paid. When questioned about why the Conservative party would pay the fees for Duffy’s lawyer, especially if Duffy had breached the rules, pocketing money to which he was not entitled, Harper’s response was that it was standard practice for the Conservative party to help members from time-to-time. Which begs the question: If Duffy had defrauded taxpayers with illegal claims as Harper keeps on saying, why bail him out? Harper’s story makes little sense. He keeps shifting ground. At what point was Harper, if ever, telling the truth? Was it then or is it today?

In some ways, Nigel Wright seems to be a genuine victim of all this. This was a party loyalist, remember, a front rank soldier. Once word came out that he had written a cheque to pay Duffy’s debt, it was evident he was finished even though, two days later, a spokesman had said Harper still held confidence in him. There was no talk of resignation. On May 19, Wright announced his resignation from the PMO, which Harper had “reluctantly accepted”. Once again, Wright had proven himself a good soldier and, once again he was lavishly praised for doing the right, honourable thing.

Today, however, things are much different for the loyalist and one-time confidant of Harper. Looking back, his vision must be of a deceitful and bleak landscape: the only loyalty was his own.

In an appearance on a radio talk show, October 28th, Harper did another turnabout. Wright had not resigned as we had been led to believe. He had been fired! If Wright had been badly wounded when ruthlessly thrown under the bus, Harper, standing in the House the next day, made certain that he was dead meat as far as Conservatives and the public were concerned. In what must be the final indignity to this one-time much admired member of the PMO, Harper and his thugs left little doubt what Wright meant to them. Wright, said Harper, had been “The one person responsible for the deception.” Had they surrounded him and plunged daggers into his body in a public forum, it could not have been more brutal or more painful. Ruthless, shameless and appallingly cold.

What must Nigel Wright think of all this? What does he feel? What can those sitting around Harper think, what can they believe, who can they trust? Certainly they know that they are one misstep away from political and very public annihilation.

How is it possible that anyone can continue to place trust in this man who is leader of our nation? Petty, brutal, vindictive, evasive, deceitful, ready to sacrifice anyone, he is no leader I respect, let alone admire or trust. He and his party have governed in a manner that has been, time and again, revealed as the most ethically challenged in the history of Canada. It’s not all about money, folks. Mike Duffy says it has lost its moral compass, as if this were a recent thing. He is wrong. That happened long, long before this scandal broke out, probably on the very day Harper experienced the first real taste of power and succumbed to its corruptive allure.

Yes, yes, Harper is high on ethics – today. But even here, he appears rather easy on that score. Some stay, some go but these only when they become liabilities. We need simply remember Shelly Glover who the chief electoral officer of Elections Canada, Marc Mayrand, had recommended be suspended for refusing to file a full report of her 2011 campaign expenses. She finally agreed to do so only upon learning she was to be promoted with a cabinet position. And we have Christian Paradis, the lacklustre underperforming MP from Quebec who has been investigated more than once for ethical lapses with allegations of political interference and of providing favourable treatment to contractors seeking government business. He too holds Harper’s enduring confidence (at least until the next election) as well as a cabinet post. We have, as ugly as they come, vicious, oleaginous, union-busting Tony Clement, president of the Treasury Board, who, in 2010 during the G8 and G20 conferences set aside a slush fund of $50 million for his riding and whose department has apparently misplaced $3.1 billion. We have loudmouth, now silent, Dean Del Mastro, once Harper’s parliamentary secretary, facing charges relating to the 2008 election campaign. We have Bev Oda, who forged, or whose office staff had forged, a government document and was twice made to repay padded expense claims before being finally toppled by a $16 orange drink. We have Peter Penashue, declared by Harper to be the best ever Labrador MP, forced to resign for accepting corporate donations for his campaign. Best ever from Labrador? Clearly the voters didn’t agree with Harper when the by-election was held. We had Vic Toews who accused opponents to his online spying bill of “siding with pedophiles.” And we had Joe Oliver smearing environmentalists as “radicals” and impugning the reputation of a widely respected environmentalist who pointed to the risks of going ahead with the Keystone XL pipeline deal.

With Harper and gang, anything goes; the moral compass is rather fluid if it exists at all. If he likes you, or needs you, you are golden, in like Flint; if, however, you prove a liability, well, it’s under that brutal Conservative bus for you. Wright, Duffy, Wallin, Brazeau have merely joined Michael Sona, Helena Guergis, and all the other battered sacrificed. Clearly, working for Harper and the Conservatives is an occupational hazard.

Perhaps, in his own peculiar way, Harper has decided to set an example for public servants who have endured massive cutbacks and much maligning from the cretinous Clement. Harper has taken on the role of all three monkeys for himself: all hands clapped over eyes, ears and mouth and all at once.

Harper would have you believe he knew nothing. He would have you believe that everyone around him had conspired to deceive him. That makes him incredibly incompetent or incredibly stupid. Take your pick.

It is highly likely Nigel Wright can provide many of the answers. He knew Harper well and, after this, knows him better now. One wonders how much longer he is willing to play the good soldier. He owes Harper absolutely nothing now.

Is Stephen Harper a liar?

What do you think?

***

But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks, and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing. – Thomas Paine

STEPHEN HARPER, CONSERVATIVES, AND THE QUESTION OF CREDIBILITY

Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his friends for his political life. – Jeremy Thorpe

Frank A. Pelaschuk

LOVE ME, BELIEVE ME; I’M A CONSERVATIVE

Is Harper a liar or is he someone just as out of touch with his office as he is with the majority of Canadians? Either way, it’s bad for us.

It’s difficult to believe the man when every word he and his misbegotten crew utter promotes an agenda that is self-serving, self-promoting and self-deluding. They are right, always right, and everyone who disagrees is wrong, always wrong.

Harper’s Conservatives listen to no one and apparently believe themselves answerable to no one. Why should they be, they have the majority, they can do no wrong. Robocalls, campaign overspending, accepting corporate donations, and directing voters to non-existent polling stations, all attempts to subvert the electoral process during the last two campaigns, are mere blips. No one cares. What matters to Canadians are jobs, the economy, low taxes; if Democracy takes a kicking, if voters are used, misused, abused, if senators and MPs dip into the public purse, who cares, these are small costs for sound economic growth. And, if the economy and jobs and lower taxes aren’t enough to lull voters into acceptance, or if they don’t perform as expected, there’s always fear and bigotry; crime, abuses in immigration and unemployment insurance, the threat of powerful unions, and endless possibilities of terrorist attacks from every quarter are sufficient to divert those simple-minded voters who haven’t a clue, who’d rather talk about hockey, Justin Bieber and Breaking Bad than about the governance that affects their daily lives by politicians who lie, steal and defraud; after all, what can they do, they’re only one person. That’s what Conservatives believe of us. Do you accept that? If so, prove them right. Next election, vote for Harper and gang again and, once again, prove you’re stupid.

What is it with Canadians? Why are so many asleep? Why do so many still put their trust in a man and his crew who has lied to them from the very first even before they took office? And why do so many now, prepared to reject Harper, appear so blindly eager to turn to an untested young man who appears to have it all, looks, wealth, a pleasant personality and a famous name and, yet, so far, has failed to offer any substantial alternative vision for this nation? Surely there’s more we should be seeking, wanting and needing than the superficiality of an attractive but empty package. How about experience, ideas? Why are these considered novelties today, quaint and old-fashioned? Is it image only; are the youth of today that shallow? The Liberals appear to believe so.

But there is another view of voters that is even worse for it is a view that is negative, without hope, cynically devoid of compassion and humanity. It is the view that believes Canadians really do not care about substance, depth, perception, honesty, integrity, ethics, decency, shame or about any of the ongoing Conservative scandals. That is the Conservative vision; it is a bleak and contemptible vision with the sole apparent goal of gaining and holding power for the benefit of self and special interests. Will we continue to allow the schemers, liars, and plain old sons of bitches rip-off artists to have the edge? Are we Canadians okay with that? Clearly Harper and his gang believe so.

Being young is no crime. I hold no brief against Trudeau and I don’t fault him his good fortune. Would that we were all so fortunate. I just believe he is too young, too inexperienced, too, innocent (?) to be what we need at this time. Surely it is time for Canadians to look elsewhere, to take a risk, to try something new. It wouldn’t be that much of a risk, the only challenge called for being that Canadians rid themselves of the hidebound fears and prejudices born of ignorance. Canadians should look at Thomas Mulcair and the NDP and seriously give them a closer look. As a politician, he certainly has the experience and the smarts. And he does have substance; we’ve seen it on display in the House this past year. And the NDP is really not the Party of the CCF. It is certainly not the party I have supported all my life, but it is better than what we have. In fact, for those who really want a change and yet no earthshattering shift, preferring the middle ground, the NDP should be their choice for it is closer to the centre than either the Liberals or Conservatives if centrism is what you seek.

Tories and Whigs have had their way for far too long. Haven’t we had enough? Surely yes. We do not need more of the arrogance, deceit, dishonesty, secrecy, and abuse of power practiced by Harper and his crew of malignant toads. We need leaders, champions of citizens rather than of business, cronies, and entitlement. Mulcair and the NDP could be those agents of change if offered a chance. But the force of timidity is not enough.

In truth, regardless of what happens today or tomorrow, regardless of what we see, hear or know, Harper and his gang will always have their singular version of themselves and their history; the rest of us will simply have to be content with the facts.

The last two elections and the recent senate scandal, particularly the Duffy matter, offer prime examples of Harper Conservatism at play and at its worst. There is no best.

When Harper appointee to the senate, Mike Duffy, after much protestations of having done nothing wrong, finally agreed to repay $90 thousand back for false housing and expense claims and the Senate internal Economy Committee received the Deloitte audit report on him, Marjory LeBreton, Government Leader of the Senate, ecstatically claimed, that the matter was closed. As far as the world was led to believe, Duffy had repaid the debt with his own money. Conservatives, including Harper, loudly praised him for doing the “honourable thing.” Evidently they were untroubled that he had acted dishonourably in the first place. There is no hope for such as these.

Almost immediately after the report was released, it turned out that the Deloitte document released for public consumption had been doctored, the harshest criticisms in the original Deloitte report cleaned up and removed. Those who did the whitewashing were Conservative senators David Tkachuk and Carolyn Stewart Olsen members of the Senate’s internal Economy Committee. But that wasn’t all. Another bombshell: good ol’ Mike Duffy hadn’t paid off the debt after all. Nigel Wright, at that time Harper’s chief of staff, wrote the cheque for $90 thousand.

Now, in the House, Harper had denied any knowledge of the Duffy/Wright affair. He did not know of the cheque, there had been no negotiation with the PMO, and no one else in the PMO knew of the deal. So he claimed. As well, the Conservative Party had not been involved. Nevertheless, Harper and his crude brood in the House initially and loudly and proudly praised Nigel Wright for “doing the honourable thing” going so far as to claim that he had done this to spare the taxpayers the burden of the cost of Duffy’s false expense claims! It was a ridiculous assertion completely unbelievable and without merit. As they did with Duffy, Conservatives across the land were now singing the praises of Nigel Wright. They abandoned Duffy. And, when it was his turn, they abandoned Wright. But of course, no one in the PMO knew of the deal. Harper said so and we were to believe him. In fact, according to him, there had been no deal. Wright was doing this on his own, a generous friend helping a friend in need. But, again, we now know that wasn’t true.

The recent release of the court documents by the RCMP tells a different version of what we have been told by Duffy, Wright, Harper and his churlish band of knaves.

We now know that the Conservative Party not only knew of Duffy’s difficulties, it was quite willing to pay the tab in the belief that it was only $32 thousand (though David Tkachuk had notified Duffy in February, a month before the investigation began due to public outrage, that he owed over $90 thousand; is it possible, or even credible, neither Duffy nor Wright notified the Conservative Party before this came out?). When the sum rose to $90 thousand, the party balked; it would not pay Duffy’s debt.

The person who could sign off on the debt for Duffy was Senator Irving Gerstein, chair of the Conservative Fund of Canada. When the party refused to pay that amount, the obliging Nigel Wright stepped in. He brokered a deal with Duffy in which Duffy was to immediately repay the $90 thousand and not to talk to the media. As well, the Deloitte report would be absent of harsh criticism. Clearly, this deal, as well as that in which the Conservative Party initially considered paying off Duffy’s debt, was meant to be secret. Did Harper know? He said not. In fact, he claimed their had been no negotions. In any event, Canadians should be seriously troubled by these machinations and the secrecy surrounding them. There is no doubt that there was a concerted effort to deceive the public. For this gang, however, that is neither new nor news though it is puzzling why the Conservative Party would be so reticent in disclosing its willingness to help one of its own. But then, it may not be all that puzzling. With Conservatives, one thing is true: once you’re out, you’re out. And Duffy is out.

Now Harper had claimed that no one else in the PMO had known about the Duffy/Wright deal. He was either mistaken or misleading when he made that assertion. Clearly Senator Gerstein became aware of the deal once Wright interjected himself into the affair. But who else knew? According to the RCMP report, three others, and all in the PMO: Benjamin Perrin, the PMO legal advisor, David van Hemmen, executive assistant to Wright, and Chris Woodcock, the PMO director of issues (i.e., troubleshooter of crises). So, once again, we have Harper contradicted. But did he, himself, know of the deal? Well, I know what I think and I know what Harper wants us to believe. He apparently wishes to rely on that political standby of plausible deniability. He did not know. It is likely, in the eventuality that something like this should crop up, he had made it clear that he did not want to know, did not want to be told, and would not be told. Whether or not one believes Harper and those Conservatives, you’ve got to hand it to those endearing cretins, don’t you? They’ve got nerve if nothing of the scruples I would wish in a person.

Plausible deniability. When they resort to this, politicians resemble adult children who push from their mind the fact that they were conceived by their parents having hot, sweaty sex, who refuse to imagine their parents even having sex, who wish to ignore the possibility of their parents still being frisky, and who most certainly don’t want to know that their parents might actually still enjoy it.

The thing is, Harper and gang are not those adult children. They know exactly what they are doing. So do most of us. And we don’t like it.

THE FIVE DOLLS AND PROMOTION

With news of several high profile resignations in the government, including that of LeBreton, who plans to relinquish her position as Government Leader of the Senate and who will no doubt be missed by many of the Liberal media lickspittles, there is speculation regarding a cabinet shuffle and who the winners and losers will be.

Among the contenders expected to move up are Michelle Rempel, Chris Alexander, Candice Bergan, Kellie Leitch and the particularly odious Pierre Poilievre who seems peculiarly adept at tossing slime. To those who follow politics, these five are familiar as point persons for Harper’s gang making frequent appearances in all media. They are most notable for being rude, overbearing, dismissive and arrogantly certain of every utterance as they talk over, shout down and point fingers at their opposites in the Liberal and NDP parties who appear with them. Unfortunately, from my many viewings of them on Power and Politics, I am left with the impression that they are more like talking dolls or, at most, barely sentient beings who, in their regular appearances, spout the message of the day apparently downloaded into the microchip that must surely be secreted somewhere into their moulded bodies. I say this because, whenever they make an appearance on Power and Politics, they never deviate from the message, often repeating it word for word each time a question is posed regardless of how it is framed or how often it is asked. I can almost imagine someone waking them in the morning by pulling the string in the middle of their backs. I can see them abruptly sitting up, swaying slight, and saying, “Hello, my name is Michelle (Chris, Kellie, Candice,Pierre) and I am ready for my daily assignment. Hello, my name is…”

Not quite alive, they still manage somehow to work up enough life to occasionally express faux high indignation, to be evasive, to point fingers at others, and to utter many words without saying anything.

When the public was supposed to believe Duffy had paid off his debt with his own money, they glowingly praised Duffy for “doing the honourable thing” and then did the same with Wright when they learned the truth. They can switch that easily from one gear to another without any sign of embarrassment or shame. Just like a talking doll. Watching them, I can almost believe that brains and mouths are interchangeable and regardless of which brain or which mouth, it would all be one.

They, Poilievre more so, are dislikeable bobble heads now and offer every indication of being the same as members of the cabinet. They will take questions and regurgitate the response of the day. When the question is asked another way, they will repeat the message and continue to do so regardless of how the question is framed or how many times. And we’ll continue to go round and round, never getting answers to anything by anyone on anything. The only difference between their appearances in the House from that of Power and Politics is they’ll be standing on their feet.

I’ll be looking for the strings. (edited, July 8, 2013)

CONSERVATIVES, CORRUPTION, AMORALITY AND THE BIG FIX

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?

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