One of the weaknesses of our age is our apparent inability to distinguish our needs from our greeds. – Don Robinson
SKIM THE POT
It’s probably been like this forever, folks turning a blind eye or exchanging knowing winks and nods as others, politicians and senators, their wealthy corporate friends milk the system. Occasionally, when the offence is particularly egregious, a politician charging the public purse for the cost of his family’s vacation, flight and accommodations in some exotic isle or when a lowly gnat is reported abusing EI, the public will stir and buzz angrily. It’s from the big milkers, the politicians and senators, their wealthy corporate friends and supporters milking the system from whom we will always hear loud cries of outrage about the occasional small time gnat abusing welfare with demands for tighter controls against fraudsters including stiffer fines with jail time. The public, as it always does, will buzz “amen” to that. It’s diversion, of course. It’s never the politicians and senators, their wealthy corporate friends and supporters who are ripping off the system just ask them and they’ll tell you loudly and clearly that the problem lies with the lazy gnat taking tax dollars from the mouths of babes so that he (or she) can sit in the bar and mockingly declare “Is Canada a great country or what!”
Now, of course, I have no use for the rip-off artist whether rich or poor. A thief is a thief. But, if I had my druthers, I would rather pursue the big thief, the tax cheats, the corporate welfare bums, the politicians and senators, their wealthy corporate friends and supporters than the poor welfare cheat because I know that the welfare cheat, even if he may really be in desperate need, stands a greater chance of punishment and jail time than the wealthy or than do those who sit in high office passing laws that allows them to legally pick our public purses with fake “expense” claims while, at the same time, scapegoating and punishing those less fortunate. I could be wrong, but I suspect the laws are tipped towards the health and well being of those that have rather than those that don’t. In fact, I suspect there is a law that demands that this be so. If not, why do we, and by we I mean you and I, keep on tolerating these abuses from those full time abusers, those politicians and senators, their wealthy corporate friends and supporters?
Well, the answer could be we, the public, simply don’t know what to do. No, that’s not it.
Perhaps the answer is that we don’t care. Hmm, I think that’s getting close to the matter.
Or, it could be we are all stupid and don’t care. It’s easier to blame those whom we believe lesser than ourselves.
Now, I may stupid, but I do care. I care that politicians and senators can make and change rules as the mood suits them, make and change rules that allows them to do legally what most of us would consider improper, dishonest, crooked, questionable. Hell, we may even consider some of what politicians and senators, their wealthy corporate friends and supporters are allowed to do and do do unethical, shameful, and just plain wrong! Yet they keep on doing them again and again and nothing, absolutely nothing is ever done to bring it to an end.
Sometimes we even have a judge saying it’s okay, judgement is not required of you any more than personal integrity or responsibility because, without clear rules saying you can’t do something, then, by god, you can do it. The law says so. Shame isn’t a factor. Neither is personal responsibility. It doesn’t matter what the public may think: if there is no rule against you padding your expenses well, buddy, go for it.
Folks, there are those who will not take advantage of situations. These are people who do not need laws or rules or regulations to spell out what is right or wrong. They just know because they have their own moral compass and, because they do, they will never, regardless of how tempting, ever, ever, resort to legalese or the cheap cop out: the law says I can, therefore I will.
Unfortunately, there are also the toads. At times, particularly among politicians and senators, their wealthy corporate friends and supporters, the toads appear to outnumber the honest folk. They don’t, but they appear to. The thing is, toads do as they always do: they act as toads.
And the whole Canadian Senate, with one or two exceptions, is a house of toads. They, the Senator toads, have boasted of recent changes to the rules and regulations in the wake of the Mike Duffy trial which found him “Not Guilty” on all counts. Changes? Really? Well, one good Ol’ toad is back and he’s at it again. The flimflam has never ended; it just continues. Oh, yes, it’s all legal Duffy and the others milking the system will tell you, breathing a lot more easily and freely, because the court has shown the way to rip off the taxpayer without suffering any consequences. Don’t blame the actor, blame the script. It’s not Duffy’s fault, it’s the system! So, Duffy can legally claim the Ottawa home in which he has lived in for thirty plus years as a living expense. His real home, not the home in which he has lived full time in Ottawa for thirty plus years, is evidently in PEI. It’s all above board, all hunky-dory, because, unlike a time long, long ago (okay, not that long ago), he now has a health card, a driver’s licence and a tax assessment saying he is a resident of PEI. It’s all legit even if a sham and a scam. Is Canada a great country or what! The rules were unclear (even to that long-time parliamentary hack, good Ol’ Duff); Duffy is not personally responsible for the “mistakes”. Well, he did try, let’s be fair. He questioned Harper (by his accounting) whether he could really claim to be from PEI when he lived to all intents and purposes in Ottawa. Harper assured him that he could. One would think that a veteran journalist would have dug a little deeper just to make certain. One fact is clear: he did lie about who paid his $90 thousand debt for false expense claims.
So, Duffy, cleared to do so, is at it again, claiming his Ottawa home of thirty plus years for his living expenses. He’s allowed. The rules say so.
But is it ethical? Is it decent? Is this right?
Not by a long shot. It’s simply legal. Duffy is doing what all toads do; he’s resorting to legalese. For toads, optics, ethics, sense of shame, decency, play little to no role. It’s what one can get away with, that matters. Personal responsibility has nothing to do with how a politician or a senator lives if that politician or senator has the soul of a toad. It’s legalese. It’s all about the main chance. Get it while you can and as much as you can.
Years ago, David Dingwall, while appearing before a committee investigating his expense claims and his severance package after resigning from his position at the Royal Canadian mint, infamously declared, “I’m entitled to my entitlements”. It is the mantra by which all politicians and senators apparently live, none more so zealously than the good Ol’ Duff whom everyone knows is an honest man. He told us so and the court seems to agree.
Ol’ Duff and those of his ilk, politicians and senators, their wealthy corporate friends and supporters, will always be toads and continue to do as toads do.
Personally, if the Senate cannot be abolished, I would simply be content to have all toads croak.
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