Oscar Wilde wryly noted that "scandal is gossip made tedious by morality." But there are those occasions when a sense of the ethical is the only thing that keeps politics from spinning completely out of control. Yet while truth is in rare supply in Ottawa these days, there is no question that our collective effort to uncover it is resulting in a sense of the tragic.
Regardless of one's view of the effectiveness or legitimacy of the Canadian Senate, it has often had historic moments where it raised the level of debate and produced some impressive and comprehensive research. But all that now seems to be blown up in the midst of scandals unlike anything the Upper Chamber has been used to.
It's a sordid tale that leaves nothing but carnage in its wake. Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau, while claiming to be victims of a kind of political witch hunt tracing right back to the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), still cannot deny the fact that they were brought in specifically by the PM to further his own agenda across the country and that they exulted in the opportunity.
I was a Member of Parliament (Liberal) when all three were appointed and it was obvious from the get-go that their roles were to be heavily partisan in nature. They didn't complain. And why should they? It is the prevailing culture of Ottawa these days and amply rewards those who practice it.
Mike Duffy was a popular interviewer, but it was a well-known reality that he wanted a senate appointment. That very inclination began pulling out his partisan leanings even before he relinquished his media role. Once placed in the senate, he visibly relished his role of travelling the country and bashing the opposition parties.
One of his earliest attacks was against well-liked Nova Scotian NDP MP, Peter Stouffer, in which the Senator branded him a "faker" and confirmed he was going to work hard to get him voted out of his seat. I was fed-up and angered, so I wrote a defense of Peter Stoffer in 2009 due to Duffy's shameful conduct. You can read that defense here. It caused some notice at the time because a Liberal was defending an NDP colleague, but something had to be said. Mike Duffy continued in his heavily partisan role right up until his fellow Conservative colleagues voted against him in the Senate.
Pamela Wallin never went over the top in the fashion of Mike Duffy, but she did the PM's bidding willingly, as did Patrick Brazeau.
There is no question in my mind that they have been thrown under the bus, but prior to being victims, they assisted in expanding the very kind of politics from which they now suffer and that is brutally partisan and bloodthirsty in its consequences. There are no heroes here; merely a number of high-profile personalities in various altered states of oppressive ideologies.
The true victims in this very moment are all those Canadians seeking work, lining up at food banks, hoping for better Veteran's benefits, the hundreds of Aboriginal women gone missing and presumed deceased, those waiting for extensive times in emergency rooms, and those on the wrong side of the ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor in this country. They look in vain to both Houses of Parliament for a proper addressing of their circumstances.
The real scandal of politics at present is not about a number of high profile, well-attired, and well-trained political elite caught in scandal, but the sheer ineffectiveness of both a political and media class that have forgotten the struggling millions of citizens who deserved better representation in Parliament and deeper understanding on the airwaves.
In this time of such challenge, Oscar Wilde had it wrong. Scandal is becoming increasingly tedious when the ethical high road of public service is repeatedly ignored.