It's a terribly sad day for Parliament when a member of the Senate gets hauled before the criminal courts to face 31 charges of fraud, bribery and breach of trust. The formal trial of Mike Duffy is about to begin. The damage Duffy has done flows directly from the fact that he was a duly appointed Senator. So who put him there? Who gave him that position? Stephen Harper cannot escape responsibility. He demonstrated enormously bad judgment in making Duffy a Senator. Canadians need their Prime Minister to provide fulsome, accurate answers.
I'll leave it to others to sort through the constitutional implications of what Justin Trudeau did this week. But I want to comment on what Justin's move did for his "brand", because that's my expertise. Trudeau's naysayers attack him as vacuous. He's a nice guy -- but where's the beef? Well, Trudeau just showed substance and leadership.
The Canadian press has been offering no shortage of year-in-review columns as of late. What's my pick for top story of 2013, you ask? I don't know if I have a headline per se, but I do have a theme: the decline of Brand Canada. If there's one thing Justin Trudeau, Rob Ford, and the Senate scandal have in common, after all, it's that they all prove, in different ways, that Canada is not nearly as serious, respectable, and mature of a country as we often like to believe.
In the world of Canadian politics, 2013 was one of those years where interesting things seemed perennially on the brink of happening, but rarely did. 2014, in short, will be a year that spends a lot of time providing closure to the unanswered questions of 2013. My guess is there'll be a lot of "no's." Here are some predictions.
Like many, I think King Harpernicus could have handled this whole expense mess in the Uppity Chamber better. There's been rhetorical flourishes, sure,...
Back in June Canadians were more likely to say they would judge the Prime Minister based on his economic stewardship rather than his handling of the Senate expense controversy. Four months later, Canadian opinion has flipped. Fifty one per cent of Canadians said the Senate expense controversy was more important than his record in promoting an environment for job creation.
A fair compromise concerning pay for suspended senators and other politicians would be to establish a rule that if a politician is found guilty of the alleged violation, they would be required to return any pay received after the allegation was first made.
If Duffy is willing to spend day after day squawking on the Senate floor that the Harper government has "no moral compass" then the least he can do, as a gentleman similarly lacking that device, is set a good example and resign from the chamber Professor McCreery says is supposed to consist only of "honourable" persons.
For all the Duffys, Harpers, Harbs, Wallins and Brazeaus, there are the quiet, reasoned and compassionate voices of the Segals, Dallaires and Cowans, and, yes, the Munsons, fighting for the humanity of Canadians instead of the loyalty of their base. They have tackled the political order in both houses and in every party to restore this country's image in the world.
The majority of hardworking Canadians don't give to two figs about the personal trials and tribulations of three Senate politicos pigging out at the public trough. Most Canadians, earn nowhere near the annual $130,000 salary of the senators. We should strongly urge Prime Minister Harper to slash each senator's annual salary to $65,000. To avoid any funny business, no senator will be entitled to any additional living, travel or personal expense benefits. In addition, no senator will be entitled to the benefits of any two tier gold-plated health care coverage. Each senator will have the benefit of the same health care coverage as average Canadians.
The real scandal of politics at present is not about a number of high profile, well-attired, and well-trained political elite caught in scanda. 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.
While these politicians are hiding behind a procedural loophole, arguing over certain senators' use of taxpayer funds to cover their living expenses, ordinary Canadians (some of which are unable to make mortgage payments on their ONLY homes) are stuck with the bill either way and are actually financing this ongoing soap-opera. So, here's an idea, and something fed-up mothers have told fighting siblings plenty of times: take it outside!
Did Harper's throne speech succeed in hitting the long talked about reset button? Probably not. Will it bury the Senate scandal and move it off the political agenda and out of the public's mind? Definitely not.
The latest throne speech was an excursion extraordinaire, and by a happy coincidence the best description of it was first applied to the 2005 Ralph Goodale federal budget, and by none other than former CTV host and current Senator Mike Duffy: "It's a little like Jell-O. It's good for you, inoffensive and there's nothing here that seems to be very controversial."
Dear Steve: Ordinarily, I'm not in the habit of writing to sitting prime ministers. But even I have to pause and wonder what the heck is going on with your gang up there in Ottawa these days. Have you all been starting cocktail hour at lunchtime or smoking all that excess B.C. bud confiscated by the RCMP?
The speedometer read 140 km/h when I determined I could go faster than that. I hit 150, 160, pushed it to 165 for an exhilarating eight kilometres of joy riding that would surely cost me points, if not my license, in a jurisdiction other than Prince Edward Island.