The worse thing that interns -- and any other employees -- can do is to try and cover up the situation. For high achieving kids, admitting a significant mistake can be hard. We like their desire to be liked and their positive self esteem. But sometimes humility and confession go a long way. Which brings me to Stephen Harper and the Mike Duffy affair. Somehow in the political world, leaders and their staffs have come to believe that voters expect perfection. Any admission to the contrary is not tolerated. The result is the cover up.
To Canadians, Stephen Harper has been vague about what he did know about the plan to repay Senator Mike Duffy's Senate expenses and clear only about what he didn't know. Even with what Stephen Harper did know, the story keeps changing. The entire mess has become Canada's Watergate.
Only in Canada would paying money back to the government qualify as a scandal. But a scandal it is. It takes a special combination of incompetence and lack of ethics to convert a comparably innocuous act into a potentially fatal political scandal.
Wright, a wealthy man, delivered this tale with composure and sangfroid. In Nigel's world, writing a $90,000 cheque to a senator in need falls into the same category as taking young Conservative interns to lunch. Just one of those things one does for the less fortunate.
Nigel Wright didn't have a personal obligation to pay Duffy's debts, as he proclaimed. His personal obligation was to serve Canada and to maintain the integrity of its political institutions. We should be repelled by any notion that we should admire -- and excuse -- an incredibly rich individual who goes into public service and then uses his private financial resources to make political problems (and possibly crimes) disappear.
Those who support the Conservatives see their party as practicing and upholding traditional family, moral and biblical values. Even though the Conservative government is extreme and disrespectful of science, knowledge, fact and rationality, its supporters would simply overlook faults even when they are glaring.
Three years out and the public outrage over the 2012 health ministry firings shows no signs of abating and may be intensifying over recent disclosures that the government misled the public on the RCMP investigation that never was.
In anticipation of the next federal election, the Conservatives launched an ad campaign last September with the less-than-inspiring slogan, "We're better off with Harper." No expression of grand ideas for Canada. No glorious visions for our national future.
More than anything, it leads me back to the bigger question of whether the Senate is relevant at all. In my work as a small business lobbyist, I've met dozens of senators over the years, and many are wonderful people who take their appointment seriously and try to take on important public policy issues or causes. But do the costs outweigh the benefits? And if we do need a Senate, is the current structure delivering?
Sadly, too many public officials are all too eager to scam taxpayers and charge fraudulent expenses. That is especially true if they feel they are accountable to no one. Accountability begins with transparency. After all, you can't judge a person's actions if you don't know what they've done. Just as companies are accountable to their owners and shareholders, so elected officials are accountable to their citizens and taxpayers.
This trial is going to be a long, drawn-out examination of the prime minister's role and vast influence. Harper will take blows from both sides. The Crown has already said it believes Duffy wasn't qualified to sit in the Senate -- that the former CTV journalist and longtime Ottawa resident didn't meet the basic residency requirement to represent his native Prince Edward Island and that he should never have been appointed to the upper house. So why did Harper appoint Duffy?
Why hasn't my Facebook feed filled with at least the same level of indignation about our government's disgraceful treatment of our Veterans as it was about the a tobogganing hill? We must learn to calibrate our anger so it's proportional to the injustice or slight. Let's fight for the things that make life fun for us like tobogganing while also fighting the things that make life miserable such as payday loan companies, multinational corporations, venture capitalists, a failed War on Terrorism and the self-serving hacks in the media and government who enable it all.
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.