Mike Duffy won. Two and a half years after warning Canadians he "violated no laws" and "followed the rules," the senator from Prince Edward Island was vindicated Thursday when an Ontario court judge acquitted him of all 31 charges laid against him. What's more, Justice Charles Vaillancourt sided with Duffy. It was he, the Old Duff, not the Prime Minister's Office, the judge said, who had been the victim of a "mindboggling and shocking" series of events. Duffy's "free will" had been "overwhelmed" and he had "capitulated" as a result of the PMO's -- Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office, that is, -- "threatening efforts," the judge said.
Duffy's defence -- which I will refer to as "The Costanza" -- may become a standard courtroom tactic should his lawyers succeed. This new legal principle would hold that one is innocent unless the law, social behaviour and even etiquette are explicitly explained in advance in each case.
To the world, Canada looks like heaven. What the world envisions when they think of Canada is not immigration detention centres or deportation. So, while the world mourns the loss of Abdullah Kurdi's family, we Canadians must ask ourselves, do we not have an obligation to live up to the global expectations we have created? Do we not have an obligation to rise to the occasion and create the asylum innocent families fleeing war-torn Syria, Iraq and other regions so desperately need?
Canada's public service has a proud history and has been recognized as world leader in terms of impartiality and offering great advice to ministers. Whichever party forms the next government, it is imperative that they take accountability seriously and create an environment of trust with the public service. Canada needs a creative, healthy and trusted public service and a government that holds themselves accountable.
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.