LAST week I suggested in this column that “perhaps the best way to solve this “he said, he said” issue between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Senator Mike Duffy [over spending irregularities] is to subject them both to a lie-detector test (polygraph).”
It’s not that Canadians as such have any sympathy for Duffy or the other two senators, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau, who were all appointed by (guess who?) none other than Harper himself, but what bugs them is that Harper has been NOT been as straightforward as he should have been right from the beginning.
Consequently, he has damaged his reputation – some feel, beyond repair – and has emerged as a hypocrite especially because he had so self-righteously lashed out against the Liberal governments when he was in the opposition on the same lack of transparency.
Indeed, my friend Haroon Siddiqui, Toronto Star columnist, put it best when he noted: “It is poetic justice that a prime minister who has been getting a free ride for years with his phony campaign of “reforming the Senate,”
something he constitutionally cannot do without provincial approval (as the Quebec Court of Appeal rightly ruled Wednesday), has been tripped up by that same body and by the people he had hand-picked for it.”
Duufy caused yet another stir when he disclosed that the Conservative Party itself had also cut him a cheque for his legal fees.
Harper had to admit it and came up with the excuse that this is “a regular practice” and “the party regularly reimburses members of its caucus for valid legal expenses — as do other parties.”
Michael Den Tandt of Postmedia News noted: “As for why the party he heads saw fit to foot the bill for a senator in trouble over behaviour now deemed a hanging offence, he had no answer.”
ON Monday, Duffy said the Prime Minister’s Office was responsible for coming up with a “script” that he should tell the media that his wife and he took out a loan from the Royal Bank. Duffy told the Senate that he took out a loan to back up the line “written by the PMO to deceive Canadians as to the real source of the $90,000.”
Then Harper on Tuesday suddenly attacked his former chief of staff Nigel Wright when he told Parliament: “On our side, there is one person responsible for this deception. That person is Mr. Wright” and added: “It is Mr. Wright by his own admission. For that reason, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Wright no longer works for us. Mr. Duffy shouldn’t either.”
But what about Harper’s deception – or confusion or whatever?
For example, on May 19, Harper said: “It is with great regret that I have accepted the resignation of Nigel Wright as my Chief of Staff. I accept that Nigel believed he was acting in the public interest, but I understand the decision he has taken to resign” and on May 28, he said: “By his own admission, Mr. Wright made a very serious error. For that, he has accepted sole responsibility and has agreed to resign.”
But then on October 28, Harper said: “I had a chief of staff who made an inappropriate payment to Mr. Duffy — he was dismissed.”
So did Wright resign on his own – or was he fired?
I am sure that Harper is educated enough to know the difference!
Then in regard to the payment, as I wrote last week, NDP Leader Tom Muclair pointed out: “After firing Nigel Wright, the prime minister told Canadians in this House that absolutely no one else — not a few — no one else knew about the deal between Duffy and Wright. Now he admits that top Conservatives actually did know about the scheme.”
The Conservative majority in the Senate pushed hard to suspend the three senators before Harper’s scheduled speech on Friday evening at a major policy conference of the party in Calgary, but the vote on a watered-down version (which will give them “normal access to Senate resources necessary to continue life, health and dental insurance coverage”) was delayed until Monday.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau mocked Harper in Calgary earlier this week as he pointed to the string of questionable actions of his government such as the robocall scandal, the F-35 fighter jets case and the G8 / G20 Summit’s misspending in 2010.
Trudeau said on Wednesday in Calgary: “I think the weight of all those ethical and moral failings are catching up with him.”