Scandals galore in Ottawa: Harper's chickens have come home to roost

| June 3, 2013

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In Ottawa, it's raining scandal. Correction, it's pouring, with hurricane-force winds. For a government that thrives on the politics of cynicism, exhibits, at every turn, contempt for democracy and election laws and is preoccupied with punishing those who disagree with their ideology, the past three scandal-clad weeks are as if all of Stephen Harper's chickens have come home to roost.

The prime minister, who prides himself on being in ultimate control, the quintessential micro-manager, must be wondering how it all went so wrong.

The Senate expense scandal and the $90,000 cheque from the PM's former chief of staff, Nigel Wright, to Sen. Mike Duffy are the tip of the iceberg for the beleaguered Conservative government.

And make no mistake this is a scandal, a scandal so bad that a trusted staff member would cut such a cheque.

There is an excellent chance that laws as well as ethics were abandoned and broken.

Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin, Patrick Brazeau, Arthur Porter, Bruce Carson, Nigel Wright. Combined they form a worrisome pattern for Mr. Harper and the so-called Conservative brand. The Ford brothers in Toronto are not exactly helping the Conservative cause these days either.

The patronage gravy train did not end with this government despite its moralizing while in opposition. Indeed, the rewarding of political friends (a number of whom have had their share of scandals and run-ins with the law) is as bad or worse than it ever was under previous governments.

When the message is "winning at all costs," rules, even laws, get broken.

When that's your mantra, you and those around you learn very quickly to perfect bullying to an art form, as this prime minister has done.

When that's your mantra, anyone who opposes your view of the world (scientists, doctors, statisticians, unions, feminists, environmentalists) and expresses that dissent or disagreement is viewed as the enemy.

And enemies must be eliminated, silenced, or punished -- no matter the cost, no matter the destruction to the country.

This has never been a prime minister interested in building a better Canada, in reaching social consensus, in cultivating relationships with those he may have differences with, nor in thinking government can play a role in making life better for people. Instead, this prime minister has always valued power for power's sake. Instead of building, he seeks to destroy.

His government’s economic and social policies have not exactly placed Canada ahead of the pack. Indeed the damage caused by many of these policies -- whether on the environment or on democracy -- will have lasting impacts. It is the failure to listen to reason or evidence or to understand and respect democracy that has characterized the Harper regime.

This will be the legacy of his government. And now we can add scandal-ridden. Senators collecting fraudulent expenses; their colleagues whitewashing audit reports; $90,000 cheques. It reeks of coverup.

No doubt this must be a bitter pill for some Conservative MPs to swallow. Those who actually believe in ethics and accountability and all those values Stephen Harper and his inner circle say their governance has been about.

It would be almost laughable, if it weren’t so sad and serious a matter.

Accountable and transparent. The government that gave us the Accountability Act. That's the talking point. That is the spin.

The facts say otherwise.

Just ask Canada's former Parliamentary Budget Officer, who engaged in a multi-year campaign to get the government to disclose its budget plans.

Just ask climate scientists or the head of Statistics Canada who quit over the government's preference for ideologically driven policy rather than policy supported by facts and data and evidence.

Ask just about anyone who because of their own principles and ethics went up against this prime minister what the outcome was.

The facts say this is a prime minister who will sacrifice anything to win and clearly his staff understood this about him, which is why Mr. Wright had no problem writing a huge cheque to make Senator Duffy's expense problem go away.

So when you sow this kind of politics, you have to expect that eventually karma won't be kind; that you will eventually reap all the nastiness that you have planted over the years.

This is so much bigger than a few Senators feeling "entitled to their entitlements."

This is about a culture of meanness, spite and political expediency created by this federal government and this prime minister.

This is Stephen Harper's doing. The question now is will he survive the storm or be swept up in its powerful current?


Lana Payne is president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour. She can be reached by email at

This article was originally published at The Telegram and is reprinted here with permission. 




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