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A bad news week for the Prime Minister

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At the end of a trying week Prime Minister Stephen Harper seemed relieved at the chance to wax effusive in congratulating British Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron on his "strong re-election…with a majority government."

Earlier in the week, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) could barely muster a terse "sincerest congratulations" to Alberta’s Rachel Notley, together with a promise to work together on "economic growth and long-term prosperity" –- a favourite Conservative catchphrase.

The PMO devoted a mere 89 words to the Alberta election, of which it used 29 to "thank" Jim Prentice.

For Cameron’s victory, Harper’s minions effused for a full 146 words

They carried on about the "deep and close relationship" between Canada and the United Kingdom, a relationship "rooted in our common history and values [and] tradition of parliamentary democracy." 

Harper seems more comfortable with the idea of parliamentary democracy than with its day-to-day practice.

His unprecedented use of closure and omnibus legislation speaks volumes about his respect for parliamentary democracy.

On Thursday, the Conservatives dumped their most recent budget implementation omnibus monstrosity on the House. No doubt they’ll impose strict time limitation on debate in order to push it through Parliament before the end of June.

 But, we digress.

Back to the PMO's congratulatory e-mail about Conservative PM David Cameron's victory in the U.K.

When they had finished enthusing about "parliamentary democracy," the PMO's wordsmiths conjured yet more shared Canada-UK stuff to blather about, to wit: "our partnership on global issues," and, of course, for all those unreconstructed monarchists out there, "our shared sovereign, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II."

They then enumerated the ways in which Canada and the U.K. might collaborate. 

The list included everything from supporting Ukraine against Russia, the Canada-EU Trade Agreement (ignoring the fact that Cameron will have his own referendum on Britain remaining a member of the EU), and, of course, the fight against the "so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria."

It is notable that the list of opportunities for collaboration with the new government of Harper's own province of Alberta was much shorter.

Duffy trial brought the worst news of all for the PM

The PMO really seemed to need something to cheer about.

This past week Harper’s government suffered the release of Omar Khadr, news that numerous government departments had left millions of dollars unspent, a Harper promotional video that made inappropriate use of soldiers' faces, and the aforementioned election of Notley and her Orange Horde in Harper’s home province.

But the worst news came from the trial of one-time star Conservative Senator Mike Duffy –- or, at least, from documents not yet entered into evidence, but strategically leaked to the media.

Those documents show that the Prime Minister’s Office cynically interfered in the notionally independent audit of Duffy’s expenses.

The language of e-mails about "putting Duffy in a different bucket," "protecting" him and  making sure he does not go "squirrely" do put one in mind of the regime of disgraced U.S. President Richard Nixon, as NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said in the House on Thursday.

The words of senior Senate official Jill Anne Joseph should put a chill in the heart of every Conservative operative in the country.

Referring to Conservative Senator and former senior PMO staffer Carolyn Stewart Olsen, Joseph wrote, in an e-mail: "Here she was a member of the audit subcommittee, but her objective was not to get to the truth of the matters and deal with them the way I wanted to deal with them…" 

Even commentators normally sympathetic to the Conservative government, such as iPolitics’ Tasha Kheiriddin, are now saying that this sort of ethical morass could seriously damage Harper’s viability as a candidate in the coming election. 

And we ain’t heard nothing yet.

The Prime Minister’s former Chief of Staff Nigel Wright and Duffy himself will ultimately testify under oath –- as will other PMO operatives, and quite possibly Senators such as Stewart Olsen and former Government Leader in the Senate Marjorie LeBreton.

Do not forget that this will be testimony in a court of law, not Question Period in the House of Commons.

In the House the Prime Minister’s Parliamentary Secretary Paul Calandra gets to blithely ignore questions about possible grave misconduct.

Instead, the Speaker of the House allows Calandra to utter slanderous accusations against the Official Opposition, accusations that the PM's stand-in refuses to repeat outside the House, where the laws of slander and libel would govern him.

At the Duffy trial, witnesses will be up against Duffy’s indefatigable lawyer Donald Bayne, a crack prosecution team that has already intimated it considers the very appointment of Duffy to have been unconstitutional, and Judge Vaillancourt, who is no shrinking violet.

Evasive non-answers won’t cut it in court

No wonder some Opposition MPs are starting to wonder if Stephen Harper will still be Conservative Leader by the time the election rolls around. 

 

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