View From the Hill by Keith Beardsley – Harper Government Steering in Murky Waters – May 16, 2013

dr evil 2CFN – It seems as though most days are dominated by more bad news stories for the governing Conservatives.

Spin it anyway they want, and some of their spin is hilarious, the reality is the Conservatives have been digging themselves deeper into the mud with each passing day. As we saw in the Labrador by-election, the public will only stand for so much before they punish a party.

As the latest Senate scandal gets murkier by the hour, it’s a fair question to ask what on earth they are thinking in PMO.

Rather than jump into their bunker and defend senators under investigation, why didn’t the Prime Minister suspend them from caucus until all the facts were in the open and the investigations/audits completed?  If wrong doing was proven then the suspension could be made permanent. Either way the public would have seen a Prime Minister taking the integrity of his Senate members and government seriously.

The same holds true for the Penashue file. Rather than let the minister announce that he was resigning and seeking re-election, the Prime Minister should have announced that he had removed Penashue from cabinet and turfed him from caucus. Others such as Helena Guergis and Garth Turner had suffered that fate before.  If the Prime Minister had done that there could have had a fresh nomination with a new candidate. The by-election results would most likely have been the same, but at least the Prime Minister would have been seen to be on the side of what is right and fair. Instead the public watched as the government lauded the individual and backed him to the hilt in the by-election. What type of signal does that send to the public?

In both the Penashue case and the recent Senate revelations the public is left with the impression that the Prime Minister is protecting individuals who have done something wrong. The public quite rightly should be asking why?

At the very least these individuals should have been put at arm’s length from the caucus and the Prime Minister. No matter what the circumstances, no one should have written a cheque to cover off a Senator’s reimbursement. That was just plain dumb. If the Prime Minister wasn’t aware of this, who came up with this idea that shows such poor political judgment?

The Conservative caucus must be stunned at this on-going drama that unfolds day after day. Revelations of wrong doing or questionable deals impact not only the reputation of the Prime Minister, but also will play out at the local constituency level where Conservative MPs must face re-election. Conservative MPs should be concerned. How long will it be before the caucus demands action and for heads to roll?

Keith Beardsley is a senior strategist for True North Public Affairs in Ottawa, as well as a blogger and political analyst. He can often be found running or cycling on his favorite bike trails. To sponsor this column please  email!

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  1. I’m already wondering what’s going on with the 90000$ that the right hand man of Harper paid to get Duffy out of trouble. That’s just messed up. Any hapless Canadian citizen would get audited, grilled, and raked over the coals for what Duffy did. But not the untouchable Duffy. No, his debt was paid off. While the others caught up in the scandal did not receive the same treatment. Why is it that the guidelines are clear on their paperwork, but not clear on Duffy’s? What a nasty situation. Duffy should be fully responsible for what happened, no one should have been able to pay it off, especially someone else from within cabinet. That’s just wrong! Harper, his right hand man, Duffy, and the rest of their party, have just shown what can be done to buy off a situation and keep someone in senate (Duffy) that got caught red handed attempting to steal from the public purse.

  2. What ever happened to Conservative accountability?

    As Clifford S implies, we’d likely be behind by bars for less.

  3. If a friend was giving another money to get over a hurdle, that would be one thing. But when you have people voting on bills, that is very very different.

    I would like to see investigative journalism on what all chiefs of staff do in their spare time. For example, MP Mauril Belenger’s chief of staff Mattard Alexandre Michaud. He is also a vice president with taxpayer funded ACFO Ottawa and has done work with a group towards making Ottawa bilingual. It may all be above board, but journalists are not making any connections.

  4. Just when you think it could get no worse and when you think that Harper’s Conservatives could not sink any lower, they come out with their latest scandal and once more try to pull the wool over Canadian’s eyes.
    I guess that if they wanted a ‘show boy’ of honesty and integrity then they should have picked the Michelin Man, Humpty Dumpty or the Pillsbury Doughboy instead of Mike Duffy, you know, the Senator from PEI (Yeah right!).
    Of course with the ever growing Senatorial scandals, the Harper government used Duffy as an example of ‘integrity and leadership’ in returning the 90 thousand dollars that he bamboozled from Canadian tax payers pockets.
    Now we find out from investigative journalism (CTV) that it was not Duffy who coughed up the dough but ‘his best friend’ in the Prime Minister’s Office who gave him the 90 thousand as a gift. Wow, I want to have friends like him. And, this of course was without the PM having any knowledge of PMO Chief of Staff, Nigel Wright, giving this ‘gift’ to the ‘Duff’.

    That should be enough for the week to make you puke, but Jim Flaterly tells us that the ‘Government of Harper’ will spend another quarter billion dollars on tax payer paid Canada Economic Action Plan adds over the next two years. Why? “Because the Canadian public has the right to know what the Canadian government is doing”. Like we don’t already know after the more that half billion dollars was already spent over the past seven years promoting their own agenda. Hey Jim, we already get it, so you can stop spending our money and work on finally balancing a budget!

    And here is the clincher! What was Harper thinking to let a disgraced politician who cheated on his original election ‘win’ with a ‘Travel for Free’ monopoly card to once again run again, after resigning his seat.
    The utter arrogance of this government in protecting the ‘good old boys’ and their entitlements, and of course election cheating! Oh yes, it gets better. The CPC published that Trudeau was the loser, even though the Liberals won by an 18% margin. However Mr. Penashue’s previous 79 seat victory was a ‘great victory’ for the CPC. Mr. Penashue resigned from Parliament in March after an Elections Canada investigation found his 2011 campaign accepted 28 illegal donations, including $18,710 from Provincial Airlines and $27,850 from other corporate donors. He has since repaid the money ‘with the help of the Conservative party’. Kind of reminds you of ‘The Duff’ doesn’t it? I guess like the ‘Duff’ the election rules were not clear enough.
    And of course why should Labradorian’s vote for disgraced Penashue? Because as a member of cabinet, he could do a lot more for Labrador. Well, I ask, What about all MP’s of every stripe being able to do good for their constituents? Is it only in CPC ridings that things will get done? Seems so with this CPC logic. So, Labradorians, no more ‘gifts’ from Harper and his cronies. That is your punishment for not voting CPC. It looks that way.

    Dave White

  5. @Eric
    May 16, 2013 at 12:48 pm
    Great post Eric. Love that stuff that keeps people aware of things that are going on. Too few (including the very journalist that you mention in your post) doing this kind of thing.

    Keep it up… 🙂

    and in that vein i ADD…

    Ah yes, what a wonderful “political situation” us Canadians find ourselves in.

    On the one hand we have the …

    Bad choice in Senators, Military spending, jail building, don’t care about your fellow man – first one to the top wins – Conservatives

    and one the other hand we have the …

    Hand the country over to the French on a silver platter Lib (little Canadian flag French accent on the é) rals.

    Then they wonder why no one shows up to vote.

    I would venture an educated guess that it is everything to do with the fact that there is little to no choice. It’s akin to choosing whether to be without an arm or without a leg.


  6. Humpty ‘Duffy’ sat on a wall
    Humpty ‘Duffy’ had a great fall
    All the King’s horses
    And all the King’s men
    Couldn’t put Humpty ‘Duffy’ together again!

  7. Clifford: Senator Duffy made certain errors in his expense report. Perhaps it’s not even him that wrote the reports but someone else in his entourage. The thing I like is that he offered to pay back the money that he had received in error. The other two senators, one Liberal and one Independent have both refused to pay back any monies. They are both going to fight this in court!
    Do you not think that Duffy did the right thing?

  8. Coulda, shoulda, woulda. Come on Stan what planet are you on!
    Humpty ‘Duffy’ went huffing and puffing all the way home (or more correctly, summer cottage in PEI) and back when it first broke out and said he would return the 90 grand but didn’t believe that he should. As far as ‘Indepependent’ let me remind you that Brazeau was another of the ‘annointed’ Conservative Senators that Harper hand picked (as a reward for losing his election bid in Quebec as an MP). Also, now Humpty ‘Duffy’ is also a new independent. That makes it two to one for the Conservatives. Does this make the Conservatives smell any better? I think not and Harper and his baffoons will have to pay the piper on this one.
    If it wasn’t for excellent journalistic investigation it would have been swept under the carpet and Duffy would be their ‘poster boy’. Off with their heads I say to continue on the ‘fairy tale’ theme.
    So, just who do you believe? ‘Dumpty’ or the open and accountable Conservative party of Canada?

  9. Look people, Harper has a majority in both the House of Commons and the Senate. If he was serious about his ‘broken’ promise about Senate reform it would have been done. Last night on CTV’s political panel discussion the Conservative member deflected all blame from the CPC to, get this, the Liberal Senators for blocking any Senate reform. What is surprising is that they can spin their lies with a straight face. Seems the CPC don’t quite understand what a majority means. I guess they spent too many years in the oblivion of being the official opposition, or If I remember correctly the third party after Her Majesties loyal Opposition, that was the Bloque Quebecois.
    But don’t expect Harper to fold. He will defend his Chief of Staff, just the way he defended Duffy in the past, that is until Duffy just couldn’t keep his mouth shut.
    Look, this 90 grand gift is just the tip of the iceberg. His election expenses double dipped into tax payers pockets as well as his political interference with the CRTC and ‘FOX North network’ for right wing views aka Sun News is enough to make honest Canadians puke at the corruption in all of the Conservative party.
    At least if the CPC want to pull the wool over our eyes then they should all get together and get their story straight. But my mother always told me that if you are telling the truth then you don’t have to remember what you told us last month.

  10. Dave White, is it all that easy? No party will want to open the constitution and deal with anything, it would appear. And if it gets open for the Senate, there are a few other areas that need change.

    Constitution of Parliament of Canada

    17. There shall be One Parliament for Canada, consisting of the Queen, an Upper House styled the Senate, and the House of Commons.

  11. Humpty ‘Duffy’ — Brilliant, Dave!

    First of a series, I trust. Who’s next? Bring on the rest of the clowns. What can you do for Baird, McKay, Clement, Van Loan. Kenney, Oliver, Kent, and Blue Sweater with the hair?

  12. “Stan Stalk
    May 17, 2013 at 8:34 am
    Clifford: Senator Duffy made certain errors in his expense report. Perhaps it’s not even him that wrote the reports but someone else in his entourage. The thing I like is that he offered to pay back the money that he had received in error. The other two senators, one Liberal and one Independent have both refused to pay back any monies. They are both going to fight this in court!
    Do you not think that Duffy did the right thing?”

    No, sorry Stan Stalk. There was no leadership here. In fact it was even more blatant than ever after emails released that Duffy actually said he acquired a bank loan from the Royal Bank to pay off this debt. Which one is it? Did Wright pay it off? or did he get a loan from the Royal Bank as he said himself? Why would he say that he got a loan from the Royal Bank before all this crap hit the fan? I can tell you why, because it contravened the ethics code of the Senate in accepting gifts, especially if they are going to be used to get a senator out of hot water. But what they were probably hoping is that the issue would have been dropped as soon as Duffy said he repaid all moneys, and that is what they wanted, but then the RCMP was picking up on it and of course every Canadian Citizen that sees this for what it is, started asking questions. Too late as the audit was already in occurrence by Deloitte.

    Oddly enough, Duffy is the only one out of the 3 that refused to turn in any paperwork. Any phone bills, credit card bills, per diem forms, etc. The other 2 did indeed turn this info in. And yet the other 2 were told that the guidelines were quite clear on their form, but for some stupid reason Duffy’s were unclear? are they different forms Stan Stalk?

    Now this has cost who knows how much to investigate Duffy’s expenses (since he refused to turn anything in), they had forensic auditors on the taxpayers dime, etc, all looking into his records. And low and behold, most of them he couldn’t claim for and was also found to be double dipping. Let alone, does he really live in PEI? Or does he live in Ottawa like everyone has known for what, the last 30-40 years?

    No, what they were hoping is this would go away and Duffy was going to file claim that he took out a loan to pay off the debt. That way he wouldn’t have had to declare a $90,000 gift thereby contravening the senate ethics. But that backfired when he opened his stupid mouth and said he took out a loan instead of admitting that the PM’s right hand man paid off his debt. (Again, no leadership there, the only one that actually saved any taxpayer money was Wright, who showed a bit of leadership in the matter, but still, this all stinks).

    Now, Duffy has just resigned from the “Conservative Caucus”, and he went “Independent”. But everyone knows that Harper put him there. And that any bill that goes by the senate, he will still put his conservative vote in on it. No, what Duffy needs to do is resign completely. In fact, he should have been fired, and then charged with the obvious “Fraud” that he pulled. And he should have known a lot better.

    Canadians as a whole, DESERVE A LOT BETTER THAN THIS!

    Oh, and on another note, didn’t Harper run on the platform of Elected Senate? (guess that’s another broken promise eh?)

  13. Well PJ that will be tough one but with Pamela Wallin’s resignation from the Conservative caucus we can now relate these 3 now independent senators to the Three Little Piggies.
    I will bet that for Harper this was a week that he would sooner forget.
    Some mornings it is just not worth getting out of bed.
    No Eric, it is not that easy to get rid of the senate, however despite the BIG talk by Harper more than 7 years ago, he has done nothing, nada, zilch to make any changes. In fact, he has appointed (annointed as in the case of the three piggies) more Conservative senators than any previous government in history has appointed of ‘their own kind’. How many non Conservative senators has Harper appointed?
    Simple thing is that we don’t need a senate. It is mearely a rubber stamp and expensive one to boot to Canadian taxpayers.
    It is a reward to party faithful for sticking with the right wing agenda, or left wing as in the past. Changing the direction does not balance and make it right.
    It is also undemocratic when this non elected house can put down (as they have done last year) any bill from becoming Canadian law that was passed by parliament and the elected house of commons.
    We are in the 21st Century and it’s time we modernize the way Canada is governed. In my opinion we do not need the monarchy either or the archaic bells and whistles that goes along with it.
    My suggestion is that the government of Canada hold a binding referendum on Canadian’s desire to keep or abolish the senate and that the government act on the results accordingly.
    Till then the fairy tales continue and we continue to look through the looking glass into wonderland.

  14. The senatorial scandals are merely a distraction from the bigger picture of lies and half truths (if that) from the Conservative Party of Canada.
    They blast us with their Economic Action Plan adds about their great economic policies yet lose track of billions of dollars on security money that should be protecting us from terrorist attacks. It is no different than the 50 million or so that was spent in Tony Clement’s riding in cottage country for border security during the G8 summit talks, yet his riding is hundreds of kilometers from any border. Remember alos the fake lake?
    If you think that Duffy’s 90 grand is grand, then what about Pamela Wallin’s 300 grand spent on travel expense on the tax payer’s dime.
    The myth of being great fiscal managers is just that, a great lie and myth perpetrated by Harper and his minions and his access to public channels and tax payer’s money to preach hiis propaganda, disguised at Government of Canada information.
    The Harper regime is great for attack adds so I hope that they get some of their own in the following two years and that Canadians wake up and realize that the CPC do not represent Canadian values. From being homophobic to bribery for votes that started from day one of Harper’s rule (remember the Chuck Cadman affair).
    Just for the record. I am not affiliated with any political party nor do I vote for the same party if they don’t represent my views and ideals. The Conservatives stopped doing that with Diefenbaker. I hope that I represent and express what many other Canadians who are honest, fair and just expect from our government.
    Unfortunately I fear that just like the weekly if not daily scandals that the Harper government has faced that they will shrug this week’s mortal sins off and will continue to bombard us with their holier than thou and saviours of Canadian values agenda paid for on our dime.
    The score Duffy $90,000
    Pamela Wallin $300,000
    Tony Clement $50,000,000
    Canada’s Economic Action adds $250,000,000 just over the next two years, never mind the last 7 years. Flaterly thinks this is money well spent to inform Canadians just what ‘their’ government is doing. Next election let’s tell him differently.
    Hope everybody enjoys the long weekend.
    Ciao friends

  15. Good, fact-based posts, Dave and Clifford S.

    Here are some more facts:

    2006: Harper declared there would be a new code of ethics on the Hill. There would be Transparency and Accountability in his government, and anyone violating the law would be charged and put in prison.

    2013: no Transparency, no Accountability and Conservatives who violate the law, such as Peter Penashue and Mike Duffy, are instead praised as “honourable,” supported, and in Duffy’s case bailed out with a gift of $90,000…until he’s found to have double-dipped, when he’s turfed from caucus, sits as an Independent, and still collects $130,000 for his trouble.

    Moral: for this Law & Order government, there’s law and order for the rest of us and a pat on the back for Conservatives.

    Conclusion: By now and in fact long since, the Harper government is a sick joke.

  16. I second the declaration that these are good posts. Pat on the back to all involved.

    As far as a “conclusion” goes PJ, I would say, (and i believe many would agree) the WHOLE damn political system and (so far) just about ALL politicians are a joke.

    The system is broken. To get elected the politicians become beholden to those companies who provide the big cash donations and they all depend on it so, the answer to — who is really running the show — is held within that statement right there.

    When we have one party (the Conservatives) doing all the nasty wrong things you all have pointed out above and the other party the lib — (French accent on the e) rals running around with brown paper envelops stuffed with tax payers cash, what is there to be done.

    And, this doesn’t even touch on the wasted Billions at the provincial level with things like E-health (a billions or two), the gun registry (2.4 billion) , Orng ( not sure but lots) and the latest “we’re sorry, we’re sorry” gas fired electric plants that costs us tax payers almost a billion (I believe that was the number on that one.)

    This kind of waste in turn is a direct cause for things like 6 hour waits in the emergency room of most hospitals and higher taxes every time we turn around.

    And, this DOES NOT EVEN TOUCH ON all the billions (both provincially and federally – and i don’t buy the poultry 2.4 billion number they placed on that) which this country is wasting on — literally FORCING — a minuscule 12 % of the total population into learning French rather than simply telling the French that the common language in Canada is English so, — LIVE WITH IT — as they are so blatantly saying in Quebec with statements like, “The working language here is French so live with it or get lost.”

    Lord in Heaven above. What on earth is the answer?

    Uhmmm maybe a new Liberal minded party with Liberal type values but without the accent on the – e – ral?

    A Liberal minded party that does not hand this country over to the French on a silver platter at every turn anymore? That sounds good to me…

    That’s it. Send donations. I’ll get this thing off the ground next week 🙂
    OK, so i’m kidding BUT… Maybe that is the idea… Maybe that IS what is needed?

  17. Edudyoulik, don’t forget the Feds Language Commission. 23.9 million a year (15.1 million in salary alone) to handle 505 complaints. Divide that by the 415 admissible complaints and you get $57,000 per complaint, that is $10,000 more than the average Canadian annual salary……..90,000 doesn’t sound quite so bad all of a sudden.

  18. Eric
    May 19, 2013 at 6:38 am

    Well said Eric ,but how many of those complaints come from Quebec and their violation of the “OTHER” official language .

    Wow $57,000 per complaint I guess they deem that as a good investment …..whatever it takes in the interest of social engineering!

    Graham Fraser is sending in the troops to airports to see if bilingual service is available ,yet many violations of the language charter in Quebec go unanswered …..a very one way street here!

    May 18, 2013 at 6:12 pm

    LIVE WITH IT — as they are so blatantly saying in Quebec with statements like, “The working language here is French so live with it or get lost.”

    That’s right Edudyorlik Remember its French first the rest of the country must learn french to work for their own government ,but when it comes to Quebec its “French only “.

    There is a good reason the Liberals with their “Canadian Charter of Rights”deliberately omitted Language under terms of discrimination!

    United Nations recognizes that language can be used as discrimination and their charter indicates this!Yet conveniently it was omitted in Canadian Charter of Rights !

    But then again our charter has been violated so many times with the “notwithstanding clause” it is no longer worth the paper it is written on.

  19. I was going to take a break this long weekend, however as more players fall like dominos it was hard to keep silent.
    The latest to fall is Nigel Wright, Harper’s right hand man and the man he just days ago stated he was standing behind and in whom he had full confidence. How can the King claim to have clean hands? Likely not but only the King can call for a judicial inquiry and that is unlikely since he is probably the most wrotten apple in the basket.
    This weekend CTV (God love them) published another scathing report on Conservative deception and utter wast of tax payer’s money in their, as they state ‘feel good’ Canada’s Economic Action Plan adds. Check out this web site.


    The thing is that this program will probably never take place as it will be contested by provincial governments but Harper and his band of thieves want Canadians to think that they are doing what provincial governments failed to do. What another total waste of yours and my tax dollars!

  20. @ P.J

    I guess you have forgotten about Shawinigan gate , the sponsorship scandal and Carolyn Parrish .

  21. Oh dear, peter. Scraping the barrel, aren’t we? Last time I checked we are in 2013, not 2004 or 1997. In any case, the Liberals faced the music and paid big time. Time now for the Harper crowd to face the music.

  22. @ P.J.

    I have always said they are the best of a very bad bunch. As far as I am concerned they are all ( politicians ) moral degenerates.

    it doesn’t matter what political stripe they have.

    Wheather we are 2004, 1997, today, the Francis Fox incident, the Mulroney scandals, people should remember all of them.

    I cannot think of one government that has not been tainted by scandal. it is almost a given someone, somewhere is any government of the day will screw the public.

    This is what is so predictable about our governments. It is also why, people don’t bother voting. Why would people who are responsible in their own jobs and lives, are subjected to the questionable conduct of politicians of all political stripes.

    They are ALL LIARS, and spin doctors. They all talk about transparency , accountability, all the time ,

    The more we hear it the less and less accountability and transparency we get.

    They all make me sick.

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