The Hidden Fallout Of the Duffy Scandal – View From the Hill by Keith Beardsley

Dr. EvilCFN – Another week of the Duffy scandal has come to a close on the Hill. It is an issue that both politicians and the public love to talk about and there is no doubt that in the short term; there will be a cost to the Conservative brand and to the Prime Minister’s reputation. But both have proven pretty resilient over the past few years and with Canadians focused on the economy; don’t count them out just yet.

However, besides the obvious public fallout, there are other hidden ones that neither the public nor the media will be exposed to and in many ways they are important to the future success of the government.

Harper has always demanded accountability from his ministers, insisting that they manage their expenses carefully and that they are accountable for their spending. Bev Oda learnt that lesson the hard way, both in having to pay the money back and eventually losing her cabinet post. This Senate scandal is sure to erode any trust the Prime Minister might have had that such continues to be the case. Undoubtedly there will now be more internal controls and reviews done at the political level, all of which uses up scarce staff resources, energy and time at both the PMO and ministerial level. This is time and energy that should be devoted to moving the Prime Minister’s agenda forward.

You have to be on the inside and live through a scandal such as this to fully appreciate the impact it has on staff morale and burn out. This story is far from being under control with new revelations almost every day. The staff, especially in PMO, is putting in incredibly long and very stressful days. It will be an ugly working environment, staff will be exhausted, tempers will be flaring and everyone’s judgment questioned. When the dust settles, more than one staffer will be evaluating whether or not this is the type of job they want to keep doing.

Another causality will be the faith the caucus has in the leader. They too will be following events and questioning what has transpired. It’s not a fatal blow for Harper, but it does mean he will have to devote more of his time to managing his MPs and senators. This is no easy task when you realize how jam-packed his schedule is on a regular day, never mind in the midst of a crisis.

Duffy is a gift to the opposition parties that has rescued them from a Question Period stupor. Up until now their performance has been pretty pathetic. Up until this issue broke, they appeared disorganized, lacked focus and there were only occasional glimpses of the damage they could do to a government through the proper use of Question Period. For the most part Harper and his ministers had a pretty easy time pushing back on opposition questions.

That is no longer the case. Mulcair has been excellent and focused. Trudeau is asking sharper questions and improving by the day. Both parties have finally adopted a Question Period strategy that lets their best questioners lead the way with focused, tight questions that stick to the same theme. This alone does not bode well for the government side in the short term, but it is a longer term issue as well.

The opposition parties are rejuvenated, focused and on a roll. It remains to be seen if they can maintain this momentum through June and pick things up again in September. If they can, then the government will have to take Question Period much more seriously in the last two years of its mandate.

Reputation management, staff burnout, increased workload and an effective opposition are just some of the hidden fallout that the Duffy scandal has created for the Conservatives. It won’t get any easier from this point going forward.

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. The Senate expenses scandal (aka Duffygate), gotta love it. See the holier-than-thou accountability hyprocrites spinning their wheels in muck of their own making. Coming soon revelations of the travel expenses of Pamela Wallin publicly defended by the shifty tenant of Sussex Drive.

  2. I Appreciate the postings and open mind of Keith Beardsley however I beg to differ on the myth that the CPC and Harper are the great custodians of our economy and will survive this exposure. “But both have proven pretty resilient over the past few years and with Canadians focused on the economy; don’t count them out just yet”. Seems too many, far too many, Canadians don’t think for themselves and that Harper’s Economic Action Plan adds have worked on a simple minded electorate. This is propaganda which if said often enough strengthens the myth of Harper being a great fiscal saviour. Maybe Keith will agree that with the true cost of such self serving propaganda, and media coverage exposing the CPC’s tactics, that the electorate will realize that we can do very well without Harper and his right wing agenda, that is costing Canadian taxpayers billions of dollars.
    Now, to repeat I am not a Liberal, however I hear Conservative cronies reminding the public of past Liberal corruption that cost us tax payers millions. True, and I too remember Shawinigate & the sponsership scandal but do the math Conservative cronies and you will see that today we can no longer afford this free spending and corrupted government of Harper.
    Now, I don’t know if Harper knew of the full story behind Duffy’s corruption and thievery however a CTV National poll results showed that only 13% believed Harper and 87% believed what was most likely with this controlling despot that he fully knew.
    It took three elections and tons of propaganda and negative attack adds against his opponents to get a majority government.
    Canadians just did not trust Harper and his stolen ‘Conservative’ party.
    Fact is people of all stripes were fed up with a minority government and costly elections that gave the same result and gave him a chance to what many were hoping was a true conservative agenda. Fact turned out that there was little difference between the CPC and the Liberal party. Harper abandoned all conservative policy and above all the lied to both Conservatives and all Canadians in being open, transparent, honest and accountable.
    When things didn’t go his way Harper prorogued parliament to shut down and discussion and debate of his autocratic rule.
    If some readers think that Harper is still the best choice then they are living in a make believe world of shattered hopes and dreams.
    Like religion, many are born into a religious or political belief and don’t use their own intellect to say “It’s time for a change”.
    Both suck big time and the afore mentioned beliefs are the world’s largest problems facing humanity, and yes, even us here in Canada.

  3. You just gotta love those Conservatives and their spin of recent scandalous events that lead wright (pun intended) to the PMO’s office and in the recent poll with 83% of Canadians believing that Harper himself knew, and is a liar, but who still steadfastly denies he knew anything about the ongoing and expanding Senate and PMO scandal.
    What takes the cake is that they can spin this as an accomplishment for the Harper Conservatives and state as their spokesperson did today (June 03) on CBC’s Power and Politics with Evan Solomon that it shows Harper’s ‘accountability’, ‘leadership’ and ‘transparency’ in pushing for senate reform. Funny way to push for reform, wouldn’t you say? Yeah right! Like Harper didn’t appoint more Senators than any other Prime Minister in Canadian history. In fact he personally appointed Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau, possibly the three worst cronies appointed in senate history. This for a man who said he wanted a triple ‘E’ Senate, but who chose instead to pack it with more Conservative cronies and fill his ‘house of cards’.
    Didn’t Harper first defend both Wright and Duffy before pushing them under the bus and letting Wright fall on the sword for the Emperor. Where is his misplaced ‘confidence’ now ? Seems that this is always the way Harper deals with scandals, that is, defend his cronies, deflect the blame and defame the opposition. And they called Paul Martin ‘Mr Flip Flop’!
    Same with the Conservative Senate leader Margory LeBreton who was content and defended Senate response and action weeks ago and is now pushing for the AG to look into the Senate mess. This they do with a confident smirk on their face as if they didn’t have their dirty little hands caught in the cookie jar.
    On this one I don’t think that ‘The Teflon Don’ will get away scot free.

  4. Yes, Dave, and look at Harper’s crass opportunism and disgusting hypocrisy in all this. He stands up and blames the opposition parties for obstructing his precious promise of Senate reform, whereas in reality he himself has been putting the brakes on reform so that he could fill the Senate with the likes of Duffy, Brazeau, and Wallin to ensure safe passage of his destructive, weaseling omnibus legislation.

    How much longer are Canadians going to put up with Harper’s nauseating “thugocracy” (Globe writer Jeffrey Simpson’s apt term)? There is apparently no bottom to his assault on Canadian decency.

  5. If Harper wants another majority perhaps he could have a open transparent referendum on the official languages act of which has a negative impact on hiring for the majority!

    Mr.Harper allow transparency and allow citizens to vote on official bilingualism let the cards fall where they may .
    The citizens deserve the right to freely vote on something that directly impacts thier livelyhoods.

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