In yet another parallel to the Nixon administration, Stephen Harper and the boys in short pants appear to be sinking into a mire of dirty politics, tampering and cover-ups. Like the Watergate break-in, the Mike Duffy payout is simply a catalyst for looking behind the curtain at the sordid goings-on.
In a trial that’s been more about shining a light on the grubby power-mongering in the PMO than Duffy’s misdeeds, the testimony of former chief of staff Nigel Wright has been illuminating. The scandal hit new heights this week with revelations that other senior advisors were in on Wright’s plans to give the putative senator from PEI $90,000 to repay dubious expenses. The information made it even less plausible that Harper knew nothing of the payouts, attempts to pressure the Senate and influence an audit of expenses.
Of course, only the most partisan of Conservative supporters – see the viral video of one such person’s take of the Duffy scandal for an example of same – still believes Harper is in the clear on this one. Never has so much monkeying and micromanagement been on display in the PM’s chair, yet we’re supposed to believe that everyone but Harper knew about the attempts to bury the Duffy story? The deniability just isn’t plausible, not from a prime minister that has stuck his nose into every file as a partisan exercise in control.
From muzzling scientists to screening attendees of public events with some kind of loyalty test, Harper has repeatedly attempted to hide the truth from Canadians, wanting only his message to get out. Yet on such a major public relations issue with criminal implications, he knew not a thing? Credulity is stretched.
Now, such shenanigans come as no surprise to anyone who’s been keeping score of the Harper government’s malfeasance.
Calling Harper and his party ethically challenged would be an understatement. Critics have been pointing out examples of unethical behaviour for years. Conservative supporters have been sweeping them under a rug for just as long. Now, there’s so much blood in the water not even the most partisan Tories can ignore the reality of the situation.
Observers have been diligent in keeping lists of the governments lies, misdeeds, misdemeanors and crimes. There’s Duffy and Wright, a pair of scandals all by themselves. And Pamela Wallin, another of Harper’s appointments to the Senate, a list that also includes Patrick Brazeau. On the robocall front, a court decision pointed the finger at some questionable activities, while not going all the way due to the limited scope of the case.
The Conservatives would rather you pay only cursory attention. Not at all if you’re inclined to vote for other parties. That’s why they hope there’s no traction for the issue of ethics, as they’ve got plenty to hide on that front, from the in-and-out financing scandal (charges pending?) to Bev Oda (one of several examples of falsified documents) and the first-ever contempt of Parliament charge. And let’s not forget the long list of dubious characters and associates such as Bruce Carson and Sebastien Togneri. Nor the disgraceful conduct of Dean Del Mastro, Paul Calandra, Pierre Polievre and Peter Penashue, among others.
Given the history, we’re no longer inclined to give Harper the benefit of the doubt. There’s smoke, and we’re sure there’s fire.