Wednesday April 8, 2015

Editorial cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday April 8, 2015

ItÕs not just Duffy Ð the Harper era is on trial

In the court of public opinion, Senator Mike Duffy may have already been found guilty. That verdict could well be shown wrong. Rules governing Senate housing expenses are vague, and Mr. Duffy has a crackerjack lawyer in Don Bayne.

Of course, itÕs not the fate of Mr. Duffy that has created enormous interest in this trial. ItÕs the fate of the government. It is the morality, the integrity of the Conservative Party hierarchy, that is on trial.

Most of the accusations facing Mr. Duffy himself involve alleged little embezzlements relating to expense accounts. But abuse of the public trust by way of an alleged coverup operation involving top officials in the Prime MinisterÕs Office, as Mr. DuffyÕs team claim, is much more serious.

It may well be shown that Prime Minister Stephen Harper didnÕt know about the $90,000 payout to Mr. Duffy by former chief of staff Nigel Wright. But we know from an RCMP affidavit that many of his senior officials knew. Mr. Harper could try to claim he is not responsible for their actions, but that tactic is unlikely to succeed politically. When former prime minister Jean ChrŽtien faced accusations around the sponsorship scandal, it was never shown that he had personal knowledge of Montreal ad agency men running off with monies from that program. But that didnÕt save the Liberals from damaging consequences.

More serious for the Conservatives is that the Senate scandal might reopen the vault on the larger abuse-of-power narrative that has dogged the Harper government. It may be seen as a microcosm of the serial breaches of the public trust: the undercover dirty tricks, the smear campaigns against opponents, the altering of official documents, the democracy-shredding omnibus bills.

If you wanted to go into detail, you could fill an entire page of news print with the ethical transgressions of this government