I tweeted last night that Andrew Coyne had the best line of the day. In his Post Media column he called the senate events “edifying” and went on to describe the situation as one of “discreet blackmail” between Stephen Harper and Michael Duffy. He said such unsavoury business has been going on for the better part of the year.
While Stephen Harper would like to focus on “bad” senators behaving as “bad” senators do, abusing the public trust and claiming for expenses for which they were not entitled, the larger scandal is the one that transpired inside the PMO. The events in Langevin Block are of critical importance to the people of Canada.
The political calculation to eliminate the scandal by ramming through an unprecedented disciplinary measure (lumping three quite different cases together) and prescribing the same punishment to the three senators, without benefit of an actual trial, has led to more details of the unsavoury activity. In other words, it has backfired.
I have no desire to defend Mike Duffy. He violated his duty to journalistic ethics in displaying an unacceptable level of bias in his coverage of the 2008 election. Polling showed that his broadcast of “out-takes” from an interview with Stéphane Dion (for which CTV promised the repeat questions would not be broadcast) materially affected the results in a large number of ridings.
His appointment after the election had the look of a reward. In other words, this bogus senator from Prince Edward Island (bogus because he was no longer in any real sense a representative of PEI) started his term as a senator on the most partisan of footings.
As Harper and Duffy duke it out in a he-said-he-said debate, neither is particularly believable or sympathetic. The whole scenario is offensive to Canadians, but it is particularly galling to Prince Edward Islanders.
So, at this point, who has more credibility? It looks like Mike Duffy. His lawyer’s review of e-mail after e-mail had the ring of truth. It was only too obvious that in having picked an Ottawa resident to be the senator from PEI, the PMO would have encouraged him to believe his own situation was kosher.
Wanting a celebrity status raconteur and partisan pit bull in the Senate was desirable, not for sober second thought, but for after dinner speeches to rake in donations at $500 plate chicken dinners.
Let’s face it: from beginning to end, Stephen Harper was thick as thieves with Mike Duffy. The rules were there to be bent. And once the abuse of the public purse reached the light of day, just like so many sycophants before him, Mike Duffy was expected to happily roll under the bus.
But, with apologies to Dylan Thomas, Mike Duffy will not go quietly under that good bus. Perhaps it will become a trend?
Originally published in the Huffington Post.