Duffy did us a favour

Gerry Phelan
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It's hard to imagine the actions of one man could have such a profound effect on an entire democratic institution.

Mike Duffy has done more to expose the unsavoury failings of not only the Harper government, but the political system itself, that we owe him a bouquet of thanks as well as a kick in the arse.

First, I should say up front, I've had dinner and drinks with Mike Duffy, shared big talk and small talk, and have been part of the unofficial Mike Duffy admiration society.

They might not admit it now, but truth be told, many journalists were part of that club, envious if not jealous of some of his connections and his profile.

At a time when television was full of Barbie and Ken dolls, this man - who perhaps looked more like the rest of us - took to our television screens nightly and weekly to tell us what was going on in Ottawa, and we believed him.

I won't pretend to say I know Duffy well, but during our conversations I sensed his keen and intense knowledge of this region, a love for its people, and a real interest in seeing us get our due.

He loved this country and had strong views on the political leaders of our time and before.

We all know about the road to good intentions. So when all the Duffygate stuff of the past few weeks surfaced, I would have loved to ask Duffy, "What were you thinking?"

And given the events of the past week, I would love to have had a microphone on his pillow as he tried to figure out how a legacy, his own, could go downhill so fast, for all the wrong reasons.

A few years ago, I joined Sen. Mike Duffy and a mutual friend for dinner at a New Brunswick restaurant.

I was amazed at the rock star-like worship he attracted.

He could have held court at just about any table; some people wanted autographs, others a picture.

It was easy to see why Stephen Harper could use this guy on his side.

Duffy would be a great party salesman, a communicator who could cut through the normal political bafflegab and, in his own folksy way, tell people why they should vote for the Conservatives.

The trouble is, great expectations come with big price tags, and in this case, without commenting on the legalities of the present mess, the cost has been enormous for the Harperites. Still, I suggest it has been a bargain for Canadians.

Why? Because we now know, without need of a long-winded, expensive inquiry that will report two years after the fact, that there are more reasons not to trust the Harper crowd. Surprise!

We also know, again without months or more of protracted backroom negotiations, that the Senate as is, cannot continue. These people are appointed - hired, if you will - not elected.

If such wrongdoing over expenses and double-billing had been alleged or failed the smell test in a private company, heads would roll quickly. Not the Senate.

Indeed, the only smirk Harper may get from all this is that his supposed efforts at Senate reform just got a boost.

Canadians are mad, and simple apologies, a handful of resignations and empty promises of investigations are not enough.

Mike Duffy's own words, in a speech written for a meeting of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture in October 2010 address today's situation well.

"Why should we care? Well, we should care because we have an entire generation being raised on the notion that nothing they do or say matters. Those politicians will do what they want. It is a message of despair. A message of hopelessness. It is blindly negative, a call not to action but to inaction, and most pernicious of all, it is just not true. Because those politicians do listen. Not all of them, all the time. But enough of them, most of the time. Public opinion can be swayed by valid argument. Governments can be nudged and prodded in the direction their constituents want."

Well said. Nudge. Nudge.

Gerry Phelan is a journalist and former broadcaster. He can be reached at gerryp@bellaliant.net.

Organizations: Conservatives, Canadian Federation of Agriculture

Geographic location: Ottawa, New Brunswick

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Recent comments

  • Taxpayer
    May 26, 2013 - 15:29

    i am mad - I am angry and I am pissedoff.. i want action, I want answers. I want charges laid, I want more heads to roll, I want all people involved to be held accountable, right from the Prime Minister down cos I believe he was aware of what was happening or should have been aware. I want changes. I want my say and I want what I say to be heard and I want it to matter. I am a Taxpayer and "I" pay the bills. I want kevin page and Shelia Fraser to handle this matter on my behalf. I want it dealt with in public and with cameras rolling. I want senators and Politicians and all involved to testify under oath> AND I want it now.. Right now. I am a taxpayer and I demand to be heard..

  • Albertan
    May 25, 2013 - 01:34

    Is this soul cleansing for you Gerry ? On the one hand you praise Duffy yet on the other you seem to have had a comfortable "alliance" with him when it suited you both. it is difficult to swallow that you once supported Duffy and somehow when he was "noble" (read journalist) and now you can claim to damn "the Harper crowd" at a time of its failing(of which there are many) I think Duffy always was a part of "that crowd" or at least closely associated with it due to his appointment. Where was the critical analysis at that time ? Did you dispute his appointment when it was announced ? Or were you on the periphery of that inner circle ? It seems you are perhaps now trying to distance yourself from your Duffy relationship now that he (deservedly) is out of favour. Thus my "cleansing " comment. You seem to have some of the qualifications of the person you write about. Support on only your own self centered terms. A marriage of convenience so to speak. I think you just should have said you once knew and supported Duffy and now do not. Simple as that. Don't evoke the "Harper crowd" label to hide behind as if that absolves everything Shame. Nothing wrong with owning up. I think doing so would offer your profession a little more respect from the general public. People would understand. Don't blame the bogeyman.

  • Ben
    May 24, 2013 - 20:57

    I guess we also learned that journalists make rotten politicians too. Oh yeah and it also shows that media people are as big a frauds as anybody else! I'm actually glad this happened...sheds the light on journalists that I have been saying for years. Here's a little taste of your own medicine.