Watching the Harper hurricane

Lana Payne
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In Ottawa, it’s raining scandal. Correction, it’s pouring, with hurricane-force winds. For a government that thrives on the politics of cynicism, exhibits, at every turn, contempt for democracy and election laws and is preoccupied with punishing those who disagree with their ideology, the past three scandal-clad weeks are as if all of Stephen Harper’s chickens have come home to roost.

The prime minister, who prides himself on being in ultimate control, the quintessential micro-

manager, must be wondering how it all went so wrong.

The Senate expense scandal and the $90,000 cheque from the PM’s former chief of staff, Nigel Wright, to Sen. Mike Duffy are the tip of the iceberg for the beleaguered Conservative government.

And make no mistake this is a scandal, a scandal so bad that a trusted staff member would cut such a cheque.

There is an excellent chance that laws as well as ethics were abandoned and broken.

Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin, Patrick Brazeau, Arthur Porter, Bruce Carson, Nigel Wright. Combined they form a worrisome pattern for Mr. Harper and the so-called Conservative brand. The Ford brothers in Toronto are not exactly helping the Conservative cause these days either.

The patronage gravy train did not end with this government despite its moralizing while in opposition. Indeed, the rewarding of political friends (a number of whom have had their share of scandals and run-ins with the law) is as bad or worse than it ever was under previous governments.

When the message is “winning at all costs,” rules, even laws, get broken.

When that’s your mantra, you and those around you learn very quickly to perfect bullying to an art form, as this prime minister has done.

When that’s your mantra, anyone who opposes your view of the world (scientists, doctors, statisticians, unions, feminists, environmentalists) and expresses that dissent or disagreement is viewed as the enemy.

And enemies must be eliminated, silenced, or punished — no matter the cost, no matter the destruction to the country.

This has never been a prime minister interested in building a better Canada, in reaching social consensus, in cultivating relationships with those he may have differences with, nor in thinking government can play a role in making life better for people. Instead, this prime minister has always valued power for power’s sake. Instead of building, he seeks to destroy.

His government’s economic and social policies have not exactly placed Canada ahead of the pack. Indeed the damage caused by many of these policies — whether on the environment or on democracy — will have lasting impacts. It is the failure to listen to reason or evidence or to understand and respect democracy that has characterized the Harper regime.

This will be the legacy of his government. And now we can add scandal-ridden. Senators collect-ing fraudulent expenses; their

colleagues whitewashing audit reports; $90,000 cheques. It reeks of coverup.

No doubt this must be a bitter pill for some Conservative MPs to swallow. Those who actually believe in ethics and accountability and all those values Stephen Harper and his inner circle say their governance has been about.

It would be almost laughable, if it weren’t so sad and serious a matter.

Accountable and transparent. The government that gave us the Accountability Act. That’s the talking point. That is the spin.

The facts say otherwise.

Just ask Canada’s former Parliamentary Budget Officer who engaged in a multi-year campaign to get the government to disclose its budget plans.

Just ask climate scientists or the head of Statistics Canada who quit over the government’s preference for ideologically driven policy rather than policy supported by facts and data and evidence.

Ask just about anyone who because of their own principles and ethics went up against this prime minister what the outcome was.

The facts say this is a prime minister who will sacrifice anything to win and clearly his staff understood this about him, which is why Mr. Wright had no problem writing a huge cheque to make Senator Duffy’s expense problem go away.

So when you sow this kind of politics, you have to expect that eventually karma won’t be kind; that you will eventually reap all the nastiness that you have planted over the years.

This is so much bigger than a few Senators feeling “entitled to their entitlements.”

This is about a culture of meanness, spite and political expediency created by this federal government and this prime minister.

This is Stephen Harper’s doing. The question now is will he survive the storm or be swept up in its powerful current?


Lana Payne is president of the

Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour. She can be reached by email at

Her column returns June 15.

Organizations: Conservative MPs, Statistics Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour

Geographic location: Ottawa, Canada, Toronto

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Recent comments

  • Tony Rockel
    June 03, 2013 - 20:33

    Looks good on you, Harper. Lie down with dogs and you'll get fleas.

  • Eli
    June 03, 2013 - 16:13

    Our own Johnny Efford was no slouch when it came to running around on the public teat. One year (wish I could recall) he out-travelled everybody in the Senate.

  • Yves
    June 03, 2013 - 08:08

    I disagree with LANE's parallel between the federal Gov't with Unions disclosing their finances publicly. Unions are paid for privately by their members, and should only be accountable to their members - not the public. The federal gov't is (should be) accountable to it's members - the taxpayers of Canada. LANE must not belong to a union, otherwise they would know workers are not forced to be part of the union. I suspect some employees in the private sector are jealous of unionized workers who enjoy raises and benefits most of the public sector has failed to keep up with - and to those people I say: START A UNION.

    • Lane
      June 03, 2013 - 14:49

      @Yves: I used to belong to a union, and I don't envy anyone who belongs to one. I am making far more as an independent contractor, and I have access to all the work I want, without the union interfering. And you're wrong about being forced to belong to a union - in many trades the unions control who gets hired, and even write the work schedules for employees who have already been hired. As for unions being paid for privately by their members, you are wrong. Unions receive massive tax breaks similar to those received by charities, which are required to disclose their spending, not only to their donors but to the public.

  • Punned It
    June 02, 2013 - 15:06

    @LANE Unions are already required to disclose this information to all of their members - at least the unions I have belonged to in the past require this. If you are not happy about paying your unions dues, then I presume you are willing to give up the things your union fought for. Will you accept a lower salary? Lower than minimum wage? Will you work for 12 hours a day, seven days a week? Are you willing to be fired, without notice or severance, if they can find someone younger, stronger, or cheaper to do your job? Will you give up your vacation (or vacation pay), sick leave, and statutory holidays? Will you give up your pension plan and health care benefits? Will you let a 12 year old work at your place of employment? If you are injured or killed are you willing to turn down any payment? Will you ignore safety issues in your place of work and will you accept that they are not investigated or corrected, even if someone dies as a result? Will you grant sexual favours to your boss in order to keep your job? All of these were normal conditions of employment in this country in previous years. They were fought by unions - maybe not your union, but by others before them. Many people were beaten and killed in order to win them. So many of these practices were so wrong that governments passed legislation banning them. Without the unions we would be in a sorry state indeed!

    • Lane
      June 03, 2013 - 14:40

      @Punned It: All the things you mentioned are entrenched in law or provided by government programs today, so unions are no longer needed. I used to work in a union-dominated trade, but I quit and became an independent contractor, because the union forced me to pay exorbitant dues and gave me absolutely nothing in return. All the unions do nowadays is control access to jobs that should be available to anyone who is qualified and willing to work. And on a final note, unions are NOT required to tell their members how much union bosses get paid, how much is spent in political activities, etc. That is why legislation has been introduced, and I support it 100%

  • Tina Duke
    June 02, 2013 - 12:46

    Excellent letter Lana!!! I hope this will help Harper supporters wake up and this man's true colours!

  • marilln
    June 02, 2013 - 09:02

    How is it that every one has let this slide .mike duff has said on live tv that he has lived in Ottawa for 40years .he is not a resident of pei .how is he holding a seat that should held by a resident of that province . We have ms wallin also she is not qualified to hold this seat .why have they not been removed as they hold a seat that belongs to some one else that would solve one of the problems for senators and taxpayers

  • Lane
    June 02, 2013 - 01:00

    Ms. Payne, I'm glad to read your supportive language about transparency and accountability. I assume you will be supporting the bill to require unions to disclose how they are spending the money workers are forced to pay them?

    June 01, 2013 - 19:44

    Good article, will share it. Harper is now a mix between Hitler in the bunker and Fonzie Jumping The Shark The Harper Government : The Greatest Hits Catalogue : A Shocking Track Record

  • West Coaster ...
    June 01, 2013 - 13:14

    You Go GIRL!!! Nicely put! Articulate and true. Thanks for your point of view. I look forward to future articles of yours. We appreciate your research and details. Sometimes, we miss the message in the news or sadly, tend to forget it. Keep it coming and stay true to yourself and your ideals. It is refreshing and it is appreciated! thank you! - c

  • Rhys Jones
    June 01, 2013 - 10:37

    Micro management & he didn't know about the loan to Duffy? He must resign aswell !!!!!! Harper is as Communist as they come! Maybe expel him to Cuba !!!!!!

  • Herry
    June 01, 2013 - 10:16

    it's called harper and the corruption party for a reason !

  • VoteThemAllOut
    June 01, 2013 - 08:39

    There is only one solution to this. Vote these disgusting people out of power as soon as possible. A larger problem is finding a group of people to lead us out of the mess and undo the damage plus face the emerging challenges of the decline of the oil fueled industrial age. Government corruption is worldwide and getting worse and much of Orwell's 1984 has come true in ways that even exceed his cynical imagination. Canadians need to rise up and take back their country.

    • a business man
      June 05, 2013 - 06:40

      Canadians did rise up and take back their country when they voted in a majority Conservative government. We need a government will push sound and sustainable economic policies at all time. I support this government 100%

  • west coast
    June 01, 2013 - 08:23

    Amazing that anyone could have voted for this guy, I mean ANYONE other than the few hundred hacks and toadies who owe him their entitlements. Wake up Canada and use your voting rights responsibly, for the good of the country.

    • a business man
      June 05, 2013 - 06:38

      Honestly, the good of the country is not my problem. When I vote, I vote for ME and MY interests. I vote for the political party that promises to enact the policies that will serve ME best. I do not care how the policies impact other people. It is not my job to try and make Canada better. You can do it if you want, but I am more interest in what is best for me. I will vote for the Conservatives and support each and every one of their questionable decisions so long as I get an economic benefit. For example, I stand to make money from CETA, so no matter what this government does, I will support them because I like their decisions regarding CETA. Please do not suggest that I should use MY vote to help strangers. You can do it if you want, but leave me out of it.

  • mariette lareau
    June 01, 2013 - 08:20

    You are so correct;a gouverment that wanted so much to have a majority now look what M.Harper has done to democracy. We had hope now we know not to trust.

  • myop
    June 01, 2013 - 08:14

    Well written article, but sadly, this could be said about any political party and leader who would be currently in power. Remember the Liberal fiasco? Liars and cheaters with a sense of entitlement - all of them!

  • NoJackSheet
    June 01, 2013 - 07:59

    isnt this story line familiar? you could as easily replace those names and political party with liberals from 20 years history repeats itself...!!!

    • Spencer
      June 03, 2013 - 14:55

      Actually, you don't have to go back 20 years to find examples of Liberal spending scandals. Senator Raymond Lavigne was convicted of fraud in relation to his use of public funds just a couple of years ago. Senator Mac Harb is embroiled in the current scandal and refuses to pay back what he owes. Three Liberal MPs have recently been found to have made improper expense claims and had to reimburse taxpayers. The list of Liberal scams goes on and on. And the NDP is no better - two NDP MPs have refused to pay their income taxes, and Mulcair won't even kick them out of the NDP caucus! At least Duffy paid back his improper claims and got kicked out of the Conservative caucus.

  • James Hall
    June 01, 2013 - 07:57

    I'd have to disagree with your version of 'scandal'. Adscam' was a scandal - tens or hundreds of MILLIONS of taxpayers dollars systematically being passed around amongst Liberal politicans, bureaucrats and supporters in kick-back schemes... most of which never was repaid to us taxpayers. The best they can come up with for this government is a few senators over-claiming some expenses - Duffy, the posterchild of this, claiming $90,000 more than he should have for housing, under rules that have apparently allowed wiggle room since the outdated books were written at Confederation. But in Duffy's case, the $90,000 was paid back almost immediately after being called out, out of Wright's personal bank account. Unless they can prove this was not Wright's personal money, there is little 'scandal' here. Lets not forget that a Liberal senator was caught doing the same thing and has not paid his money back yet and is fighting the repayment. And anyone who thinks this kind of thing hasn't been going on amonst senators and MP's longer than any of us have been around is sadly mistaken. I don't condone it and these senators should be made to payback all monies not legitimately claimed - they get paid way more than enough already. And I don't care if they have to borrow it from someone else to do it, as long as it's repaid. And crystal clear rules should now be written to remove any wriggle room for senators to say "I didn't know...". But 'scandal'?? please.... 'scandalette' at best.