Mud bath in the Senate — we all win

Bob Wakeham
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If ever there was an event guaranteed to be a win-win situation for Canadians, it’s the roll in the muck being taken by the prime minister, the current curator in a long list of curators of that nauseating, smelly hole called the Senate, and Mike Duffy, the journalist-turned-patronage-oinker who held his nose a few years back as Farmer Steve lowered him (so to speak) into the most expensive political gift-giving trough in this nation’s history.

Really, when you think about it, we can’t lose. Or at least I know I can’t.

If you’re a jaded observer of all things political, as I am, it’s just delightful to watch this messy mud bath, without having to care a great deal about who wins and who is telling the truth.

It reminds me of the scattered dust-up in some of the less classier bars I frequented years ago, one of the “buckets of blood,” as they were accurately called, in which two hugely unpopular jerks would pound the piss out of each other and the rest of us could sip on our beers in ringside seats and embrace the show, hoping it would last long enough to see the two combatants laid out on a filthy floor in a bloody pulp, their reputations for winning pugilism in tatters.

Now perhaps if you tend to hit from the right side of the ideological plate, are fond of the reactionary prime minister, a politician who provokes a churning of the insides for many rational-thinking Canadians (and a non-friend of Newfoundland who barely tolerates this place), you’d like to see him rise from the muck with his head held high, a victor over Duffy and the other little piggies.

Perhaps you’ve been convinced that he was simply gazing out over the Ottawa skyline, lost in thought about what kind of warm and cosy sweater to wear in his family Christmas card, and was oblivious to all the skullduggery taking place a few feet away.

Or maybe you’re willing to tolerate his Pontius Pilate role, that of washing his hands of the whole sordid mess with his handlers doing all the dirty work.

Most of us, I happen to think, are not that naive, however, and will be perfectly happy to see Harper get his comeuppance.

As for Duffy, I can’t muster the slightest bit of pity or even support for the spud man from P.E.I. who, along with Pam Wallin and Jim Munson, embarrassed the profession in which I’ve worked for four decades. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: those journalists made a living supposedly keeping an eye on government wastage and then hypocritically accepted a lucrative seat in the most opulent senior citizens home in the country, an institution that represents the ultimate example of misdirected public money.

(I could never understand how Duffy somehow attained a reputation as a journalist extraordinaire; he was more of a reportorial bumpkin, if you ask me; more a performer than a journalist, exploiting what he apparently felt was his beloved reputation as “the Duff,” a good old boy from Down East who could be trusted, he claimed, by everyone with access to a boob tube. In my view, he epitomized the unhealthy and cosy, you-scratch-my-back/I’ll-scratch-yours type of bonding that has always existed between far too many reporters on The Hill and the politicians they cover).

In any case, if Duffy goes down for the count and Harper’s credibility takes a gigantic kick in the guts, we’re all winners.

Even better, if this soap opera happens to pound another nail in the coffin of the Senate, we can really rejoice. Even Canadians ambivalent about the Senate will have their eyes opened by this embarrassing spectacle and conclude that the best possible treatment for the chamber of so-called sober second thought is to have it vanish from the Canadian political landscape forever.

And speaking of all things senatorial: a while back, I happened to hear some relatively sympathetic musings about the Senate, or at least about one of its Newfoundland members, from Tim Powers, the latest darling of the local media.

Powers seems to be popping up everywhere in Newfoundland these days as a political pundit, hosting VOCM open-line shows and guesting on CBC Radio and Television. 

Anyway, I almost drove my truck into the car ahead of me in the doughnut drive-thru when Powers said he didn’t think Senator Fabian Manning was guilty of dipping into what Powers himself described as the “trough.” Powers was referring to the issue of senators playing fast and loose with travel claims and the like.

But I thought to myself that the minute Manning went into the Senate, he was automatically plunging into the trough.

In Manning’s case, in fact, he could be described as the poster boy for senatorial patronage, having taken the gravy train to that useless, anachronistic, expensive station after losing one election, then disembarking temporarily to run in another, then jumping aboard once more after a second loss. How can anyone defend that sort of political journey?

Powers gives good clip, as we in the CBC were fond of saying in describing any public figure who made our journalistic jobs easier, and he is a person of substance with lots of mileage in the backrooms. But when he defends the likes of Manning, it’s a reminder that he was a PC operative for a long time, that he bleeds Tory blue. We, the consumers of his punditry, should always be made aware of that background.

Didn’t mean to get off on a rant about Tim Powers; sometimes I can’t control my fingers.

My main point is that I may ignore my agnostic ways and make a trip to the Flatrock Grotto to pray that both Duffy and Harper end up on the mat of  ignominy as a result of this Senate fiasco. 

Then we can all cheer. 

Bob Wakeham has spent more than 40 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by email at bwakeham@nl.rogers.com.

Organizations: CBC Radio

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Ottawa, P.E.I.

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  • jim
    November 04, 2013 - 13:30

    please tell us you don't home school your kids