The blame game reached new heights

Peter Jackson
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Who will speak for the poor, maligned public servant? Will no one stand up and declare these spurious charges for what they are? A partisan plot. A personal vendetta. A media pile-on. Greedy, scheming, shadowy gnomes all, willing to destroy any righteous soul who gets in their way.

It is, perhaps, raw instinct that makes people project their guilt onto others, to shift the onus and dilute the responsibility.

But the spectacle of blame-tossing over the past few months has been nothing short of breathtaking. Like the temple turned into a den of thieves, the proud Canadian Senate has been usurped by fiery sermons of self-absolution.

It is not clear who has the authority to remove the likes of Pamela Wallin, Mike Duffy and Patrick Brazeau from their cushy Senate chairs. Should their own colleagues be allowed to vote them off the island? The prime minister appointed them — perhaps they should serve or be turfed at his pleasure. If he could, Stephen Harper surely would.

Such knotty questions aside, there is still no excuse for the pathetic displays of defiance by these fallen angels. They should be humble and contrite. Instead, they have lashed out at Stephen Harper, at his staff, at the media, at vengeful colleagues in the Senate.

Of course, the Senate scandal isn’t the only blame game making headlines.

In Toronto, Mayor Rob Ford has decided he’s the victim, not the culprit. His drug and alcohol issues are, at varying times, the fault of political opponents, the Toronto Star, media in general, and even the chief of police.

We know the game well in this province. Four Newfoundland politicians went to jail a few years ago over false expense claims. Among them, former Liberal cabinet minister Jim Walsh offered what was perhaps the most galling excuse.

At his trial in 2009, Walsh’s lawyer blamed the financial administration at the legislature, calling it "negligent, slack, and a dereliction of duty."

In other words, it wasn’t Walsh’s fault he stole taxpayers’ money — it was the system’s fault for making it so easy.

Ten years ago, former union boss Fraser March denied his guilt to the bitter end when he was found to have misrepresented expenses as this province’s ombudsman. He accused the auditor general of  "bureaucratic malingering" and fought it all the way to the Supreme Court.

Around the same time, the federal privacy commissioner was embroiled in a similar controversy.

A beleaguered George Radwanski said he was forced from office by "a powerful political backlash from some who would prefer a less forceful privacy commissioner."

In fact, Radwanski was rifling through public money like there was no tomorrow, claiming mysterious lump sum payments and racking up extravagant travel bills, amounting to overpayments of $234,000.

Radwanski terrorized staff members who got in his way, and broke numerous rules when it came to hiring and compensation.

In this, Pamela Wallin may share some attributes. The senator was reportedly warned about overspending before her bad expenses came to light. And RCMP are seeking a letter by a former staffer who says she was fired by Wallin for highlighting questionable claims.

Stephen Harper, of course, blames everyone but himself. He blames the senators. He blames his former chief of staff. He blames any other staff or party member who may have played a part in a scheme to bail out Mike Duffy — a scheme he seemed uniquely unaware of. That these were his appointees and his staff does not enter into it. The buck stops here? What buck? Where is here?

For all his bluster, Mike Duffy at least is not shifting blame as much as generously sharing it. He is the Tasmanian devil, sucking everyone into his vortex. If he’s going down, so is everyone he ever dealt with.

What, pray tell, ever happened to shame?

Peter Jackson is The Telegram’s

commentary editor. Email:

Organizations: Canadian Senate, Toronto Star, RCMP

Geographic location: Toronto, Newfoundland

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