Stephen Harper may be about to become the Richard Nixon of Canada.
It’s a sad commentary that most Canadians seem oblivious to what is transpiring in Ottawa these days, but we ignore it at our own peril.
Most people are aware of the Senate spending scandal and the fuss involving at least three senators who apparently claimed expenses and received money that they were not entitled to. And most of us would agree the funds should be paid back, and that if there was fraud involved, the accused should be held accountable through the court system. All well and good.
But it’s the political backroom dealings that have the makings to undo Stephen Harper, and why the average voter isn’t more upset is something I can’t comprehend.
Documents released by the RCMP suggest there was an attempted coverup, spearheaded directly by the Prime Minister’s Office. This one has all the twists of a thriller, including the quote from then chief of staff Nigel Wright in an email on Feb. 22: “We are good to go from the PM.”
Harper’s office has insisted the PM was simply referencing compelling Mike Duffy to pay back his expenses with his own money. In a story published in The Globe and Mail on Nov. 24, Harper’s spokesman, Jason MacDonald, said, “But at no time did (Mr. Harper) have any knowledge of, involvement in or give any direction in any kind of arrangement that would have seen anybody but Mr. Duffy pay his own expenses.”
Harper and his people keep singing the same song, that it was the senators who broke the rules and Wright who made a secret deal to personally pay Duffy’s bill. They say the PM had no knowledge of Wright’s actions.
All that would be fine if there were still not dozens of unanswered questions and that little matter of accountability. When there are suggestions of trying to hush up a scandal, perhaps even trying to influence an audit or how the audit will be reported, the picture takes on a different colour. Attempts in a Senate committee to get more answers were thwarted last week.
It’s not good enough.
I’d bet most Canadians have no idea who Paul Calandra is, but he has become quite the character in the House of Commons. Calandra is Harper’s parliamentary secretary, which means he answers questions when the prime minister doesn’t want to or isn’t in the House.
Calandra is apparently a down-to-earth guy, but if you watch question period, you might feel like wringing his neck — figuratively speaking, of course. His answers are, well, not answers at all.
It’s bad enough when Harper does it, but Calandra completely ignores simple yes or no questions and comes up with totally unrelated stories. He counterpunches with insults and accusations, leaving Canadians no better informed. It is frustrating and it is wrong, and twice as nauseating when we get to see other Conservative members laughing like hyenas behind him.
It is way past time for the prime minister to address each and every question that has been posed about this scandal. Even if Harper did not know what Wright did, it happened under his watch. The buck stops there.
Harper must come clean and tell all. In the United States, there would have been prime-time presidential speeches on television to address the controversy. Here, Harper is gambling that we don’t care, that it will all go away.
The Conservatives managed to hold on to a couple of seats in federal byelections last week, something that gave Harper a reason to smile and should give the rest of us something to consider.
Conservative party headquarters tweeted, “Thank you to all our supporters and volunteers who proved the pundits wrong again — we couldn’t have done it without you.”
Well, they will need to do it without me, and without you, too, I hope, until Harper owns up to what his minions were doing and they are all punished for their actions.