Entitlements

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In the great Senate scandal of 2013 (and beyond), it looks like the only person who may survive with dignity intact is Nigel Wright.

In the great Senate scandal of 2013 (and beyond), it looks like the only person who may survive with dignity intact is Nigel Wright.

Wright, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s former chief of staff, did exactly what he should have done when shady dealings came to light. He resigned.

No one else, it seems, understands that honour and integrity actually mean something — or that, at the very least, the appearance of honour and integrity do.

On two consecutive days this week, Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin stood in the Canadian Senate and practically demanded their colleagues let them keep their seats. Their fall from grace was all a machiavellian plot, they said, drummed up by Harper’s “boys in short pants” (Duffy’s term for Prime Minister’s Office staffers) and the conspiratorial Senate leadership.

There are, no doubt, a number of troubling questions in the whole affair. Was the prime minister aware of a payout from Wright to Duffy to help pay back dubious expense claims? Duffy says yes; Harper denies it.

Can the Senate actually vote to suspend its own members? Surprisingly, it’s not clear.

And it’s true neither Wallin or Duffy have yet been found guilty of a criminal offence. The RCMP has still not concluded its lengthy investigation.

It’s instructive, however, to look at the case of former Liberal cabinet minister David Dingwall — famous for blurting “I am entitled to my entitlements” before a parliamentary committee in 2005.

Dingwall was defending his right to a hefty severance package after stepping down from a six-figure salary as head of the Canadian Mint. His departure, which some say was forced, came after revelations surfaced about — you guessed it — questionable expense claims.

Here’s the thing, though. Dingwall resigned. Even if his later uttering became a catchphrase for the entitlement culture in Ottawa, he had the decency to step out of the spotlight when the allegations first surfaced.

And here’s another thing. A pair of subsequent audits found that Dingwall’s expenses actually fell within guidelines. A small vindication.

Duffy and Wallin, on the other hand, wailed about a party-led conspiracy to discredit them, to kick them out of the Senate. This, from two people who covered politics in this country for decades.

Does Wallin actually believe, as she suggested, that the Senate is beyond partisan manoeuvring?

Perhaps the most telling part of Wallin’s diatribe Wednesday was her playground-worthy attack on former Senate government leader Marjory LeBreton.

She said LeBreton, among others, was jealous that “my level of activity brought me into the public eye and once garnered the praise of the prime minister. They resented that — they resented me being an activist senator.”

And we’re sure modesty is among Wallin’s many admirable traits, too.

Organizations: Canadian Senate, RCMP, Canadian Mint

Geographic location: Ottawa

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