Welcome Home Senator DuffySunday, May 19, 2013 by: Mac Headrick
It has been a long time since I have enjoyed politics as much as this past week. The Canadian Senate scandal continues to grow and plague the ruling Conservative Party. Besides being a dream situation for print, radio and television journalists, at last the Canadian electorate has the opportunity to fully appreciate this institution. In today’s column I will outline the eventual outcome of this story.
You may assume my joy at the Conservative misfortunes in Ottawa was tempered some what by the unexpected Liberal victory in British Columbia. It is true I was upset, but not because the NDP didn’t win. I am passionate about the political freedoms Canadians have. Supporting our democracy is not dependent on the NDP winning. Only 48% of British Columbia choose to exercise a right that thousand of Canadian men and woman have given their lives to defend in the past. This always has and continues to irritate me. Of some consolation I always enjoy it when the pollsters get it wrong. Lately the major polling companies have been spending time justifying their flawed projections.
What is going to happen to the Canadian Senate? In a word… nothing. Well I suppose I could end my column here but in the spirit of sharing, I am going to detail why I feel this issue will shortly be relegated to the footnotes of Canadian political history.
What is the purpose of the Canadian Senate? It is not to provide Canadians with a legislative body that takes a “second sober look” at decisions made by our elected politicians. The Senate is a place to provide income to political hacks. More specifically Liberals and Conservatives supporters who have done little to help their fellow Canadians in their careers have a place to go to do nothing. I realize the phrase “good works” is sometimes mentioned. Add up the time and resources allotted to the Senate and compare it to the actual work accomplished. Is there anyone so naive as to not believe Canadians do not get good value from this group?
It is impossible to reform the Senate. The sole qualification needed is that you support the governing party. You are not elected or accountable to anyone. The bottom line is the Senate has been used to reward the party faithful by both the Liberal and Conservatives. Both parties’ have shown no desire to change the status quo. Now, I do not believe the NDP are that concerned about the Senate fiasco. To abolish the Senate would require altering the Constitution. Realistically to succeed the NDP would have to have a majority government in Ottawa and at the same time be the ruling party in seven provinces. What are the odds of the above happening? This doesn’t mean the NDP aren’t interested in the Senate controversy.
In the British Columbia provincial election this week the Liberals maintained power with a majority with just over 40% of the vote. Compared to the eligible voters only 48% cast ballots. This means a political party can win a majority government if they can convince approximately 20% of the voters to support them. Federally the Conservative Party only needs about one in five eligible voters to have a majority.
The NDP, in my opinion, appreciates any situation that irritates the Conservative core support. The Liberal Party cannot criticize the Senate very aggressively. They are as guilty as the Conservatives. A couple of weeks back there was a story in the press about 3 billion dollars that are unaccountable for in Ottawa. It quickly died for a couple of reasons. The sum (3 billion) is so large that the average Canadian cannot relate to it. Also the explanation provided by the Conservatives that all is needed is an accounting adjustment is reasonable. Compare that situation to the Mike Duffy affair. Now $90,000 is approximately what the average Canadian would take home after taxes every three years. We can all relate to this number. Add in the fact that Stephen Harper’s chief of staff claims he paid off Mr. Duffy’s debt to help him out. Whether you like or dislike Stephen Harper, something we can all agree on is this Prime Minister prides himself on running a controlled government. If Stephen Harper was aware of the payoff by his chief of staff he is guilty of extremely poor judgment. If, for some reason, Stephen Harper has been oblivious to what has been going on in the Senate relative to Mike Duffy then Mr. Harper is incompetent.
The Conservative Party of Canada depends on the financial and political support of approximately 20% of the electorate. As was demonstrated in British Columbia this past Monday and in the last federal election with only 50% of eligible voters bothering to cast their ballots, a 20% core who vote will win you a majority. That is the danger of the ongoing Senate scandal to the Conservatives. Will this situation alienate their core supporters?
To be fair I personally do not feel that Stephen Harper is a dishonest man. Apparently Mr. Harper has a bit of a temper. I imagine he must be furious at the present situation the Conservatives find themselves in. In the last two days at the last minute Conservative representatives were pulled from appearing on the CBC and CTV newscasts. I would love to be a fly on the wall at the emergency Conservative caucus meeting on Tuesday. I recall Stephen Harper, while in opposition, criticizing the Liberal Party and their abusive use of the Senate. Wasn't it Stephen Harper who also stated that he would never accept any Conservative who was a member just for personnal financial gain? Times have changed.
As I see it the week didn’t start off so well for the NDP and their failure to win the B.C. election. Maybe it is small consolation, but once again the pollsters were wrong. Of more importance to the NDP they haven’t had time to moan and groan about the B.C. loss in Ottawa this past week. The ongoing Senate scandal has provided an excellent opportunity for the NDP to question the ethics of the ruling Conservative Party. On a positive note for the Canadian Senate, Mike Duffy is presently hiding out at his cottage on Prince Edward Island. Finally Mr. Duffy is actually residing in the area he is suppose to represent. The honourable Senator has come home.