After I posted about my telephone call with Mayor Rob Ford a few weeks back, I started getting calls from one of the mayor’s aides. He left pleasant messages and we played voicemail tag several times but then he didn’t return my last call.
Now I know why – he’s been busy.
(Click on the photo for the story, including video clip).
To most Canadians, the Senate is an abomination, a mystery, or both. Most Canadians are surprised to learn that the Red Chamber, in effect, is a mirror image of the House of Commons. A significant difference being that one House requires a win at the ballot box to get a seat.
The recent spate of federal political scandals have largely been contained within the Senate. Members of Parliament – of all political stripes – have been calling for the abolishment of the Senate, and worse. But yesterday, this Senate scandal was brought to the doorstep of the Prime Minister’s Office.
Don’t get me wrong, I like the Senate – in principle – and I know much about what goes on in there (both on and off the record). I was a chief of staff to a well-respected Liberal senator and, later, was charged by then-Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff to be responsible for the Liberal Senate Caucus (back when it was still referred to as the “Liberal-dominated Senate”). No easy task, I can assure you.
Being a political lefty, what I like most about the Senate is that when elected officials are not actually required to be elected, they have the freedom to pursue an agenda that could otherwise hurt them at the polls.
Combating poverty; pursuing fairness and justice for Aboriginals; and the relentless pursuit of human rights around the globe – all of these issues are passionately debated on the floor of the Upper Chamber. People who don’t otherwise have a political voice absolutely have one here.
Or, at least it’s supposed to be this way.
Were it not for these recent scandals, you would likely be unfamiliar with the names of Patrick Brazeau, Mac Harb and Mike Duffy (although he did have a long career in television journalism, which apparently qualifies you for a cushy Senate gig).
Brazeau, recently charged with sexual assault and assault, likes to get into fights – both in the ring and out. He also abused the Senate Housing Allowance and is now being forced to repay tens of thousands of dollars.
And it’s not just Conservative senators either. Harb, who has now resigned from the Liberal caucus and who has been ordered to repay more than $50,000 dollars, is a joke of a senator. He was a regular no-show and prone to stunts. But he’s still a senator, and continuing to collect a very comfortable six-figure, taxpayer-funded salary. And don’t forget about the now-convicted former Liberal Senator Raymond Lavigne.
According to Duffy, he repaid the $90,172 for living expenses he had no right to claim. The Harper government immediately praised Duffy for “showing leadership.” Congratulatory slaps on the back ensued.
But something didn’t smell right. The PMO communications director declared on Twitter “no taxpayer funds were used” to repay the money (which is code for, “Nothing to see here, folks. Move along. Please.”) Turns out that the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, Nigel Wright, wrote a cheque to Duffy for the full amount. And that it was a gift to the esteemed senator from PEI. A gift.
The Senate has clear rules about senators accepting gifts. A Senator “cannot accept any gift…that could reasonably be considered to relate to the Senator’s position.” Oh, wait, there’s more: A gift greater than $500 must be reported to the Senate Ethics Officer within 30 days. Duffy repaid the money on March 25, 2013, yet his Public Disclosure Summary hasn’t been updated in eight months.
Also worth noting is that Duffy refused to provide Deloitte (the firm hired to investigate Duffy’s residency status) with all the documentation the auditors requested.
In politics, you are often seen as an extension of your boss – and you don’t get much closer to the boss than being his or her chief of staff. Nigel Wright is, seemingly, a smart man. Perhaps Duffy and Wright are even friends. But given how many senators are in hot water these days, the right thing to do would be to make Duffy repay the debt out of his own pocket. You know, to teach him a lesson. I’m guessing that Canadians would like that, too.
I’m sure Wright felt that by cutting that cheque, he was simply cleaning up a mess – and we never would have known about it but for intrepid reporters and Duffy’s big mouth.
Many questions remain. And it’s Nigel Wright’s turn to answer them.
This morning on Sun News Network’s AM Agenda, I bet the charming Pat Bolland that the BC New Democrats were going to win a majority government.
I’m going back tomorrow morning to collect on my bet.
Don’t let me down, friends.
Update here. Lesson from tonight is that taking the high-road doesn’t work. Adrian Dix and his NDP needed to hit back and respond to the Liberals negative ads. Political parties everywhere take note.
Awhile ago I wrote here about why I don’t support a completely open nomination process. Here’s one of my points:
With what Trudeau is advocating, the party runs the risk of having single issue candidates or groups, such as pro-life efforts, take over a riding association and nominate their candidate of choice. I’ve read that other Liberal leaders didn’t have to exercise veto power often, that the provision alone served as a deterrent to such efforts.
Today, Calgary MP Rob Anders (who I cannot believe keeps getting re-elected) urged thousands of pro-life activists to stack nomination meetings.
Good thing that the Liberal Party of Canada is going to have open nomination meetings.
And if you’re not familiar with Mr. Anders, he’s the guy who called Nelson Mandela a “Communist and a terrorist.” He also likes to sleep through committee meetings and last year accused NDP leader Thomas Mulcair of “hastening” the death of former leader Jack Layton.
Hard to believe he was the chosen candidate in the riding of Calgary West over one Alison Redford.
In 2004, current Alberta premier Alison Redford challenged the Calgary West nomination against Anders. Anders, who had the backing of prominent Conservatives ministers, among others, said that unless Redford had “some magic support base of people who like feminist lawyers,” he was confident that victory was his.
But I’m sure this open nomination thing is going to work out just fine.
As you may have heard, Christy Clark is the premier of British Columbia. As such, she is alleged to be a politician. If they know anything at all, politicians are expected to know how to vote.
Christy Clark doesn’t.
The truly sad and amazing tale of Christy Clark’s attempt to vote is found here. Read it. In addition, please find below Lisa’s 10 easy tips on how to vote.
Christy Clark, take special note.
1. Know what country, province and city you are in. Write it down on the back of your hand if you have to.
2. Go to a polling station in the town or city where you live. If uncertain, check the back of your hand as mentioned in step one.
3. Go inside the polling station. Speak to one of the nice people there. Ask them if you are in the right place to vote.
4. Ask them again.
5. They will hand you a piece of paper. It is called a “ballot.” Don’t lose it. Or throw it in the garbage.
6. Go to one of the ballot marking stations that have been helpfully set up for people just like you. Now, read the words on the ballot carefully.
7. Find the name of the person who is running in that area who you wish to support. Do not start writing other names on the ballot, such as your own name, or the names of your friends.
8. Indicate your choice with a clearly marked “X.” Do not write your own name in error, and particularly if many TV cameras are, at this moment, filming you.
9. Fold the marked ballot, walk across the room and place it in the ballot box that has been set up for exactly this purpose. Leave the polling station.
10. If you cannot follow instructions as simple as these, you are an idiot, or Christy Clark, or both.
If she supports the Liberal budget, she’s not going to have another chance to defeat the government before Christmas, I’d wager.
If she supports the Liberal budget, the PC party is going to crucify them. Saying that by supporting the Wynne budget, she’s supporting scandal and waste, etc. (Expect lots of teeth gnashing and Tory histrionics).
If she supports the Liberal budget, the Liberals are going to get credit for all the NDP budget initiatives (and a rise in the polls as a result).
If she defeats the Liberal budget, triggering a Spring election, and the NDP run a solid campaign, she has a serious shot at becoming premier.
Interesting times, as they say.