We’re going to go there. Unfortunately, there also has to be translations for our non-Canadian readers. If you do remember your Canadian civics class, you can skip through the first few ‘graphs.
Canada has a Senate, a chamber of sober second thought that reviews what is passed by the House of Commons and votes for or against it, with the resulting mess being given Royal Assent and whatever madness that results, later becomes Law. With a few exceptions, the Senate is a rubber stamp operation up here, as compared to the US. Other exceptions are also notable: Our Senators are appointed by the Governor-General on behalf of the Queen, on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. They’re not elected. Use that yellow highlighter marker you have there and highlight not elected. Ooops, sorry about that.
It used to be that a Senate appointment was for life, but that’s been scaled back to 75 years of age with a pension that is freakin’ amazing. About all they don’t get is a lotion boy. Technically the 105 Senators are appointed from each of the territories and provinces to provide a cross-Canada representation of seats, as well as experiences, backgrounds and expertise. In reality, a Senate appointment is a payback for party hacks, flacks and clingons who have kissed so much ass that their noses aren’t merely discoloured; they’ve got a brown ring around their necks that show their Depth of Commitment.
Canadian Readers can pick up here:
Three Senators, Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau have been in the news with revelations that they have been playing either fast and loose with the expenses or have been victims of rules that are at best confusing. Rumour has it, retired Senator Dr. Wilburt Keon, an internationally renown heart surgeon and medical researcher, with degrees out the wazoo (Harvard, McGill) and brains from here to Moncton took one look at the expense rules and said “Fooked if I know!” We suspect the story is apocryphal. (Disclosure: I’ve met Duffy several times (he’s an ex-television reporter) and have shared breakfast more than once with Wallin when she hosted Canada AM at CJOH in Ottawa, in that toxic cafeteria at 1500 Merivale, 800 years ago. Brazeau, we wouldn’t know from a knothole in a fence board).
Senators are allowed a housing and travel allowance if their residence is more than 100 kilometers from Ottawa, but here’s where it gets murky. Is it your full-time residence or a residence of convenience to say you are representing a particular region or province? Duffy said he lived in PEI and did in fact have property there, but didn’t have a PEI Driver’s License or health card, the presence of which would suppose actual residency. Wallin said Wadena, Saskatchewan was home and she does own a joint there. Brazeau lives up past Maniwaki, PQ and that meets the 100 km rule.
Being Senators and clever, they made sure they also have digs in Ottawa for when they’re in town, as nobody wants to live on borrowed sofas or shady guest rooms on an Ikea futon. Four Senators, (let us not forget Mac Harb claiming a garden shed up in Eganville, ON as his permanent residence) got rousted by the Board of Internal Economy for fascinating travel and housing claims. Duffy was on the hook for $90,000 worth and a few months ago paid it back, thanks to a timely loan from the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff at the time, Nigel Wright who bucked up the $90,000 as Duffy didn’t have the coin immediately to hand. Wallin has paid back most of what she got dinged for out of her own pocket.
Except the story doesn’t end there. Wallin and Duffy were both journalists of long standing with many friends and acquaintances in the Fourth Estate as well as the Opposition party. Many hundreds of very pointed questions were asked of Stephen “Call Me The Right Honourable Prime Minister Stephen Harper” Harper to the point that Harper prorogued Parliament this summer in the hopes that no media coverage and the black flies would make the very pointed questions go away. The questions are really only three:
1) Did the PMO give the $90,000 to Duffy to shut up the Board of Internal Economy and the investigation of just how fast and loose everyone plays with the expenses? The RCMP is already looking into just how sloppy everyone there plays with the rules and a real RCMP investigation would reveal so much mud that the Conservatives would be doomed politically for an eternity up in the nosebleeds on the wrong side of the House.
2) Did the Prime Minister broker the deal, holding a figurative gun to Duffy’s head (and by implication Wallin and Brazeau) with a simple, “Pay it all back, sit down, shut the fcuk up, play the way we say and don’t ever contradict the PMO again” ultimatum. Considering how hard the PMO bullies the House members, it takes about four milliseconds to assume that they do the same to anyone on the Hill and that includes Senators appointed by Harper. You play by the PMO rules, or you’re dead to the PMO, forever.
3) Is our Prime Minister a lying sack of ordure who will do anything short of actually gunning people down, to get the uncomfortable questions to stop? Well, the Opposition won’t let up now that the House is back on the job and the PMO has demanded that Wallin, Duffy and Brazeau be suspended without pay or privileges right now. That means being booted out of the Senate.
Monday, Duffy stood up in the Senate and essentially said he was jobbed by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the PM was in the room with Duffy and his Chief of Staff when Duffy was read the riot act. Harper has always said that the loan was on his Chief of Staff’s own bat and he didn’t know about it. (See Question 3)
Wallin, yesterday. demanded to know why she was being railroaded with the PMO acting as judge, jury and executioner before any charges have been laid, or any proof of malfeasance has been brought forward and proven. There was also an interesting sidelight about another Senator, Marjory LeBreton essentially being Harper’s consigliore in the Senate, who lead the charge to have Wallin s-canned. LeBreton is the Leader of Government in the Senate which means she is the PMO’s enforcer: She packs serious heat and if she says so, then be assured Stephen says so. LeBreton is the Senator who brought the motion to the Senate. (Disclosure: We have dined with Senator LeBreton a couple of times back in the mid-90’s)
On the face of it, knowing some of the players at least a little bit, the PMO is doing everything short of producing a private porno of the Senators rolling naked in a pile of money, to make Duffy and Wallin go away, to stop the embarrassing questions from the Opposition in the House.
The PMO wants the questions to stop because it is coming to light that what was only whispered about for the last nine years: The PMO and the Prime Minster are desperate to gain and keep power as long as possible. If that means being the biggest and baddest bullies on the Hill, then so be it: Grandma is going to get her hip broken. They’re terrified that it will come out that the PMO couldn’t run a vending machine without their business buddies telling them how to stick a quarter in it.
And they’re terrified that it will come out that the Conservative party is little more than an unelected oligarchy running the PMO, determined to manipulate our country into some kind of Reform Party masturbatory fantasy from 1953 where the “proper” people rule by fiat, the women wear slips, hats, white gloves and makeup while the children are all required to go to Sunday school every week. And the rest of you had best shut up and be thankful we let you exist.