Let's just take a moment to talk about how this is playing out. Stephen Harper is reeling. There is infighting and mud slinging and back-biting all over the previously unified, iron disciplined conservative caucus. And it is because, for the first time in public, the robot is short-circuiting. The broken record has actually broken and started to make awful scratching noise. And the damage will be continue to be done as the record (the Prime Minister's voice) now plays on a grating, awful-sounding negative feedback loop.
The Prime Minister was always such a smug guy because he knew he would never preside over anything, personally or as government leader, as damning as his predecessors. If a Canadian Prime Minister could go down in a history as a respected guy despite accepting brown paper bags of cash bribes from a shady criminal German businessman, or defrauding taxpayers of a billion dollars to covertly fund Canadian flags and Canadian propaganda in remote regions of Quebec, or dixtupling (yes - multiplying by ten) the national debt while presiding over years of double digit inflation, the bar was set pretty damn low. In consequence, how could the Canadian public hold Stephen Harper in any regard other than pretty high, given that he would never do anything as brazen or crazy as these three guys. Are we really going to put him on the same footing over $90,000 of improperly claimed fucking housing expenses??
Yes, because the only worse thing you will do than being smug to a public that didn't really care for you and your smugness to begin is get caught being a liar. And this story, which started with three Senators behaving in a way (entitled) that was to be entirely expected of them, has come to haunt the Prime Minister not because of $90,000 but because it has forced him to lie, then lie again, then lie again, then...oh, everyone sees you've been bullshitting from the start.
"Mr Speaker, it was my understanding that Mr Duffy reimbursed those expenses once he found out they were ineligible from his own personal resources."
"Mr Speaker our government does not tolerate misuse of public funds and I ordered Mr Duffy repay those expenses"
"Very few people in the Conservative caucus knew about that cheque"
"Mr Wright deceived me and when I found out about that cheque, I dismissed him."
So what was the timeline? What were the dates? Who knew what when? You don't need to be an investigative journalist to figure out there's some bullshit in there somewhere and probably everywhere. This party used to owe its success to its ironclad loyalty: these three Senators were conservative partisans and fundraisers, well-known to Canadians, and Harper appointing them to the Senate was a no-brainer. Except when they embarrassed him by claiming expenses to live in places where they obviously did not live, they became huge liabilities. The man is a ruthless calculator, and has disposed personally of people for far less. Ask Helena Guergis how her political career has turned out.
Except that this time, he bet big. And no matter how good a tactician you are, you can never win all of your bets. Pamela Wallin is a sideshow and a joke. Giving some teary-eyed speech about how the "mean girls" in the Senate had it in for her? Give me a break. This is a person who writes an op-ed in the Globe and Mail titled "Wadena, Saskatchewan is my home" a week before it is discovered that she has an Ontario health card and a condo in Toronto, the city where she was a broadcaster for decades. The Prime Minister would have no problem "throwing under the bus" (her words, although my previous sentence clearly demonstrates that she threw herself under the bus) someone willing to forego their credibility that easily, and ever better, all he could be faulted for is an error in judgement in appointing her. She lived high on the taxpayers hog all by herself.
But Duffy. This was the "hit me" that made the champion black jack player go bust. Give him credit for not embarrassing himself. He never came out with any shitty faux-indignant lash-outs about how he was a genuine,honest to god prince edward islander. In fact, he's scarcely been heard from or seen since this all started. All he did was release one small sentence about the rules "not being clear."
Until the Prime Minister tried, as it were, to throw him under the bus and strip him of his pay and title. Then he forgot he was mixed up with a guy whose job used to be blabbering on CTV. So the eggs started falling on his face. Yes, the Prime Minister knew about the cheque. Not only did he know about that cheque,but there was a second cheque from the Conservative Party to cover legal fees. Talk about a drive by. And now, how will the Prime Minister change the channel since anytime any reporter or politician gets near him there will be questions about what he knew, what he did, what he authorized.
This government had a cruising altitude for the first 7 years of its existence. No criticism stuck to it because no criticism was specific. The government is autocratic, the government is incompetent, the government is doing enough about climate change, the government doesn't care about poor people. It all passed through the public consciousness like a thief in the night. The government's modus operandi literally was on auto-pilot "Focus on the economy, roll the attack ads", and it worked like magic.
Now watching the government try to recover from this is like watching a pilot frantically push flashing buttons on the plane about the crash into the mountain. Does that mean they will lose the next election? I wouldn't get that excited with the divided opposition and fractious polls we have now. But one thing is certain - this cover-up surrounding ninety thousand bucks has damaged the Prime Minister's credibility way more than seven years of persistent, pointed attacks by opposition leaders.Which, by the way, says as much about them as it does about him.