It was a move that should have happened last week, but instead it was announced at eight-thirty Sunday morning – Nigel Wright, the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, resigned over the whole writing-a-$90,000-cheque-to-Mike-Duffy thing. And then comes the waves of lament and apologists, crying that Wright was a good man who was doing his bit for public service (even though a job in the PMO is not public service – it is the opposite, in fact), though nobody seems to be asking themselves any of the critical questions about the actual wrongdoing. Taking Wright’s place will be Ray Novak, Harper’s principle secretary and a loyalist from his days in the Alliance Party, so one can expect a much more partisan tone returning to the PMO, which had softened under Wright. Not that Wright’s departure actually answers any of the questions about what actually happened between Wright and Duffy, which is kind of a big deal – as John Geddes, Paul Wells and Michael Den Tandt all write. Not that Harper will be answering questions – he’s off to Peru this week, and because each embattled Senator has resigned from their respective caucus, and Wright is also gone, the government line can be “everyone involved has now resigned, let’s just move on.” And thus becomes the government’s damage control strategy as the last few weeks of the sitting roll along before the summer recess. Oh, and the caucus is becoming restive too as this level of mismanagement starts to damage the brand of the “party of the Accountability Act.” Apparently there’s to be an emergency caucus meeting Tuesday morning before Harper flies out, and one can scarcely imagine the words that will be exchanged behind closed doors as these angry MPs line up at the mic.
Here’s a transcript of an interview that Terry Milewski did with former Parliamentary Law Clerk Rob Walsh, and it’s pretty damning as far as the business of Wright writing that cheque for Duffy is concerned. Walsh doesn’t see any way out for Wright to claim that this was all an innocent gesture – rather, it crosses legal and ethical boundaries, and there needs to be action taken on the part of the Prime Minister, lest we demonstrate that these things don’t matter. With Wright gone, it still doesn’t mean that Harper doesn’t owe a mea culpa – because he absolutely does especially as these were his appointments.
Senator Patrick Brazeau says that he has an email that proves that he was given the okay to claim his housing expenses in the way it was, but the reply seems devoid of enough context to know just what he was asking – not to mention the common sense factor of listing a primary residence where one spends a mere ten percent of his time. Jason Fekete reminds us of the appointment of all three of those embattled senators – plus 15 others – on back on December 22, 2008, while Aaron Wherry reminds us of the context in which those appointments were made, during that year’s prorogation crisis.
Liberal Senator Colin Kenny writes about how it should be those three or four errant Senators who should be punished and not the institution, and he outlines his problems with the coming restrictions on travel points and how that affects the work that Senators do without actually increasing the transparency involved. Conservative Senator Vern White says that loyalty is second to integrity, and it’s time for certain senators to go. With Duffy’s protectors now turning their backs, this is an actual possibility, where they may vote to remove him – or any of the other problematic senators – once due process has been followed.
Oh, and a number of Conservatives are going to try to use the Duffy incident as an excuse to bang the Senate “reform” drums – never mind that any of their proposed reforms would do absolutely zero about any of these kinds of problems, and would in fact create a whole host of other ones instead. Good job with the logic and consequence-based thinking, guys. Slow clap.
Meanwhile, in completely useless news, a few prominent Canadians have signed a petition to rename Victoria Day as “Victoria and First People’s Day.” Because apparently it’s gauche to celebrate our head of state (both the first head of state for this country and the official birthday of our reigning monarch) or our history, and because National Aboriginal Day, which is currently June 21, isn’t good enough and should be tacked onto an existing statutory holiday. Whatever.
And shameless self-promotion alert: I was on CTV News Channel once again on Saturday to talk about the whole Duffy/Wallin/Senate story (though I do apologise for the quality of the Skype). I was on again on Sunday, this time from studio to talk about Nigel Wright, but they didn’t post that clip online, unfortunately.