Roundup: Depressed over the ClusterDuff affair

Oh dear. The Conservative caucus is apparently terribly depressed over the damage done to their brand by the whole ClusterDuff affair, and the way it’s been handled. But as they demonstrated yesterday, it seems that they have decided to go on the offensive rather than to run with the tone of contrition that was struck at the end of last week.

Over in the Senate, the former Clerk says that expenses reform is on the right track in giving power back to the Senate administration, who can then say no to Senators who feel entitled to their perks. This is in addition to the debate going on right now about the proposed rule changes, which are getting a bit of pushback because Liberal and independent Senators point to the fact that they are largely a distraction that will have little effect on preventing another Mike Duffy or Mac Harb situation. In her speech on the topic, Progressive Conservative Senator Elaine McCoy (who, by the way, is made of awesome) pointed out a couple of key points – that the constant hue and cry about the demise of the honour system is untrue because it never did exist as such, as they’ve always had to provide receipts and justifications for spending, but what offends her is the fact that the new language in the rules will treat all Senators as guilty before proven innocent. Said speech also contains her proposal to create an independent audit committee as part of the Board of Internal Economy that would have outside members with judicial and audit experience, but that still includes Senators so as not to allow them to abdicate their responsibilities entirely (as Parliament is still the highest court in the land). Meanwhile, Senator Duffy is hoping to have the committee review of his audit report in public, but that remains to be seen.

As for whether or not the Liberals were able to successfully convince the rest of their colleagues on the Ethics Committee to open a study into Nigel Wright’s activities, well, we won’t know until the minutes come out since it all went behind closed doors. Again.

David Cochrane recalls a massive spending scandal in the Newfoundland and Labrador House of Assembly, and the reforms that followed. Because the Commons financial rules are even more opaque than those of the Senate, this serves as a cautionary tale (as well as a reminder that just because people are elected, it doesn’t mean they won’t break the rules either).

Constitutional scholar (and the best academic in this country on the institutions of parliament) David E. Smith looks at the Senate controversies, and points to how integral the institution was for confederation to happen, and the kind of work and representation that it does, which we shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss.

While everyone continued to try and use Justin Trudeau’s comments on the constitutional reality of the Senate as some kind of attack on regions (which it wasn’t), John Ivison takes Trudeau’s ideas about reforming the Senate to mean a process of selecting more non-partisan Senators. While it’s nice in theory, I’ve pointed out some of the ramifications for Responsible Government here.

The Hill Times profiles CTV’s Bob Fife, who has broken so many of the ClusterDuff stories – not that he wants to make this about personality journalism.

The Not Criminally Responsible bill is being debated in the Commons, and the Correctional Investigator, among others, has concerns.

It appears that the federal government is removing itself from the responsibility to do environmental assessments for in situ oilsands projects – which are deeper but have less impact than the strip mines. These projects would still be assessed under provincial reviews, which don’t appear to be any less rigorous than federal ones.

Oh dear – a former Reform MP, who stepped aside so that Stockwell Day could run for the Canadian Alliance leadership (and who was handsomely rewarded for it) has just been given an appointment to the Parole Board, despite not having any actual qualifications for the position. Oh, but all of their appointments are made after a rigorous process based on merit – Peter Van Loan said so! Just like how all of these appointees to the new Social Security Tribunal have a history of donating to the Conservative party. Erm…

Speaking of brilliant Conservative appointments, Dr. Arthur Porter, whom Harper had previously appointed to head the Security and Intelligence Review Committee, was arrested in Panama with his wife on fraud charges. Yeah, Harper’s track record of appointments continues to show stellar results.

It looks like Peter MacKay’s office may have interfered with the Public Service Commission’s report into those dodgy hiring decisions at ACOA in PEI to delete a reference to outside influences. That said, it looks like they may have had a point in requesting the deletion, because there was no evidence of such influence and it did cast aspersions, but it nevertheless doesn’t look very good at a time when deleted paragraphs in other reports *cough*Duffy*cough* are causing quite a stir.

Quebec’s Chief Electoral Officer has raised concerns that the associates of an accounting firm have rather suspicious timing when it comes to their political donations to the federal Conservative and Liberal parties, almost as though they were trying to get around corporate donation rules.

And Newfoundland and Labrador premier Kathy Dunderdale told a business lunch that the federal government tried to pressure them into deregulating the fish processing industry in order to assist with CETA negotiations as a quid pro quo for the Muskrat Falls loan guarantee, which Dunderdale did not take kindly to. Paul Wells parses what it all means.

Shameless self-promotion alert: I was on CTV News Channel again yesterday, and here’s the clip of me talking about the latest developments in the Nigel Wright/Mike Duffy affair, plus more talk of Senate reform.