The travails of Patrick Brazeau and Mike Duffy have once again led to calls for reform or abolition of the Senate. The argument is that the Senate has always been a House of Patronage, not a House of Sober Second Thought. The two aforementioned senators appear to prove the first proposition. But Tasha Kheirriddin asks some important questions, which appear to be getting lost in the nasty details:
First, shouldn’t someone in the government have known about them? Second, if they did, why did the prime minister proceed with the nomination? Third, if they didn’t know, why didn’t they? How much due diligence is actually done on Senate nominations?
For, as disturbing as the allegations against Brazeau and Duffy are, there is a real question about the man who appointed them. Brazeau appealed to the prime minister because he liked to use that magic word -- accountability. Brazeau's called for accountability on the subject of reserve finances. Accountability -- the very issue which Mr. Harper and the Parliamentary Budget Officer and the Auditor General have argued about for five years.
No one appeared interested in red flags which were all over Brazeau's record. Keirriddin writes:
Allegations of sexual harassment and alcohol abuse, failure to pay child support and an audit launched by Health Canada into expense claims by his previous employer — these are not the things one wants to see on senatorial resumes.
And Brazeau had a habit of saying things which were less than politic. After Canadian Press reporter Jennifer Ditchburn reported that Brazeau had the worst attendance record in the Senate, Brazeau called her a "bitch." Perhaps, becaue the Harperites treat their opponents with such contempt, they didn't see that as an issue.
Then there is the case of Mike Duffy, who constantly refers to his Island roots. Surely, the fact that his primary residence was not there was a non issue.
The Harper motto is, "Saying makes it so." The problem is that, as neat as it sounds, it's patently untrue. And a man who believes it is not to be trusted -- in both small and large matters. In Mr. Harper's own words, his judgement is "appalling and disappointing."