Thursday, May 30, 2013

Looking The Other Way

Over the last two days, Stephen Harper has tried every trick he knows to distance himself from Mike Duffy and Nigel Wright. But, Andrew Coyne writes, the quagmire in which Mr. Harper finds himself is about much more than those two men:

The government’s multiplying, metastasizing scandals — from Duffy’s improper expense claims to the efforts, apparently coordinated between the Prime Minister’s Office and senior Tory Senators, to cover these up, to the robocalls affair, to the arrest on charges of fraud and money laundering of Arthur Porter, the prime minister’s choice for chairman of the Security Intelligence Review Committee — are not, in my view, wholly unrelated. Rather, they stem from a culture that has taken root among the Conservative hierarchy — a culture of expediency.

For Stephen Harper, being found in contempt of parliament was merely a matter of being outvoted -- and winning a majority meant being able to do whatever he pleased. Those two propositions are the source of the government's problems, which is to say, all roads lead back to who Harper is:

People don’t make ethical choices in isolation. They take their cues from those around and above them. Maybe Duffy’s expense padding had its roots in the Senate’s historically lax culture: indeed, given the absence of controls on senators’ expenses, it would be astonishing if only a couple of senators had succumbed to the temptation this presented.

But the efforts to cover this up, like the obstruction of the robocalls investigation or the curious lack of due diligence in the Porter appointment, are suggestive of something else: a habit of looking the other way at bad behaviour, if not actually encouraging it; and, when it is brought to light, of denying, and minimizing, and explaining it away.

And that is what Mr. Harper is trying to do -- explain it away. It's a strategy that has worked for the last six years. And it may yet work again. Coyne believes we will probably never get the answers the opposition keeps demanding.

But, then again, Canadians may refuse to look the other way and just throw the bums out. That's usually how it works.

No comments: