Yesterday Stephen Harper held a pep rally and beat it out of town. He gave no answers. He thinks it will go away. But, as Lawrence Martin wrote yesterday in the Globe and Mail, the integrity issue is reaching a critical mass. It's not about Mike Duffy or Nigel Wright anymore. It's about Stephen Harper himself, for the government and the man are one:
Mr. Harper and his band might be able to make people forget about the Senate scandal, and other affronts to the integrity of the system. But there’s simply too much out there for this government to escape the reckoning – a dire one.
Yet the Harperites still think they can avoid that reckoning:
It’s remarkable what this government thinks it can get away with. The Canadian Press is reporting that Team Harper is buying ads on the taxpayer dime to promote a job grant program that doesn’t yet exist. The ads began running in prime-time slots this week. Peter Van Loan, the government House Leader, described the Canada Jobs Grant program as a “proposal that needs to be fleshed out and developed fully.” Thus far, it hasn’t even got the approval of the provinces. Yet, our money is being used to advertise it.
Last week, The Globe and Mail revealed the Conservatives withheld tens of thousands of documents it was obligated to disclose as part of a human-rights case in which it’s accused of discriminating against indigenous children. Now, according to The Globe, the government is using its failure to hand over the files to try to get the proceedings put on hold.
We’ve learned the Tories can’t account for $3-billion from the security and anti-terrorism budget. Before this, before their attacks ads, we saw the Speaker of the Commons, himself a Tory, issuing a ruling that, in effect, repudiated Mr. Harper’s gagging of his own MPs. One wonders where Nigel Wright was on some of these abuses. Maybe he tried to do something but was rebuffed.
Three times before, when Harper's arrogance threatened to torpedo his government, he created a diversion. In 2008, when he ended public funding for political parties, he prorogued Parliament and came back with a stimulus program which he is still advertising today. In 2009, when he refused to hand over documents concerning the detention of Afghan prisoners, he again prorogued Parliament. In 2011, when Parliament found his government in contempt, he raised the bogeyman of a "separatist coalition" and scared enough Canadians to win a majority.
This time the bogeyman is in his office. And it is real. Harper will probably try to shut things down again. But Canadians have reached their Howard Beale moment.