In 2008, when Stephen Harper cut public funding for political parties, the opposition rose and threatened to take down his nascent government. He prorogued Parliament and bellowed that the other parties were engaged in a conspiracy to deny Canadians the minority government of their choice.
In 2011, after being found in contempt of Parliament, he declared that "contempt" merely meant being outvoted, then raged rabidly about "separatist coalitions." Now, when the political threat comes from within his own ranks, he rages at those he appointed.
The pattern is pretty clear: Stephen Harper assigns blame, but he accepts none. And that, Andrew Coyne writes, is the problem:
As diverting as these tales of petty vendettas and double-crosses and he saids-she saids may be, it is important not to lose the thread. We can marvel at how much this or that senator claimed on his or her expense account, we can debate whether it was smart tactics to threaten so and so with such and such. But what’s essential is to ensure that the integrity of public office is upheld. That’s what makes this such a big story. That’s why it matters.
Harper is working very hard to make sure that Canadians lose the real thread -- because it winds its way back to him:
This is what makes the prime minister’s interventions in the House this week so problematic, in hindsight. Granted, he has been suspected from the start of having directed the secret payment to Duffy, and the subsequent whitewashing of his misdeeds. And indeed Duffy’s peculiarly blinkered sense of outrage, that the prime minister should have demanded he repay expenses he had falsely claimed, gave him the opportunity, as I wrote last time, to turn the situation to his advantage. No, he had no knowledge of Wright’s activities. But had he ordered Duffy to repay? “Darn right I did!” Was he in support of the Senate motion to suspend all three senators without pay? “Unequivocally.”
But in so doing the prime minister, more than anyone has to date, made himself the issue. By boasting of how he had been the one to bring Duffy to account, he was in effect saying: I am the standard. I am the enforcer. The rules are what I say they are, and I will decide in any given case what punishment should be given out.
The prime minister has always insisted that he makes the rules -- parliamentary conventions and the law be damned. The result is that he has thoroughly corrupted the Canadian political system. The late Gore Vidal claimed that modern Republicans possessed a Reverse Midas Touch. "Everything they touch," he said, "turns to poo."
The same can be said of Stephen Harper.