Mike Duffy's trial starts today. You can bet that the Harper machine will try to keep the focus exclusively on Duffy. But, Lawrence Martin writes, political scandal has a habit of sweeping away many players as it rolls across the landscape -- and that includes governments:
Going all the way back to the 1950s, ethics has been a major player in the fate of our governments. A prime reason for the defeat of the Liberals in 1957 was the defiant invoking of closure by the Louis St. Laurent government in the TransCanada Pipeline debate. A series of scandals involving his Quebec ministers were instrumental in preventing Lester Pearson from ever winning a majority. In 1984, Pierre Trudeau saddled successor John Turner with a tawdry list of patronage appointments.
They hung over Mr. Turner like a dead skunk in his subsequent demolition at the hands of Brian Mulroney.The Mulroney government’s reputation was then damaged by ministerial scandals. Sleaze, real or imagined, tarred Mr. Mulroney’s own reputation, contributing to his decision to step down in 1993 when his popularity was below sea level. And we all know the impact of the sponsorship scandal on the Liberals of Mr. Chrétien and Paul Martin.
With those Liberals, it took time and a major scandal before Canadians made them pay a big price. With the Harper Conservatives, ethical issues, including the Prime Minister being found in contempt of Parliament, did not factor into the 2011 election result.
None of these scandals blew up and were over like a summer storm. They took time to develop. But eventually they brought the House down. And the accumulation of evidence suggesting Harperian abuse of power is now very long:
If you wanted to go into detail, you could fill an entire page of news print with the ethical transgressions of this government that have undermined the democratic process.They’ve become so common they hardly make news any more. A recent example is Bill C-51, the new and widely condemned security legislation that interferes with Canadians’ privacy. What did the Conservatives do? They voted to block Canada’s privacy commissioner from testifying at committee hearings on the bill. It’s a small example of how petty and pathetically partisan they are.
The Duffy trial plays directly into that narrative. What's different now is that it has become the Main Event.