At several junctures in last night's debate, Justin Trudeau interrupted Stephen Harper with a simple declarative sentence: "That's not true." Mr. Harper's government has distinguished itself with its in-your-face dishonesty. But, Michael Harris writes, it is even more noteworthy for its in-your-face corruption:
Cheating, lying and misleading the House of Commons, elevating the ethically dubious to high office — these are not good character references for any party leader. For Harper — who leads a party that prides itself on its moral values — they could be fatal.
The news this week was full of Tory roadkill. Harper Senate appointee Patrick Brazeau entered a guilty plea to assault and cocaine charges. A sexual assault charge was dropped, along with three other criminal charges, but Brazeau still faces a drunk driving charge and a criminal trial on fraud charges over his disputed Senate expenses. Despite all of that, he’s still hoping for an absolute discharge and a return to the Red Chamber. Not a winner with the base.
Nor were the revelations that came out at Bruce Carson’s trial this week. The Crown produced evidence it says shows the former Harper advisor using his government contacts — some at cabinet level — to advance a scheme to enrich his then-fiancé, a former Ottawa sex trade worker.
Carson was hired by Harper as a key advisor despite having done jail time for fraud and theft (which Carson disclosed during the vetting process for his security clearance. He even had cabinet minister John Duncan’s staff writing ‘media lines’ for him that were essentially aimed at misleading journalists and the public about Carson’s role in selling water treatment systems to First Nations reserves. It looked and smelled a lot like the PMO manipulations in the Mike Duffy case. The judge has reserved judgment in Carson’s case; he’ll face charges for illegal lobbying next year.
Harper famously hid in a closet earlier this year. When he came out, Harris writes, he dragged his skeletons with him. And now that they are on full view, his base is not pleased. A recent Abacus poll found:
that Conservative voters are the ones least likely to say their party’s leader really wants their vote (67 per cent), has values that line up with their own (46 per cent) and has new ideas about how to improve the economy (52 per cent.)
Compare that to the Liberal camp, where 85 per cent say Trudeau wants their vote, 56 per cent believe his values are pretty much the same as theirs, and 80 per cent say he has new ideas about “how to improve the country.” Mulcair also enjoys a much stronger level of commitment from his supporters than Harper, though his numbers were “not quite as strong as those of Mr. Trudeau,” according to the poll.
Perhaps Harper should have stayed in the closet.