This has not been a good year for Stephen Harper. It began with Harper unleashing the Deloitte audit dogs on Chief Theresa Spence. And it ended with his attempt to call them off Mike Duffy. Between the Deloitte bookends, it was one debacle after another. Michael Harris writes:
The PM had come across for First Nations all right. He apologized and promised “change”, but he delivered the paternalistic status quo — and budget cuts to bands from coast to coast. He did his best to destroy Chief Spence in a very public humiliation. He left the reputation of National Chief Sean Atleo in tatters.
Of greater tactical significance, he divided the Assembly of First Nations. Tellingly, Harper’s approval ratings rose as a result of beating up on the poorest demographic in Canada — a sign of where this PM has led Canadian public opinion.
Then, having put the screws to Canada's native peoples, the news of administrative screw ups fell like freezing rain on an already snow covered road:
It came to light that Human Resources minister Diane Finley had somehow lost the computer records of 538,000 young student loan holders, including their contact information. Despite the apologies, it was disquieting.
A court decision in 2013 found that there had indeed been fraud in the 2011 election that gave Harper his majority. Fraudsters directed voters to the wrong polls using a list the judge in that case said was identical to the one in the Conservative party database. Based on previous Conservative electoral dirty pool, including the in-and-out scandal, it wasn’t strange that people were concerned about Finley’s data loss.
A huge list of what was potentially the most important voter demographic in the next federal election had somehow walked out the door of Finley’s Human Resources department. Whatever was behind the mystery, it was hardly an endorsement of Conservative management skills and it might be a sign of something far darker.
But there was more than missing names:
As ironic as that was, greater ironies lay ahead. In his report to Parliament in 2013, Auditor-General Michael Ferguson reported that he could not find $3.1 billion from the Public Security and Anti-Terror initiative. The reply from the Harper government came from Treasury Board President Tony Clement: It was okay because no one was saying the money had been misspent. Coming from Gazebo Tony, that was a very great comfort indeed.
And, of course, there was the Senate scandal, which refuses to die. This was the year that Canadians learned for certain that Stephen Harper has no eye for talent and no talent for administration.
It was not a banner year.