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Thank you for visiting my website. I hope this offers you useful information on the work I am doing as Wascana’s Member of Parliament and Deputy Leader of the Liberal Opposition in the House of Commons.
If you have any questions or comments about any federal program or service, or need help dealing with any department or agency of the Government of Canada, please don’t hesitate to contact my Constituency Office. It is an honour to serve our community.
As we commemorate Queen Victoria’s birthday this week, it’s fitting to recall Her Majesty’s acerbic way of conveying her Royal displeasure when events didn’t measure up to her expectations. “We are not amused,” she would intone indignantly.
One can imagine those same words — and that same indignation — coming from millions of Canadians these days as they witness the self-inflicted ethical and legal crisis that has enveloped the Harper government. Far from amusing, it’s appalling. It shatters the public’s trust.
The problem relates to controversial expense claims made by certain Senators. It has been ongoing for months, including forensic audits conducted by Deloitte. It all began to boil over on May 9th when the Conservative-controlled Senate published its reports about those audits.
They revealed serious improper expense charges – particularly some $90,000 wrongfully billed by former TV announcer, now-Conservative Senator, Mike Duffy. Back in February, after weeks of obfuscation, Duffy had admitted his false claims and suddenly repaid the entire amount. He then refused to cooperate with Deloitte in any way.
On May 9th, without allowing any opportunity for the audit reports even to be read, Conservatives sought unanimous consent to rubber-stamp them sight-unseen. Why this unseemly rush? Liberal Senators smelled a rat, refused consent, and demanded proper time to scrutinize the reports and pursue further investigations, including by the police if necessary.
Liberals also uncovered documentary evidence that suggested Duffy had been given a heads-up by his Conservative colleagues about damning details in the audit, and further evidence that the final report on Duffy had been substantially watered down by the Conservatives who wrote it.
All that is bad enough, but it got worse. On the following Monday, the Chief-of-Staff to Stephen Harper, multi-millionaire Nigel Wright, revealed that he had cut a personal cheque to Mike Duffy for more than $90,000 to allow Duffy to make that repayment that he bragged about last February.
That money obviously had the effect of obstructing the forensic audit on Duffy. It was also followed by the suspicious special treatment afforded to Duffy by the Conservative-controlled Senate, as noted above. Was there a connection?
Where is the cancelled cheque? Was there a Memo of Agreement beyond just the cheque itself? Who drafted it? Were lawyers in the Prime Minister’s Office or the Privy Council Office involved? Who else knew about this deal? Mr. Wright says Stephen Harper did not know “the means” by which Duffy’s repayment was made – but never mind “the means”, what did he know of the repayment scheme overall? What did Mr. Wright get for his money, and was Duffy obliged to do anything other than just repay his claims?
Serious questions abound. The police, ethics officers, Elections Canada, both House of Parliament and a great many Canadians are looking for complete, honest answers. But none are forthcoming. The Conservative strategy so far is to throw their impugned colleagues under the bus – first Duffy, then Pamela Wallin (another Conservative Senator with an audit problem), then yesterday Mr. Wright.
But this issue isn’t about them. It’s about Stephen Harper. And his willful blindness is not a good explanation.
He appointed all these people to be “public office holders”. They owe their allegiances to him. They did his bidding. He insists on tight control over all governmental activity and information. He carries the final responsibility. Only he can be accountable.
But ever since this issue exploded, Mr. Harper has been in hiding, nowhere to be found. A secret $90,000 deal is cut in the PMO with appalling public consequences, and Mr. Harper refuses to answer a single question for over a week. And then he slips out of the country to go to South America. Such behaviour is disrespectful of Canadians and a violation of their trust.
There is a stench to this whole affair that will surely follow Mr. Harper across the equator to the other end of the earth.
There is no room under the bus for any more scapegoats. The issue is not Wright or Duffy or Wallin. The issue is Stephen Harper. He is the all-controlling centre of all action in this government. The claim that he was out of the loop just doesn’t wash.
The behaviour of his office caused a forensic audit in the Senate to be terminated. Who else knew in the PMO? Were the lawyers in the PCO informed and involved?
This stinks from beginning to end. The Prime Minister’s wilfull blindness is a travesty. All threads lead to him and only he can provide full accountability.
His total absence on this file smacks of cowardice!
Despite being promised endless federal largess if they voted Conservative and despite being threatened with equally endless abuse and neglect if they didn’t, voters in yesterday’s by-election in Labrador resoundingly rejected Stephen Harper and elected a new Liberal Member of Parliament.
A former member of the provincial legislature in St. John’s, Yvonne Jones captured nearly 50% of the popular vote, trouncing the impugned Conservative candidate, Peter Penashue.
Penashue took Labrador in the 2011 general election by the tiny margin of 79 votes. To prop him up, Mr. Harper gave him a Cabinet seat, but over the ensuing two years his track record as Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs was essentially nil. He became best known for the illegal fundraising and spending practices that enshrouded his 2011 campaign.
This past March, after months of denials and excuses, Penashue suddenly resigned from both the House of Commons and Cabinet, admitting the “irregularities” that tainted his election. Before any investigation could be finished and the full truth disclosed, Mr. Harper declared his everlasting faith in Panashue, called a snap by-election and appointed him as the “new” Conservative candidate.
Labrador voters clearly saw through that attempted white-wash. They rejected all the bribes and threats. They voted strongly against illegal campaign conduct. And they voted for new hope for the future.
The Liberal Caucus in Ottawa has thus been enlarged. The House of Commons has gained an articulate new MP. And Justin Trudeau has earned his first by-election victory.
For Liberals, this is an opportunity to savour a sense of renewal and growth. But it’s also a time to read carefully what voters are saying with their ballots.
They want higher standards in political life. They want candidates they can trust. They want MPs who will stand-up for their ridings and speak truth to power – especially the all-consuming power in the Prime Minister’s Office.
The public’s trust is a precious thing. You can’t just expect it or demand it. You have to earn it, and always treat it with the greatest respect.
That’s exactly what Justin Trudeau is now working so hard to do – reaching far beyond the partisan games that dominate the political bubble around Ottawa, and rallying Canadians around a better vision of what this country has the capacity to become.
It’s all built on hope and trust.
Earlier this spring, the Harper Conservatives faced a choice in their spending plans. They could invest in jobs for unemployed young Canadians (especially summer jobs for students). Or they could waste your tax dollars on expensive television advertising about their so-called "economic action plan" which is obviously a miserable failure as far as young people are concerned.
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