Zorg Report: Always Join a Club of Which You Weren’t a Member: Mike Duffy and the Senate

Abstract:  Whatever happens in the Mike Duffy trial, let’s not forget one thing: Duffy watched the Senate for decades, and he wanted a part of it.  Whatever might be said of his actions, or of the (comically alleged) hear-no-evil, speak-no-evil, see-no-evil members of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s most intimate inner circle, the Duffster knew, from long, long experience, that the Senate was the place to be for easy money.  That the Duffster, an ultimate insider, knew what the Senate was like for so long, and so desperately longed to get into it, should make all Liberal and Conservative supporters wonder why they so enthusiastically support, for purely partisan reasons, the red chamber.  That’s red as in your money disappearing.

 No-one seems to be all that preoccupied by the fact that a guy who reported on politicians for decades so desperately wanted to be an unelected one.  I submit that that is a problem.

Sure the Duffy trial is annoying, but let’s not forget that the Duffster was watching it for decades; he knew what was going on, and he knew what he could get, and he wanted it, badly.  Mix in some party work, and the “Senate” becomes a taxpayer-funded propaganda instrument, even more expensive than the $75 million you already spent (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/that-75-million-in-ads-you-paid-for/article23824771/).  To what extent are Peter Mansbridge and Lisa LaFlamme already sizing up their opportunities, solidifying their contacts, making sure they’re at the head of the line?  You’d have to be mentally absent to think that Mansbridge and LaFlamme are not going to be your handsomely-paid and expensed senatorial representatives just a few years from now.


Key thing to remember about the Duffster, lest we all lose sight of it, is that the Duffster was a Hill veteran for years.  He knew the ins ands outs, and the in-and-outs.  He angled like an obsessed man for his appointment, even launching lawsuits against those he thought hurt his entitlement opportunities (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_Duffy).   Now, you could say, well, Mike was just tired of being a journalist and wanted to get in on the real political action in a partisan way his “journalistic” profession had “technically” always denied him.  I’d almost respect him for that—Mike Duffy waking up one day and saying, “Gee, I’m a Conservative, and I’m going to dedicate the rest of my life to that cause.”

But no, that’s not how it works.  Mike Duffy was there, all the time, and though he may have been more craven than most, he admired and was utterly smitten by the lawlessness of the entire Senate, the easy access to taxpayer money, the unashamed and mock-serious gloating of the party hack appointees.  He watched it for decades, and he wanted a part of that moral- and tax- and cost-free zone.  Who wouldn’t?  It says much, much indeed that Liberal and Conservative supporters have cherished, for partisan and publicly extortionate reasons, a body that, from its origins, was intended to preserve privilege, as opposed to initiative (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_senate).  Good ol’ Bertie Brown, the great Conservative farmer-senate-reformer Senator, was able to ring up over $330 000 in expenses in just one year (http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/canadas-only-elected-senator-also-the-most-expensive).  I’ve never met Bert Brown, but I know kinfolk like his, and all of them would be ashamed and disgusted to know that they had ever known such an individual as him.  His family will for generations be remembered as the one that used Canadian taxpayers for massive personal emolument while pretending to be on their sides.

The occasional jurisdiction has eliminated senatorial entitlement (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_abolished_upper_houses), and not necessarily for altruistic reasons.

Nancy Ruth, who objected to cold cheese and crumbled crackers on airplanes, raised a valid point when she said that “flying around the world” (in her case, for basic Senate purposes, Toronto to Ottawa), was something that others “just didn’t understand” (http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2015/04/01/liberal-nancy-ruth-says-auditors-dont-understand-what-being-senator-is-like.html).  When you’re accustomed to such entitlement, you just go with the flow and take it as it comes, and it does become very easy to blend the private with the professional.  Yet it *can*, pace entitled Nancy Ruth, be hard to differentiate between legitimate personal expenses and professional ones.  They *can* blend. And sometimes, there *are* grey areas.  But, by appointing only party hacks and promoters, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has clearly upped the game—to be a Senator now, as Pamela Wallin and Duffy have shown, is not really about not being very clear on the already rather fuzzy rules; it’s about exploiting whatever fuzziness there is (Dean del Mastro, anyone?) for partisan Conservative purposes to indebt Canadian taxpayers for ideological reasons.

And there, really, is the rub.  Mike Duffy, who knew what was going on for decades, wanted a piece of the action.  Stephen Harper, operating in a personal moral-free zone with respect to taxpayers, liked the cut of the Duffster’s jib, and wanted some of the Duffster’s ample influence for his own: hence, the Senate. 

Plus ca change, ou est-ce qu’on peut change?




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