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PUNDITOLOGY: What They’re Saying About The Senate Expense Scandal
October 25, 2013
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The Senate expense scandal continues to dominate the news — if you haven't been following the twists and turns, check out this interactive look at the players, and visit CBC News at 2 p.m. today for a live chat with Kady O'Malley, Terry Milewski and Leslie MacKinnon about the ongoing scandal.

Below, we've got a roundup of what some media commentators are saying about the unfolding situation.

Don Martin, CTV "In politics, perception is reality and the truth is negotiable"

Be wary of commentators who view the fallout from Duffy’s rant as a graveyard plot with Harper’s credibility carved on the tombstone. This is not yet a lasting political or electoral threat to the prime minister [...] The public listening to the protestations of the coddled trio who landed a cushy job under questionable pretenses will hear “gross negligence” and “suspended” and “without pay” and “Harper” – and they may feel the right thing was done. The fact this was orchestrated by goons in Harper’s office who ignored judicial process may not matter as much given the low public esteem reserved for the senatorial trio up for suspension.

J.J. McCullough, Huffington Post Canada "Media Bites: A Few Selfish Senators Do Not a Scandal Make"

Responding to the latest allegations in question period the other day, the Prime Minister didn't say much, but what he did say was precisely right: "We've been very clear that we expect all parliamentarians to respect the letter and the spirit of any rules regarding expenses and if they do not respect that, then they can expect there to be consequences and accountability for their actions." Every word of that statement wonderfully illustrates just how pathetically weak the Duffy-Brazeau defenses are, and why I'm supremely skeptical this scandal will prove to be the giant-killer many in the press are anticipating (hoping?). [...] For whatever stumbles and misstatements and cover-ups were made along the way, at its core, the Prime Minister's role in the Senate expense affair is a story about the elected head of the government of Canada demanding some shred of accountability and ethics from a crooked political institution whose members believe they have no obligation to provide either. That's not a scandal.

Chris Hall, CBC News "Senate expense scandal: The Mike Duffy-Stephen Harper credibility war"

Duffy's effort to recast himself from villain to victim is having an impact [...] it creates a credibility contest between Harper and Duffy. For the first time, the senator's version of the story is being given a full public airing, and, for the time being at least, he's casting doubts about the government's version of events [...] It's now Duffy's word against the prime minister's. A battle for credibility that only one of them can win.

Michael Den Tandt, Postmedia News "Senate scandal could bring down Tories"

So, that's it then: The Senate expense scandal is now a mortal threat to Prime Minister Stephen Harper's career, and the future electoral prospects of his Conservative government. And all it took, astonishingly, was two of the "accused," Sen. Mike Duffy and Sen. Patrick Brazeau, standing up in the Red Chamber and telling, just for a few minutes apiece, their side of the story. [...] Bottom line: If Duffy and Brazeau can make an even semi-plausible case for their victimization by the PMO, then the government has a much bigger problem than any amount of deflection can possibly manage. The truth will out. Put the principals under oath, and get it over with.

Tim Harper, The Toronto Star "Senate scandal: Upper chamber makes a case for its abolition"

As it moved to rid itself of three embarrassments this week, our Senate was cementing its own reputation as our national embarrassment. For three days, a chamber that bills itself as the home of sober second thought stumbled along like a drunk brandishing a knife, seemingly intent on a public execution that ignores every Canadian tradition of due process or rule of law.

Lori Turnbull, The Globe and Mail "On cheque to Mike Duffy, the buck stops at the Prime Minister"

Senators are supposed to be independent – their appointment is protected till mandatory retirement at age 75 – so it is shocking to hear Mr. Duffy accusing the PMO of trying to intimidate him. These offices are to be kept separate from one another. The fact that the prime minister appoints Senators does not mean that Senators serve at his pleasure. However, political appointees in the PMO do serve at pleasure and, as the only elected representative in the PMO, the Prime Minister must answer for the actions of his appointees. This is what ministerial responsibility means in a parliamentary system like ours. It’s our only way of holding political appointees accountable – indirectly through the ministers who appoint them. Mr. Harper claims that he was not aware of Mr. Wright’s payment to Senator Duffy but, even if this is the case, it is his job to know.

Lawrence Martin, iPolitics "The Duffy affair: The record speaks volumes"

Duffy’s testimony is disastrous for Harper because we so seldom get an insider spelling it out like this, an insider who had been one the party’s favourite people. The PMO likely will be able to poke some holes in the Duffy account. But since Duffy’s lawyer claims to have documented evidence, it might not be easy [...] The Conservatives hold their party convention in Calgary next week. The Senate scandal is sure to cast a shadow over it. The throne speech was designed to set the government off on a spritely new agenda for the next couple of years. But it went over like a lead balloon and there appears to be little in the way of major new policy ventures to distract from the story that cripples Harper most: abuse of power. To date, he’s gotten away with a lot of it. But it could be catching up with him. Live by the sword, die by the sword.


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