Saundrie

After much prodding by other bloggers, I set this up for my own writings. The name is in honour of the two women that mentored me throughout my life on politics and intelligence issues, as well as being wonderful family members, now alas deceased. I hope to live up to their standards at this site.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Harper apparantly does not feel bound by the same ethical requirements of other MPs, or PMs for that matter

Just who does Stephen Harper think he is?!? This is the second time out of two occasions where he has been involved in an Ethics Commissioner investigation, and the second time he he brushes it aside. The last time he was too busy from August to November of 2005 to meet with Shapiro in his investigation into the Grewal affair, and now he decides that he doesn't have to be investigated for the Emerson crossing, despite the filing of complaints by several MPs AND from the general public. This is the third significant questionable ethics issue Harper has involved himself in since becoming PM. The first of course was Emerson, the second was Fortier, and now his decision that he is above the conflict of interest guidelines and the enforcement mechanism (Ethics Commissioner) Parliament put into place.

Now that there is to be an investigation of him Harper feels that it is his prerogative to dismiss the investigator as a 'partisan Liberal' and therefore does not have any authority to investigate his actions regarding Emerson. Well, I wonder if that was the same attitude while as Leader of the Official Opposition that led him to be too busy to be interviewed by Shapiro last year regarding his actions into the Grewal fraud.

*Thanks to Buckets of Grewal and his work for the links regarding Grewal, I couldn't have done it without them*

Let us remember the Grewal fraud for a moment. This was a CPC MP who on May 18 05 announced to the media that he had conclusive evidence of the Liberals and the PMO in particular of being willing to offer a Senate seat and/or an Ambassadorship for his and his wife's vote. This kicked off a firestorm, especially after Grewal released eight minutes of recorded material which appeared to corroborate his allegation. However, he in the same interview also claimed to have four hours of recorded material. Then for the next twelve days the recordings are translated, transcribed, and authenticated solely by the Office of the Official Opposition (at the time Harper's office). Then on May 31 05 the CPC releases through Grewal's website the "full" complete "pristine" recordings for all Canadians to see the Liberals selling Senate seats for MP votes, a clear violation of the Ethics code and very likely a criminal offence as well. For the next 48 hrs the CPC hammers at the Liberals and PM Martin about this, claim that any call by any Liberal that there was missing material and/or editing done was a complete fabrication, a desperate smokescreen to try and avoid facing the consequences of their actions as recorded by Grewal and authenticated by the CPC and Harper's office.

Then however the cracks begin to appear. First one sound expert then another using the recordings released on May 31 05 by the CPC find evidence of editing. The CPC/Harper continues to claim no missing material let alone editing until June 2 05. Then they acknowledge missing material in the self described suicide note that technical errors had caused them to lose a few seconds of material, but that it was not pertinent material and they provide the missing material in the note. This is the only time that the CPC acknowledges the possibility of missing material officially. Then Friday June 3 05, and guess what happens? On May 31 05 the "full" recorded material was released, and this was approx 75 minutes of material. Well starting the weekend of June 3 05 an additional 35 minutes of additional material is released in two groups of 15 and 20 minutes, and worse it ends up that much of this was material EDITED from the May 31 05 release, that once put into place significantly alters the context of the discussions, makes Grewal look worse and the Liberals better and for the kicker had conclusive proof that the Liberals flatly rejected any talk of Senate seats despite Grewal's repeatedly bringing it up. Yet throughout these additional releases the CPC gives no public notice of any type that they are releasing this additional material.

So by the middle of June 2005 the scandal of the century the CPC and Harper had regaled Canadians with, the one about how the Liberals were buying MPs and how they had conclusive proof of this, turns out to be a figment of someone's imagination. Someone edited those recordings. We do not know who. If it was Grewal then he placed Harper and the CPC in a very nasty position by making them a party to a fraud and a slander. However, if this was the case then Harper should have reprimanded Grewal publicly for this and taken appropriate sanctions against Grewal, and apologized to Canadians for having trusted one of his MPs more than he should have. If he had done that then this would have been accepted by most Canadians including myself and my anger/contempt would be reserved for Grewal alone. I might have been a bit annoyed with Harper for not doing better due diligence but I would have accepted that these things unfortunately can happen. Instead though all Harper does is let Grewal go on paid stress leave while continuing to defend him and his actions completely. However, if someone in the LOO was the editor then we have a major ethical issue and scandal of a whole other kind.

Stop and consider this for a moment. If the LOO had the full recordings from the outset as they supposedly had, why then did they not notice the time difference between their originals and the release of May 31 05? After all 35 minutes missing is not exactly hard to notice as a difference in run times. Yet they clearly did not. Indeed, they continued to vouch for the authenticity and completeness of the May 31 05 release. This to my mind means that either they did not have the full material and that could only be because Grewal was holding them back despite having said he turned them all over to the LOO, or that they were aware of the edits because they had played a role in them. Seeing as the former possibility should have brought the wrath of Harper down on Grewal for his actions harming the CPC and didn't it leaves the latter as a viable explanation, especially since to this day Harper and the CPC have never formally acknowledged that they released edited recordings in the first place. Indeed the only acknowledgement ever was from Harper at the last Press Gallery dinner when he made a joke about it.

So then the Ethics commissioner goes investigating. Harper was one of the people directly involved so it was only natural that Shapiro would want to speak to him, indeed his job would require it of him. Instead though Harper brushes him aside for months, and at the end sends in an assistant who also happens to be a primary player in the Grewal affair in his place, this being Geoff Norquay. Norquay was the communications head for Harper, was the man responsible for the communications strategy the CPC/Grewal used from May 18 05 onwards until the fraud came apart, indeed was the PR man laying down the groundwork the day before the first release of May 18 05 on shows like Politics with Don Newman. So he is someone with a direct stake in this not becoming a serious investigation as well as being a principal Shapiro needed to talk to as well. What this comes down to is that Harper for whatever reason flatly refused to discuss his and his party's most serious scandal with the person charged by PARLIAMENT to investigate ethical conduct by ALL MPs. For those interested the final report by Shapiro into the Grewal affair can be found here.

Now we have Harper stating he can ignore this investigation into the Emerson cross and whether Harper bribed him with a Cabinet position. Stop and think about this for a moment. This is the man that has been on a crusade for years to improve the ethical quality of Parliament and especially government. He has chanted accountability and transparency wherever he went as LOO and through the last two election campaigns. He spent last spring crusading about accountability. Yet when it is time for him to act in a responsible and accountable manner as he constantly insisted others, especially Liberals do, why then he cannot be bothered. Instead he is more interested in attacking the investigator and preventing any such investigation, well at least until/unless he can put one of his own in the office instead of someone he has no influence over. Which is of course inherently corrupt, since if anything the Ethics Commissioner should not be in under the ability of any MP, even the PM to influence. So here we see Mr. Accountability yet again running as hard and fast as he can from any accountability for the ethical questions his own actions and decisions have asked.

Harper sure can talk the talk about ethics and accountability, but every one of his actions when it comes to his walking the walk himself have shown him to be a lying hypocritical coward. His actions throughout the Grewal affair, his denial of any wrongdoing in it, his refusal to meet with the Ethics Commissioner about that affair when it was being investigated, his promise never to have an unelected member of his Cabinet during the election shattered by the Fortier appointment to Senate and then Cabinet, his willingness to induce a floor crossing by a Liberal by offering a Cabinet position (again, qualifications are not at issue here, it is the ethics of doing so that are) and now his refusal to submit to this investigation.

If Harper is willing to be this arrogant, this presumptuous while with the weakest minority government in our history, what arrogance/hubris/presumption would he be comfortable with if he actually had a majority government?!? I have always said that Harper was more interested and governed by expediency and power hunger than anything remotely resembling principles. From his campaign to become CA leader to his conduct in the PCPC/CA merger, to his use of his leadership position to help secure the first CPC leadership position to the Grewal fraud he pushed with such intensity, to his failure to meet with Shapiro to his Cabinet selections his actions are full of "do as I say, not as I do" contradictions. When I determine someone's credibility as a leader it is by how closely their words are matched by their deeds, especially when it is in dealing with a challenge within their own side. Harper has failed that test at every turn, and he is failing it again now. This man is not a dictator, yet his attitude of arrogance is that of one. Which should cause everyone pause when they consider that a majority PM is fairly close to one in practice and what Harper would decide to do if he had a majority given his actions/arrogance to date is a blood chilling thought indeed.

Harper cannot be allowed to simply make the rules to suit him like this, it is wrong and it is supposedly the reason the Liberals and Martin had to be removed, because they were too arrogant and corrupted by power. Well he has only been in power several weeks and already Harper is demonstrating the arrogance and corruption of ethics that took the Liberals a dozen years and three majorities in a row to develop, and he has done so with a very weak minority government. Past behaviour indicates future conduct, and Harper's should scare anyone.

*update*

Thanks to The Dan Report I found a link which shows that PM Harper strengthened the powers of the Ethics Commissioner, in particular so that "reports and findings of the Ethics Commissioner are final and may not be overturned by the Prime Minister." (quote from bottom of the article) as one of his first acts as PM. Got to love the talking from both sides of his mouth in his actions. On the one hand he makes Ethics Commissioner Shapiro more powerful in one of his first acts as PM on the other hand when he himself is looking at being investigated by the Commissioner he strengthed suddenly the Ethics Commissioner is a partisan operative that has no credibility and cannot be trusted. Well then Mr. Harper, if you were so convinced this man was unfit why then give him more power while he is still the Ethics Commissioner? I think this sudden concern for Shapiro's "partisanship" is yet another Harper/CPC deflection from having his actions investigated by anyone that might not give him a clean bill of health. In other words if there is no guarantee Harper will get the outcome he wants then he will not accept/tolerate being investigated regardless of the rules of Parliament and especially regarding the Ethics code for Parliamentarians of which he is still one. Then again, given the arrogance of his actions to date one would think he is accountable to no one other than his party, which while acceptable in an Opposition party leader is *NOT* an acceptable position for a PM of any party.

Oh yes, in case anyone is wondering why I am so focused on Harper's ethics, it is because he spent years crusading about the need for ethical reforms, for a PM with good ethics, and how if elected he would be that PM. I am holding him to the standards he set out for himself and the CPC, and it is nobody's fault than his own when they do not meet that standard, especially not when it is Harper himself failing that standard. Yet instead of showing personal responsibility and accountability like they preached over and over for years now Harper and the CPC appear just fine and dandy with being at least as ethically challenged as any preceding government. Which given the closeness Harper has found with Brian Mulroney and his crowd should surprise no one in the speed to which it has taken root in this "new" government. There is a reason this is a cliche, because it is all too true : "He who lives by the sword dies by the sword" and ethics, accountability, and honesty are the sword Harper is wounding himself and the CPC with.

10 Comments:

Blogger Scott in Montreal said...

Well put. Harper can only run away from this, but in doing so, damages his credibility. It's a no-win for him, I think, so in a last-ditch effort to mitigate the damage he pulls out the straw man argument that Shapiro is a partisan hack. The smell of the BS is pretty rank.

Sun Mar 05, 04:18:00 AM 2006  
Anonymous CuriosityKilledTheCat said...

Who shall guard the guards?

Clearly something stinks in Denmark (on the Rideau), and the stench emanates from both the former governing party and the current one. The average citizen reads or hears about the shenanigans and shakes his or her head, disbelievingly.

There are two issues: (1) Whether we need an ethics commissioner to keep Parliamentarians on the straight and narrow and if so what kind of commissioner with what kind of powers. (2) Should the Emerson-Harper deal be investigated and should Harper cooperate with the ethics commissioner.

In my view the answer in both cases is Yes.

Yes to a properly constituted Ethics Commissioner, appointed as a member of the civil service, with a legislated independent mandate, and an a mandate to be impartial.

Yes to Harper and Emerson cooperating with the Ethics Commissioner.

Stephen Harper campaigned on a platform of ethics, as Mr Clean, bringing a new broom to the capital city. He won a narrow victory. Now it is time for him to govern in a clean and ethical manner. By doing these two things – passing legislation for an independent ethics commissioner, and cooperating re the Emerson walkabout – he will be acting in accordance with promises made before the election.

By not doing these two things, he will be breaking promises made to the voters.

It is as simple as that, and no contortions of logic an obscure this moral simplicity.

Sun Mar 05, 12:42:00 PM 2006  
Anonymous Dana said...

Good post, Scotian. Your usual thouroughness.

Almost the moment it was announced that Shapiro was starting a file I started predicting the Happer supporters responses. They have run true to form and turned me into a seer of uncommon mundanity.

Does their predictability ever make them even the slightest bit uneasy I wonder.

Does it ever make them wonder whether there may be something suspect at the core of their beliefs, that non-believers can so accurately predict their behaviours with such absurd ease?

Do they not see that the Pavlovian predictablility of their responses to external stressors tells the world that they functionally operate at the intelligence level of dogs?

I suppose I'm answering my own question.

Every day, twice a day, I feed my dogs exactly the same food they get every time I feed them. Every day they are delighted to find that I've given them something deliciously brand new to eat and they dig in with grateful gusto and roll around joyfully on the floor after they've eaten.

It's a striking parallel.

Sun Mar 05, 01:07:00 PM 2006  
Anonymous GoodGrief said...

I agree with every one of your points. When the LOO sets himself up as the arbiter of ethics and morals that should be applied to the govening party, then reveals he has feet of clay as leader of the governing party in a minority, one can only dread what he would be capable of as the leader of a majority government. It reveals Harper as a crass opportunist who will say or do anything for power. Peter MacKay has a lot to answer for.

Sun Mar 05, 01:52:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Scotian said...

It occurs to me that one thing is proven by the information available on this so far. That Harper and the CPC have deliberately covered up who edited the May 31 05 release and that this has been an ongoing cover-up. That Mr. Honesty and Accountability had gone out of his way to dismiss the idea of any wrongdoing by any CPC party to this matter and always said it was the Liberals that should be the ones being questioned for wrongdoing and not him and the CPC.

This is no small thing we are talking about concealing. Whomever was responsible for the editing did so with the clear intent to libel/slander (sorry, can't remember which one applies here offhand) the sitting government and PM, did so with the probable intent to bring the government down (Which given the context of recovering from Stronach's defection this made a perfect foil to "prove" Stronach had been bought off/bribed by Martin's Liberals), and made the LOO Harper and his entire Party leadership in caucus also parties to this slander/libel.

Since we are talking about significant criminal offences here this concealment of this person or persons' identity is a serious issue. One could make the argument that by staying silent and protective of this identity(s) Harper is continuing to actively prevent any possible criminal investigation and potential charges that the editor would be facing for their action. Of course having anyone connected to the CPC, even a disgraced former MP that chose at the last moment to not run again for fear of his actions being used as a smear job against his party, criminally charged for their conduct in doing these edits would be very politically damaging for Harper. Having the leader himself connected in any way, especially if the motives come out and there is some sort of political dirty tricks element involved in it originating from other than Grewal to start with would be incredibly damaging to the current minority government and a potential career ender for Harper.

The more I think on this the more I think the central question needing to be asked is who was the editor of the May 31 05 release, and why has Harper and the CPC done nothing to identify this person and see they receive the appropriate consequences for placing Harper and the CPC in such an exposed position both politically and criminally. Everything else is secondary to the answers to these two questions, indeed I strongly suspect the answers to the two would end up filling in or at least lead to the answers for just about everything else. Harper's reluctance to deal a all with Shapiro in the Grewal affair is suggestive, and his refusal to do so over Emerson is even more so that he does have a dark/black side to his political operations and he is involved in decision making in it.

The more I look at these issues, especially Grewal but by no means limited to it anymore, the more I see something very ugly and dangerous to our country. I fear that many Conservative voters and even supporters/members may well not see this, or see a little of it but accept it as the necessary cost of operating in politics. I know many of them think I am obsessed regarding Grewal, and while I would disagree with that characterization I would say it is a serious issue for me and has been since it happened. However, what I am finding out is revealing about Harper and how he operates his party because of what I have learned from his words said and not said and his actions and inactions on the issue. These latest actions unfortunately do fit some rather ugly possibilities/potentials/patterns for abuse of power and a serious case of elitist mentality though, and that is not a good thing regardless of the political ideology of those involved.

We, as in all Canadians, need to keep a close eye on this government and make sure it is held to account as best as possible. Right now it appears to think it has a window of several months to a year to do what it wants pretty much before it will start really registering and being retained by Canadians to remember for the next election. This is when most of the really ugly aspects/elements are most likely to be visible and to leave a trail to follow and to show it really was there and had happened, even if at the time most of the country hadn't noticed. Thanks to the Emerson/Fortier scandal on his opening day as PM Harper is already provided first blood in this conflict, and it was his own blood and not his opponents that he provided. Harper has proven to me at least he will lie and protect someone that made him and his party potentially criminal liable for slander/libel, and will do so to the point of denying editing ever happened, EXCEPT once in a comedy bit for the Press Gallery Dinner. That not only is not accountability it is arrogant presumption and hubris in full display.

Imagine, joking about it when he had until that point refused to even admit that any editing was ever done! What nerve. Granted, I suppose he could argue he was basing the joke on the media perception he claimed it to be and not what he had always said it was but even so it was exceptionally tacky and more than a little contemptuous given his own actions/inactions in (not) dealing with this serious scandal in his own ranks.

Mon Mar 06, 01:48:00 AM 2006  
Anonymous john said...

How can you label the Emerson/Fortier issue a "scandal" when you have absolutely no evidence to support this other than your own interpretation? Before you judge, let all the facts be heard. That may not happen on your time table but it will happen. Then when you have all the evidence in front of you, you can form an intellectual opinion of the situation. Until then, it's just ifs and maybes. Remember the David Dingwall affair, things are not always as they first seem.

Mon Mar 06, 04:04:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Scott in Montreal said...

John, it's a scandal simply that the voters' intentions were thrown aside for a cabinet post. Everson didn't represent his constituents' democratic wishes for a split second. That in itself is a scandal.

Mon Mar 06, 07:07:00 PM 2006  
Anonymous Jason Townsend said...

I'm inclined to agree with the whole shooting match, Scotian; but are you familiar with libel law? (Obligatory WK joke deleted)

I don't know whether anything could be proven; "accidentally" misconstruing the meaning of the recordings may be far fetched, but I'm sure the evidence that could prove otherwise has been heartily destroyed.

Similarly, in the case of Emerson much hinges on Emerson's own supposed timeline of decision-making and motivations; it may be pretty damned unreasonable to believe that he had a pauline conversion the day after he won, but it isn't subject to proof or disproof.

Mon Mar 06, 07:46:00 PM 2006  
Anonymous CuriosityKilledTheCat said...

Brian is Back?

We noticed during the campaign that Harper was in almost daily contact with Brian Mulroney, and many of us suspected that Mulroney was behind Harper’s promise to Quebec to gut the federal government by transferring taxation powers from the centre to the provinces. All that for a mess of porridge in the form of less than a dozen Quebec seats. What a small number of silver shekels that deal resulted in ...

Now we see the suspicions confirmed in the article by Robin V. Sears in the March 2006 issue of Policy Options, if Spears is right. He writes:

“Meticulously tutored by Mulroney, the master of Quebec coalition politics, Harper has been sending many of the right signals to restless Quebec federalists: an appropriate role in international organizations, an acknowledgement that Ottawa takes too large a tax bite from all of the provinces, including Quebec, and recognition that excess revenue has fed a federal appetite to interfere in provincial jurisdictions.”

Just a minute, Mr. Spears! Mulroney was a master of Quebec coalition politics?? He is the Prime Minister who just about wrecked the country with his kowtowing to separatists in his desperate bid to gain and retain power for his party.

Some master!

Canadians should watch very carefully what Harper does in Quebec, given the nature of his mentor’s proven track record in sowing dissension in the country.

Harper might also ponder whether he should listen too carefully to a man who, after his leaving, saw his party melt down in the most spectacular implosion in Canadian political history. The puppet should beware the puppet master....

Tue Mar 07, 02:27:00 PM 2006  
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