Tag Archives: Canadian

How a Canadian senator goes down swinging

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They will not go gently into that soft night, after all. They will scream and blame and, if they have anything to say about it, they will destroy those who set out to destroy them.

That’s what happens when former broadcast journalists turned semi-disgraced Canadian senators have nothing left to lose.

Mike Duffy had his day in the spotlight earlier this week when he declared before an assembly of his Upper Chamber colleagues in Ottawa:

“Like you, I took an solemn oath to put the interests of Canadians ahead of all else. However, the sad truth is I allowed myself to be intimidated into doing what I knew in my heart was wrong, out of a fear of losing my job and out a misguided sense of loyalty. . .Let me repeat, Deloitte investigated, their audit of my expenses related to my home in P.E.I., did not find wrongdoing. They said I had not broken the Senate’s rules.”

As for the vote to suspend him, he added, “This motion is something one might expect to see in Iraq or Iran, or in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, but not in democratic Canada. It is not, I repeat, fundamental justice.”

He reserved his choicest criticism for the Prime Minister’s Office: “Today, you have an opportunity to stand strong and use your power to restrain the unaccountable power of the PMO. That’s what this Senate’s about, sober second thought, not taking dictation from kids in short pants down the hall.”

Then it came Pamela Wallin’s turn.

“The motion to suspend me is baseless and premature, and likely beyond the scope of this chamber,” she told senators. “By throwing a member of this Senate under the bus, finding her guilty without a fair hearing such as any other Canadian could expect – a right guaranteed us by the Charter – to proceed without the evidence having been adduced and considered on which the charge in the motion is based – is a fundamental affront to Canadian democracy – and makes a mockery of this chamber.”

Then out came the fangs.

“One of the senators who sits in judgment of all of us, who had her sights trained on me from the beginning, Senator Stewart-Olsen, has recently had questions raised about her own probity in relation to her residential expense claims,” she crowed. “But of course there will be no Deloitte audit in her case. Apparently, the Committee on Internal Economy, of which she has long been a member, intends to consider her matter in private. This is a double standard – she gets kid glove treatment and I’m unfairly singled out for a retroactive audit.”

At the heart of all of this, Wallin declared, was simple, ugly, professional jealousy.

“She (Sen. Stewart-Olsen) and Marjory LeBreton (former Conservative Senate leader) could not abide the fact that I was outspoken in caucus, or critical of their leadership – or that my level of activity brought me into the public eye and once garnered the praise of the prime minister. They resented that – they resented me being an activist senator. In this chamber, Senator Marjory LeBreton derided me, accusing me of having an inflated view of my role.”

This is how a three-ring circus becomes a bout of bare knuckle mixed martial arts – the finest display of senatorial cage fighting since the Red Chamber last updated its rules of residency some time in the 19th century.

As for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the message is simple: Bad behaviour by elected or appointed representatives will not be tolerated. Period. End of discussion. So sayest Dad: “The victims here are the CanadIan people who expect from all parliamentarians that they will treat pubic money with the appropriate respect and integrity it deserves.”

It remains to be seen, of course, how much more bad behaviour will be  uncovered  – or covered up, as the case may be – in the Senate and the PMO.

It’s all very well to rage against the dying of the light, until you realize the lights on Parliament Hill went out a long time ago.

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My softening sentiment toward the monarchy

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We are not, in my my family, mindlessly wedded to the notion of constitutional monarchy. The reason may have something to do with a latent strain of Scottish republicanism that I detect, especially on those occasions when we discuss the gathering independence movement among our ancestral tribesmen.

Still, I have noticed that some of the members of my extended households – as fine and as highly tuned as their intellects are – revert to an atavistic state of hero worship whenever they pass a copy of HELLO! Canada on a newsstand. The  comments invariably devolve into versions of vacant fashion statements.

“Doesn’t Kate look marvellous in her condition? Why, she’s eight months pregnant, and you wouldn’t know it.”

“It’s too bad Wills is losing his hair at such a young age. In every other respect he’s the picture of youthful kingship.”

“My, how good the Queen looks. She just keeps going and going.

This little item in a recent edition of HELLO! literally commandeered one relative’s attention for a good 10 minutes:

“They might be an unlikely pair, but Prince Charles and Cara Delevingne got on famously as they chatted in the grounds of Clarence House. The 20-year-old model clearly found Charles to be a hilarious host, and laughed heartily as she spent time with the amiable royal. Cara was among the guests at a ball thrown by Charles and his wife Camilla in support of the conservation charity The Elephant Family on Tuesday evening.”

Even I have found myself softening, in recent years, to the British Royals. I was once an ardent republican – the sort who inveighed loudly and frequently against their irrelevance, cost and annoying tendency to dominate the summertime headlines. Who cared which garden party which aristocrat at the top of the food chain attended to the delight of genteel supplicants foaming at their mouths to obtain their audiences?

Nowadays, I’m more likely to roll my eyes at the people who insist the monarchist  institution and tradition in Canada present a clear and present threat to their liberty. People, like the ones now involved in legal action against the federal government, which requires them to swear an oath of fealty to the Queen before their landed immigrant status can be transmuted to full citizenship.

As the Globe and Mail reported last week, “A small group of landed immigrants with republican views who have refused Canadian citizenship because the ceremony involves swearing an oath to the Queen will be in a Toronto courtroom. . .facing off with the federal government in an attempt to have this citizenship requirement declared unconstitutional.”

“The court fight is the latest chapter in more than 20 years of failed legal challenges to the citizenship oath spearheaded by Trinidadian-born Toronto activist and lawyer Charles Roach, who died last year at 79, never having become a Canadian citizen. Mr. Roach. . .refused to swear the oath and become a citizen because he believed the Queen was a symbol of imperialism and because of injustices done to his ancestors in the name of the British monarchy.”

Fair enough, I suppose. But, as the Globe pointed out, it’s an uphill battle.

Polls taken last year showed Canadian support for the monarchy was actually rising. A Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey found that 51 per cent people thought that maintaining a connection to the British Crown was a good thing. That was six points better than the results from a poll in 2009.

Some, such as Quebec historian Jocelyn Letourneau, have observed that the Harper government has deliberately raised the profile of the Royals in this country. “The restoration of royal symbols (central to British heritage in Canada as a constitutional monarchy) and the importance given to the War of 1812 (presented as a pivotal moment of resistance to American invasion and the preservation of the country’s distinctiveness) are not the expression of a foolish plan on the part of a disconnected government,” he wrote in a Globe commentary recently. “These initiatives are contributing to the reconstruction of Canadian identity at a time when the country is looking for a new symbolic basis for its current reality.”

Perhaps, but it’s just possible that the Royals represent certain virtues that have all but vanished from the political landscape in Canada. Their popularity may have to do with the simple fact that they, alone, give no offence.

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