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.