As you’re probably well aware, the Senate spending scandal reached its climax yesterday, when embattled senators Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau were suspended for two years without pay. Throughout this nearly year-long saga, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has done his best to distance himself from these three senators, whom he had hand-picked for the Senate during his tenure. And he has, in typical Harperian fashion, dodged questions about what he knew about a $90,000 cheque from his chief of staff that went towards covering Duffy’s expenses.
While at first blush, it would seem wise for Harper to take this tack, especially leading into what looks to be a competitive 2015 election, but I think Harper and the Conservatives are really missing an opportunity here.
Lost among all the claims of misused taxpayer funds and extravagant expenses is the indisputable fact that Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau, in their own somewhat misguided way, did their best to help support Canada’s economy over these last two years. And for a Conservative party that spins every argument, discussion, innocuous statement and funding decision into its strengthening Canada’s economy (I hope I didn’t step on any CPC trademarks by using those three words consecutively) and job creation dogma, how can they not see the lemonade to be made out of this sour affair.
I’m not an economist or an accountant or even a senior government communications advisor, but I’d hazard a safe guess that each and every Mike Duffy creates roughly 15 to 20 spin-off jobs for regular Canadians like you and me. Just think about all the employment that trickles off Mr. Duffy. There are, of course, his advisors, his administrative staff, his speechwriters and even his handsomely paid consultants, like his pal Gerald Donahue, who was tasked with conducting important, baseline research on a variety of wide-reaching topics.
But then when you dig a bit deeper, you find out just what a vital cog a senator like Mike Duffy is for Canada’s economy. There’s obviously the accountant that works around the clock to legitimize his expenses. There’s the guy that mows his lawn and works on his garden in Ottawa. And there’s the guy that mows his lawn and works on his garden in PEI.
Taxpayers are properly outraged when they hear about Pamela Wallin and the long bills she racked up at hotels from her dozens of stop-overs in Toronto while in transit between Ottawa and Regina. But that’s just plain simplemindedness. In truth, she’s just doing her part to help support the hospitality industry. And the limousine and cab drivers, who are getting squeezed by all those large Canadian cities building cheap public transit from their airports to their downtown centres. And then there are the waiters and waitresses, chefs and sous-chefs, busboys and bartenders, hosts and hostesses. Pamela Wallin is not abusing her privileges, she’s really just redistributing her wealth back to the Canadians that need it.
And turning to Brazeau, now that he’s basically out as a senator, maybe he has to get rid of his Manawaki, Quebec residence, where he admittedly spends roughly 10 per cent of his time. How will this impact the person that drives Brazeau to and from Manawaki once or twice a month? And now that he’s out of the limelight, what will Brazeau’s lawyer do without his once-lucrative client? And has anyone thought about the poor Deloitte accountants? Who are they going to audit now? Romeo Dallaire? I don’t think so.
So I ask, who is hurt most by yesterday’s suspensions of Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau? I would argue it’s not one of those disgraced politicians, who have likely stuffed their accounts comfortably over the years, but instead the average Canadian that relied on them for subsistence. It’s the poor landscaper in PEI, who will lose out on that steady income from Duffy and whose children will have a little less to eat at dinner tonight as a result. It will be the limousine driver at Toronto Pearson, who will have to wait around the terminal a little longer now that Wallin has stopped coming around and who will spend less time with the sick mother he cares for. It will be the bored lawyer, faced with the prospect of an obscure, unemployed and uninteresting Brazeau, who will be forced onto the street to hustle, like a film noir detective, for small-time cases that barely keep the lights on.
This is the most important reason for taking Harper to task. He’s allowed this Senate fiasco to push him and his party off topic, deviating from the economy and jobs message he’s been force-feeding us for the last seven years. His mantra has basically been to create, build, erect, fabricate, construct or just friggin outright clone jobs – just make more jobs at any cost. Well, he was directly responsible for killing three yesterday, along with an uncounted number indirectly, by strangling the remoras attached to Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau whom they fed off of in order to eek out a meagre living.
Stephen Harper, you let this Senate scandal change you. You killed jobs. You’ve got jobs blood on your hands. How can you live with yourself?