CALGARY – Federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau says Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservatives have forgotten their roots and risk the wrath of dissatisfied voters in the next election.
Trudeau was in Calgary on Wednesday to speak to oil executives and attend an evening rally with party supporters.
He never mentioned the words Mike Duffy or the Senate during his speech at the Calgary Petroleum Club, but he did suggest to reporters afterward that the possible repercussions of the Senate scandal are obvious.
“This government has really grown out of touch with Canadians and very arrogant,” Trudeau said.
“As we know, arrogant and out of touch is the death knell for any government seen to be taking for granted its support and position.”
He said the Conservatives, who adopted a number of policies from the old Reform Party of Canada, have forgotten what they were fighting for when they were elected.
“People came to power and came to Ottawa, saying we need a level of accountability and transparence and grassroots engagement, (but) this government has now become that which it fought against.”
Trudeau noted that the prime minister is likely to be involved in little more than “damage control” at this weekend’s Conservative party national policy convention in Calgary.
A motion to suspend three disgraced Conservative senators is poised to drag on into next week, despite a last-ditch effort to make the move more palatable within the governing party’s own ranks.
That means the Senate expense scandal cloud will hang over the entire convention.
The government leadership in the Senate is proposing a last-minute amendment to the proposed suspensions, without pay, of senators Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau, that would allow the trio to keep their medical benefits.
However, Sen. Hugh Segal — leader of a move by some Conservatives against the suspensions — says the proposal doesn’t change the fact that the three are being sentenced without a fair hearing or charges, much less convictions.
The Conservative Senate leadership had hoped to limit debate on the suspension motions and force a vote before the Tory convention.
Trudeau said Canadians would rather see government deal with more important issues, such as health care or the economy.
“I’m troubled that the government in both the House and the Senate seems to have ground to a halt and it’s not actually dealing with anything other than damage control on a scandal.”
There need to be some changes made to the Senate, Trudeau suggested, but he stopped short of calling for a major overhaul.
“There’s no question that the status quo in the Senate is no longer acceptable when Mr. Harper chooses senators like Ms. Wallin, Mr. Brazeau and Mr. Duffy and then a few years later has to attack them as completely unqualified,” he said.
“We see there is an innate contradiction in the kind of house of sober second thought that we’re supposed to have.”