Harper goes on offensive amid damaging Senate expense scandal - Macleans.ca

Harper goes on offensive amid damaging Senate expense scandal


CALGARY – Prime Minister Stephen Harper struck out against a trio of defiant senators, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, and the “elites” who have tried to stand in his way, in a sharply worded campaign-style speech Friday to the party’s rank-and-file.

Harper’s 45-minute remarks included only a brief reference to the main political headache that has shaken his party since May, the Senate expense scandal. He did not acknowledge the coverup allegation that has kept the controversy in the headlines.

The party leader blamed the “courts” for standing in the way of Senate reform. He appeared to be referring to a recent Quebec appeal court ruling — the Supreme Court of Canada has yet to give its opinion on how to achieve change in the upper chamber.

The appeal court said last month that the federal government had no right to create Senate elections and set term limits without seeking provincial approval.

“These senators have shown little or no remorse for these actions,” Harper said in a reference to Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau. The receptive crowd of about 2,500 at a Calgary Stampede grounds convention centre gave Harper standing ovations as he spoke about the issue.

“In private life, you would be fired for doing anything resembling this…and Liberal senators continue to block action. The Senate should to the right thing, now and suspend those Senators without pay.”

The lion’s share of Harper’s remarks were focused on extolling the party’s record. He reminded the audience of promises kept from the 2006 campaign – lowering the GST, the child-tax benefit and the Federal Accountability Act.

It was the speech that Harper was supposed to deliver in June, setting the stage for the second half of his majority mandate. But the convention was postponed due to the devastating Alberta floods — a fact mentioned several times over the course of the night.

He touched on some of the same themes that were in the recent throne speech, suggesting the Conservatives are the only party capable of capitalizing on the country’s many assets. He highlighted the recently negotiated free trade deal with the European Union.

“In a world that is struggling, Canada is rising, being steadily lifted by a rising tide,” he said.

“Our sound finances, our stable politics, our expanding network for trade relationships, our natural wealth and the growing demand for it worldwide.”

Harper said throughout that the Liberals and NDP stood in the way of the many initiatives his party has brought forward – crime bills, support for the military and tax cuts.

“Could Justin Trudeau run the economy? In 2015, friends, we’re not choosing the winner of Canadian Idol…we’re choosing someone to lead our economy,” he said, to laughter and applause in the room.

“And I have to say, the only trade policy Justin Trudeau has been working on is the marijuana trade.”

The prime minister portrayed his party and himself as that of the average Canadian, taking jabs at lobbyists, academics, and the public service.

“In our party, public service must mean private sacrifice. That’s why Laureen and first left our home here in Calgary.

“We didn’t go to Ottawa to join private clubs or become part of some “elite.” That’s not who you are; it’s not who we are.”

But one of Canada’s elites, millionaire Bay Street businessman and former chief of staff Nigel Wright, continues to figure at the centre of the prime minister’s political challenges.

Although Harper has placed full blame on Wright’s shoulders for the secret repayment of Duffy’s $90,000 in contested expenses, other key conservatives aren’t following that script.

Justice Minister Peter MacKay offered moral support to Wright on Friday, as Employment Minister Jason Kenney had a day earlier.

“I’ve know Nigel a long time, he’s a very principled individual, he’s somebody who is honest, he’s worked hard for our party in the past,” MacKay said.

“That’s my opinion, that’s my view of Nigel.”

Both Kenney and MacKay are viewed as potential contenders to succeed Harper in the future, and each have a loyal following within the party.

Ontario MP Gord Brown echoed the sentiment on Wright.

“I’ve known him for many, many years,” Brown said. “We’ve been in politics together since the ’80s, and he’s a man of high integrity and it’s disappointing that all of this has unfolded, but I stand behind Nigel.”

Harper didn’t address Wright or the repayment issue in his speech.

On another front, junior minister Maxime Bernier – a popular figure among rank-and-file Conservatives – floated the idea that the party ought to hold a referendum on whether or not to abolish the Senate.

The premier of Saskatchewan, now an avowed opponent of the Senate, weighed in. “Not a bad idea Maxime Bernier,” Brad Wall wrote on Twitter.

“I think we’re putting the cart before the horse,” said Government Senate leader Claude Carignan.

“Right now we have a reference at the Supreme Court, we should respect the Supreme Court and respect its judgment, which will take about a year and then we can discuss the method that the Supreme Court will identify for us.”

The evolving Senate scandal, meanwhile, continued to throw curveballs Friday: the RCMP filed court documents alleging Wallin committed fraud and breach of trust by filing fraudulent expense claims.

The Senate also revealed it paid $390,500 for the independent audit that exposed those questionable claims, bringing to more than $500,000 the cost of reviewing the expenses of Duffy, Wallin, Brazeau and former Liberal senator Mac Harb.

The trials and tribulations of the upper chamber, though hard to miss, were far from the only issue occupying the minds of Conservative delegates.

Behind closed doors at the convention, party members appeared to put to rest a long-standing debate within the ranks – for now.

A recurring bid to change the leadership rules to adopt a system that is closer to one-member, one-vote was once again defeated, meaning it won’t go to the larger convention floor for debate.

A pointed resolution that would forbid resolutions from coming back to conventions if they’ve been defeated twice before will be discussed at the plenary session on Saturday.

Currently, each Conservative riding association in the country has an equally weighted say in electing the leader. That was a rule negotiated between Progressive Conservatives and the Canadian Alliance when the parties merged in late 2003, designed to prevent a candidate from swamping the race with support from a specific region – such as Alberta.

“I feel quite strongly and quite passionately that we have to have equality and inclusiveness in our party,” said MacKay.

“The party has spoken, and the democratic principles are alive and well.”

Delegates also defeated a resolution to reject the supply management system for dairy, eggs and poultry. However, a motion to officially condemn sex-selective abortions passed an initial debate and will proceed to the floor on Saturday.


Harper goes on offensive amid damaging Senate expense scandal

  1. In private life, an administrator that hire 3 straight criminals that stole from the cupboard would be looking for new work. Especially if the administrator also hired an admin assistant that turned out to be deceptive. Bad administrator!

    • Since Harper is tough on crime, shouldn’t he at least through a positive shout out to Justin for beatin the crap out of Brazeau?

  2. ‘and the “elites” who have tried to stand in his way’

    He’s in a class war, same as the Republicans.

  3. If the Mounted Police filed court documents for fraud and breach of trust, why haven’t charges been laid. They would not hesitate if it were anyone else in the general public. Are there orders from PMO”s office not to lay charges ?

  4. Well, we can see the sort of people Harper runs with…and approves of from his senate appointments.
    As far a Wright goes.. tell me, since when is it wrong to lend/ give a friend money?? What precisely is wrong with Wright paying Duffy’s bills? He likely had to pick up ALL of Duffy’s bar tabs every time they were out ‘discussing policy’ anyway.

    Harper seems happy or should I say energized to stab anyone in the throat that might detract from his ‘mission impossible’ of remaining Canada’s prime minister for the rest of his life.
    Damn.. you are a conservative Mr Harper, stop reading your own publicity, remember how you got your majority, count the years in the 20th century that cons were in power in Canada… guess why?

  5. How much has the entire senate scandal, cost the Canadian taxpayer? Answer way too much, if we as taxpayers have any hope of survival, there has to be an immediate change. By that I mean have the politicians across the board start policing themselves, you say impossible. It’s nice that the ones that have been caught this time, have to pay back what they stole from us, but what about the expenses racked up to audit, etc. That’s going to end up costing us in the neighbourhood, of triple what they stole, now this is a recipe for disaster. Why not force politicians, whoever they are, whatever their stripe, they as a group, foot the bill to audit or whatever it takes to prove innocent of all charges, or guilty as charged. Then we put it on them, to prove they’ve earned their gold plated pension program, that they voted themselves, and all of the rest of the perks that come with the position.

  6. What is wrong with Canadians???? You see the actions in the House of Commons. You know in your hearts Senator Cowan speaks truth. Yet, some of you would see three Senators bite the dust, faced with years of litigation to clear their names. How pathetic are you? You make me sick and disgusted to be related to your PROUD nation.

  7. Awaiting ‘Preparation H’ for the Iron Ladie & Gerstein:

    During the
    Conservative Party Convention in Calgary, the Party declined to make Gerstein
    available to answer questions about Senator Duffy’s expenses and Harper was
    whisked out of the room. Gerstein admitted knowing
    about the $90,172 at that convention and further admitted the sanctioning of the $13,560
    lawyer expenses paid by lawyer Arthur
    Hamilton who; acted on behalf of the Conservative
    Party Fund OR acted independently on behalf of the Prime Minister OR
    acted on behalf of the Government of Canada? Which is it?

    Catalogue of litany: Unregulated, inconsistent
    Audit Rules; Fraud, Breach of Trust; Wright’s Dismissal; the PM is now
    dismantling Wright’s reputation but it could well transpire he is part of the
    conspiracy! ; Bribing Senators; Punitive Justice without due-process; Back-room
    Deals; Political bludgeoning of House & Senate toward impotency; Proroguing
    & Stacking Bills – Omnibus motions; LeBreton illegal procedural threats to Senators;
    Stewart-Olsen’s excessive & conspicuous expenses; There is no $90,172
    cheque (non-existent) from Nigel Wright to Senator Duffy. Duffy’s legitimate $90,172 expenses were paid by whom??? Ask
    Gerstein on oath. Gerstein was named to the Senate, by Harper, in 2008 and
    chairs the Conservative Fund of Canada.

    The PM has knowingly misled Parliament and consequently,
    the Nation. The PMO ‘coached’ illegal subversive acts and bribed Senators; The
    PM and cohorts have shown Contempt of
    Parliament, been complicit in Conspiracy and attempted to impair the well-being
    of our country. We note the PM and his lackies have
    persistently, contemptuously evaded questions and perverted questions directed
    from Her Majesty’s Official Opposition up to 30th October 2013. The thug demands
    Senators be sacked without pay in order to cover the stagnant stench
    of fabrications. The PM demonstrates no paper trail; Sen. Duffy’s letters,
    emails and Senate speech are available for anyone to inspect as are Senators
    Wallin’s and Brazeau’s. The PM will not testify under oath, rather preferring
    radioactive fall-out than disclosure of the most grotesque ‘cover-up’ in modern
    Canadian history involving the PMO, Conservative Party, their Lawyers and

    It is OUTRAGEOUS that Senators may face years of litigation to clear their names.
    PROUD to be Canadian???????????????????????
    PM RESIGN – you are a disgrace!

  8. Censored again! Macleans wishes to censor truth! Get a grip Macleans or take the consequences.

  9. Scandal – Macleans censorship!

  10. Macleans – Pathetic Canadian News