What is the root cause of the Duffy-Wright affair? - Macleans.ca

What is the root cause of the Duffy-Wright affair?

‘That absolute discipline or control… that is what got us into this mess in the first place’


Further down in the Huffington Post’s report on Michael Chong’s proposals, comes this analysis from Conservative MP Brad Trost.

“That absolute discipline or control… that is what got us into this mess in the first place,” Trost said referring to the current Senate scandal engulfing the PMO, Harper’s former chief of staff Nigel Wright and several senators who are alleged to have meddled in an independent audit of Senator Mike Duffy’s expenses.

“If the Senators had all run the issue independently, without the input of PMO,” Trost said, “I think that PMO would be happier right now than they are. They ended up trying to do everything and have total control over an issue. I think in retrospect they are wishing they didn’t have any control over it ‘cause look where it got them.”

In a pair of blog posts, Brent Rathgeber expands on his op-ed for the Toronto Star and touches basically on the same point.

What is more relevant and more threatening to our democracy is that the executive was interfering and attempting to micro-manage the Senate, its appointed Senators and even a Senate Committee.  The Senate exists to provide an independent check on government; the Senate was not designed to be a PMO branch plant.

We end up with both a parliamentary question and a political question. And the irony that at attempt to exert control—perhaps the defining question of the Harper Era, maybe the defining question of modern politics—has resulted in all this.

See previously: What does the Wright-Duffy affair tell us about Parliament?


What is the root cause of the Duffy-Wright affair?

  1. This is what happens when you don’t set up good institutions, maintain, modernize and then trust them to get the job done; in a way that benefits the country at least as much as it does the Gotd and its Party. For too long now it has been almost entirely the other way around. No wonder big chunks of the potential electorate would rather watch paint dry then participate in the political process.

    • Yup a leader needs qualified people around him…and then he needs to delegate.

      • Harper’s idea of delegating seems to consist of allowing those with resources to write cheques up to at least 90 tho without his knowledge. In fact he insists he shouldn’t know.

        • Harp expects everyone else to fall on their swords….so he won’t have to.

          • He’ll even give you a sword if you need one.

          • LOL apparently!

        • Excuse me! Where do you get your information that Harper allows cheques to be written as Wright has done?

          People like you are the problem to our demise of political institutions. You are simply smearing and wildly accusing without any proof in hand whatsoever.

          Shame on you.

          • Satire FV. Look it up, or get a sense of humour or both.

          • Ah, yes, satire. I’m sure your dog ate your homework lots, eh.

          • As an excuse it’s a whole lot better then, I didn’t know my COS was writing out $90000 cheques without my say so. Not to mention ignorance about what the rest of my flunkies were up to, from personal lawyer to party bagman.

          • Sorry, Francien, but kcm2 was just assuming – as has everything else that’s been revealed so far – that the truth eventually will out. Remember, for example, all the wild accusations that Duffy came up with in his Senate speech? Well, guess what: after the RCMP emails (heavily censored – what other stones do you think lie waiting to be overturned?) it turns out the stories weren’t so fanciful after all. And remember when Harper tried to hold on to Wright, then said he resigned, then said he fired him? And remember when we, the people of Canada, were told that Nigel Wright had acted on his own, then there were ‘a few’ that knew, and now we know there were a whole lot more people involved? And Pamela Wallin’s expenses at one point were ok in the PM’s opinion but Duffy’s weren’t, but she still got tossed (both of whom were appointed to the wrong province by Mr.Harper)….in any case, Francien, read Andrew Coyne and Gerald Caplan in today’s Post and Globe respectively (and pipe down btw about their political stripes – humans whose political leanings other than yours have valid points too, and besides, as you know, Conservative MPs have been wondering the same things, some of them even out loud).

          • Expect a shame from a leftist? you must be joking.

    • Shouldn’t we be presuming that the people we elect actually respect the institutions that were built, rather than exploit them for politlcal gain…?

  2. Harper, “Putting the CON in CONtrol, and in acCOuNtability”.

  3. Constituencies (or ridings) are an important aspect of our electoral and political system. Canada’s geography and diversity (population, resources etc) is great and without the presence of constituencies it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to have a coherent oversight of what political parties want to accomplish.

    The party (as an institution) and the constituency are dependent upon each other; if a political party – any party – would not have input from all regions of the country, the party would never be able to form government.

    All truly federalist parties get input from all regions of the country, by means of constituency representatives and through the nomination process a candidate is selected – by the region. But the party is ultimately the ticket those individual nominees ride on. Therefore, it should be the party which decides if a candidate has the go-ahead to represent the party.

    Federal politics is not just about separated regional voices having their say on any particular issue. Federal politics is about keeping the entire nation in mind, making sure that the consensus of the party is represented inwards and is presented outwards in turn. That is what it means to be a federal party.

    If local candidates feel that only their particular issues are of importance, then such candidates should run as independents. Independents don’t have to adhere to the give and take process which accounts for a truly federal representative.

    • Now that’s satire. under the present circumstances.

    • So, this was pinched from a Grade 10 textbook? Or is that what the Manning Centre’s ‘Understandin’ Canadian Fedjurmalism’ course (only $500, operators standing by!) imparts these days?

      Grade 10 is cheaper and likely more even-handed. Try it some time.

    • Regardless of whether I agree or disagree with your point, thank you for posting a comment with ideas in it, that pertains to the subject at hand.

      I wish you’d do more of this and less of the other thing.

    • Party or gang it’s all the same. Haven’t we learned that gangs are bad yet? In an era of such immense communications tools I hope we can come up with something better than gangs & war chests.

    • This from a party shill is particularly amusing. Your comment reminds me of Peter Kent when he asked Megan Leslie why she hadn’t been at a conference in Durban despite Kent himself banning all non-government MPs from Canada’s official delegation. Something similar happened more recently with the same portfolio.

      The party system has done more to eradicate any truly independent voices in Parliament than any other system in existence. Funding for parties receive 75% subsidy from the taxpayer, joint funding for national ads, excluding independents from proposing amendments in the HoC, excluding independents from active involvement in committees etc.

      Yeah sure we could have more independents running but when the playing field is already rigged to suit the appointment of obedient trained seals just how is that supposed to work?

  4. “What is the root cause of the Duffy-Wright affair?”

    “In this paper, we demonstrate that university students who cheat on a simple task in a laboratory setting are more likely to state a preference for entering public service.”

    wiki – The Scorpion and the Frog is an animal fable about a scorpion asking a frog to carry him across a river. The frog is afraid of being stung during the trip, but the scorpion argues that if it stung the frog, the frog would sink and the scorpion would drown. The frog agrees and begins carrying the scorpion, but midway across the river the scorpion does indeed sting the frog, dooming them both. When asked why, the scorpion points out that this is its nature.

  5. The root cause is the assumption that it does not matter if you tell the truth or not.

  6. Party discipline and concentration of power in the PMO are not new. What is new is there is a team in place in that office whose stated intention is to sell us an ideology rather than attempting to represent various complex, Canadian voices. The country being what it is, all past Prime Ministers, including Mulroney, were predisposed to listen rather than to instruct. PMO power, while theoretically extremely concentrated, was always constrained by both a practice and a pretext of accommodation and consensual nation maintenance. This government’s “damn-the-data” implementation of a predetermined agenda is new but it should not come as a surprise to Macleans readers.

    “the agenda has to be successfully implemented, and the country has to buy into it and be happy with the results.” Prime Minister Steven Harper said in Macleans, July 7, 2011


    The RCMP investigation into the Senate expenses cock-up has simply given us an unvarnished glimpse into the ‘truth’ factory that has been ‘managing the issues’ and spinning out the talking points for the grand vision from day one. Concentrated discipline and control are not the problem. These are very old, albeit freshly honed, power tools. The problem, for the PMO, at least, is that when the power tools were applied to a bicameral house, they thankfully came up against some of the remaining bedrock of Canadian democratic processes and principles that could not be trumped by ideology. The self interest and survival instincts of one of the formerly faithful also spun control out of the hands of the master’s message makers.

  7. To sum up the route cause….. IT WAS GREED AND STUPIDITY. Complicated by BACK STABBING AND A DEFICIT OF INTEGRITY.