Need to know: Harper's latest insulation from the Wright-Duffy affair - Macleans.ca

Need to know: Harper’s latest insulation from the Wright-Duffy affair

The Tories passed new guidelines to shield bosses from their staff’s indiscretions

by

Adrian Wyld/CP

Stephen Harper’s stuck blindly to the same stubborn defence for months. He didn’t know his former chief of staff paid the improperly claimed expenses of a former star Conservative senator. Believe that or don’t believe that. Few reporters do. Based on the relatively poor Conservative showing in three by-elections on Monday night, when the party lost ground in Toronto, Montreal, and even Brandon, Man., a big chunk of voters no longer trust the PM’s word. Not something to put wind in the sails, that kind of support.

Untrustworthy though Harper’s story may be, what’s unclear is what happens next. The opposition gets nowhere with its own search for the truth, despite NDP Leader Tom Mulcair’s best attempts at parliamentary prosecution. The PM’s delegated stand-in, parliamentary secretary Paul Calandra, offers a comical defence of whatever role several of Harper’s staff played in the Wright-Duffy affair. Calandra stumbles, and tells little stories, and lashes out, and attempts to lay guilt upon the opposition for this or that past indiscretion. But the PM applauds the comedy, and the opposition can only frustrate itself trying to stymie Calandra.

Today, The Globe and Mail reports of Harper’s latest insulationIf Prime Minister Stephen Harper did not know about the cheque written by his former chief of staff to cover the improperly claimed expenses of Senator Mike Duffy, federal accountability guidelines written by his government suggest he does not need to shoulder responsibility. The old rules said that if someone in a department fouled up, the boss took the heat. That used to be the principle of ministerial responsibility. Not so, anymore, it seems. The Tories changed the guidelines in 2011, and Harper’s no longer responsible for the indiscretions of those who work, or worked, for him.

At a point, these arguments will lose people’s interest. How many people will get riled up about the evolving principle of ministerial responsibility? How many people will remember these battles in the House of Commons over which staffer advised this, or which staffer conspired in that? The story’s stalled. Short of more headlines about the RCMP making further accusations—or, perhaps, laying charges—the Wright-Duffy affair’s future in the House of Commons looks more and more like a perpetual stalemate.

No winners, no losers. Just a bunch of words.

 

What’s above the fold

The Globe and Mail Transport Canada will inspect U.S. rail cars shipping dangerous crude oil.
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A genetically modified apple that doesn’t go brown has caused a stir.
Toronto Star Previously redacted details of a Rob Ford investigation will be released.
Ottawa Citizen A judge is calling extension of victim payments a constitutional matter.
CBC News U.S. spies were conducting surveillance during 2010 G8 and G20 summits.
CTV News Deloitte auditors will respond to senators’ questions about their Duffy audit.
National Newswatch See CTV News’ story.

 

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