Brash Brazeau’s crash
Patrick Brazeau awoke one morning just before Christmas in 2008 to the news that he had won the lottery.
On Thursday, he sat in a Gatineau, Que., jail cell, the latest example of someone who had cash-for-life sprinkled upon his lucky shoulders, only to sprint to a spectacular crash and burn.
When your riches come in a ticket spit out of a machine at the corner store, character and maturity play no part.
But in this case, Prime Minister Stephen Harper sought out the young, brash aboriginal leader, making him, at 34, the youngest Canadian senator ever, looking at a salary of more than $130,000 and theoretical job security for more than four decades.
The question that must be asked in this latest disgraceful chapter in Senate history is how did Brazeau’s number ever come up?
There is nothing in the realm of hindsight in raising the question on the day Brazeau was booted from the Conservative caucus, facing charges in connection with a domestic disturbance.
Not content with the windfall provided by Harper, Brazeau immediately announced he would continue his six-figure job as head of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, until he was persuaded that such unseemly double-dipping was officially discouraged.
When he was appointed that morning, along with 17 others in a mid-prorogation patronage frenzy, the Conservative government already knew then-Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice had received letters from aboriginal leaders in this country questioning the membership and spending of the organization Brazeau headed.
The prime minister’s office knew this former model and martial arts expert was facing a charge of sexual harassment.
Kory Teneycke, Harper’s spokesperson, said the prime minister was aware of the allegations and said Harper was “proud” to appoint Brazeau since there was no finding of misconduct.
Days later, news emerged of a troubling audit of CAP by Health Canada leading then Opposition leader Michael Ignatieff — 12 days after Brazeau’s swearing-in — to question whether he was “Senate material.’’
Then the Toronto Star’s Joanna Smith reported that the new senator, who drove a Porsche SUV, was behind in child support payments. The PMO, by then, was hiding behind its “private matter” shield, but Brazeau was already displaying his penchant for blaming everyone but himself.
In that case, the stories were being spread by his enemies in the aboriginal leadership, he said.
In the ensuing years, each time he displayed a stunning lack of judgment or acted in his typically boorish and bullying manner, he took to blaming the messenger.
When Canadian Press reporter Jennifer Ditchburn reported on Brazeau’s woeful attendance record in the Senate — he was within days of being fined for his absences at the time — he took to Twitter to slag the reporter.
“Change the D to a B in your last name and we’re even! Don’t mean it but needs saying,” the juvenile Brazeau told Ditchburn on Twitter.
In recent weeks, Brazeau must have seen it all coming apart.
The Star caught him mocking Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence at a Conservative fundraiser and CTV Ottawa bureau chief Robert Fife found Brazeau was allegedly gaming the system, illegally claiming his father’s house as his primary residence so he could pocket a housing allowance.
On Wednesday night, hours before police responded to the disturbance at Brazeau’s home, Fife reported that the senator had allegedly listed his mailing address as that of his ex-father-in-law’s house to gain an aboriginal tax exemption and Brazeau predictably branded Fife a racist.
If he did anything to help his colleagues on Thursday, Brazeau temporarily took the heat off two other senators facing allegations of the same housing scam, Liberal Mac Harb and Conservative Mike Duffy, another proud member of lottery day, 2008, last seen schlepping through the kitchen of a Halifax hotel, a former journalist fleeing reporters.
Somehow, Brazeau seemed to think he could simply brazen his way through all this as charge was heaped upon charge, complication was piled upon complication and his enemies proliferated.
He has invited Canadians to once again heap scorn upon a discredited institution. In this case, Canadians have no one to blame but Harper.
Brazeau could have remained a yappy, self-promoter on the fringe had he not been tapped by a prime minister whose office either didn’t do its homework or didn’t care. He’s now an independent senator sitting in the lock-up and smart money says he’ll soon be an ex-senator.
On Wednesday night he boasted that if anyone thought there was any substance to the CTV news report they could find him in Parliament on Thursday. Reporters found him, but the only interview he was giving was to a Gatineau detective.
Tim Harper is a syndicated Toronto Star national affairs writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.