Senate scandal dominated 2013

In a year dominated by the Senate spending scandal, a saga which continued to flare as the government and its Conservative senators kept throwing gas on the fire, there were other significant federal developments in 2013.

In a year dominated by the Senate spending scandal, a saga which continued to flare as the government and its Conservative senators kept throwing gas on the fire, there were other significant federal developments in 2013.

But not many.

And those that would have otherwise dominated news coverage for days were reduced to mere hours on the news cycle because of the Senate monster and the ongoing saga of Mike Duffy, Nigel Wright, Patrick Brazeau, Mac Harb and Pamela Wallin.

A midsummer cabinet shuffle injected some youth into Stephen Harper’s inner guard, a ‘consumer-friendly’ throne speech was unveiled and a giant trade deal with the European Union was signed – all three landed with a thud and became an instant afterthought in the face of the Senate story.

The following, in my view, were the five dates that had to be circled in federal politics in 2013, all moments which will continue to play out in 2014 but helped define the year about the end.

Jan. 11 — As protesting members of Canada’s First Nations crowded in front of the door, Prime Minister Stephen Harper sits down with Assembly of First Nations Chief Shawn Atleo in the Langevin Block, taking the heat away from the Idle No More movement and an ongoing liquids-only fast by Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence. Atleo says Harper committed to move urgently on aboriginal concerns, but the sense of a breakthrough is illusory.

At year’s end, First Nations communities in British Columbia are set to do battle over the giant Northern Gateway pipeline and Atleo is still fighting with the Conservatives to close the gap in funding for aboriginal education reform and give natives control of their own education. A year later, native discontent is merely on simmer and could blow any time.

April 14 — Justin Trudeau is elected Liberal leader and the Canadian political landscape is shifted.

Trudeau gave a moribund party oxygen, and more. Whether it was his robust endorsement of marijuana legalization, his musings on Chinese dictatorship or the roots of terrorism, he made news and kept Liberal fortunes at the top of the news cycle for good or bad, mostly good.

At year’s end, Trudeau is leading the polls, which mystifies on a couple of levels. It is a testament to style, because it appears Trudeau merely needs to show up somewhere to win support. But instead of appealing just to younger voters, he has strength among older voters — those who actually vote. At year’s end, the Liberals are the only federal party with a net gain over a year ago.

However, the further we move away from his installation on the national stage, the more likely those mysterious forces which keep him aloft could be clipped.

May 14 — CTV reports Harper’s chief of staff Wright personally bailed out Duffy by writing a cheque to the Conservative senator that was used to repay more than $90,000 in improperly claimed Senate living expenses. In the immediate wake of the report, Harper’s office tried everything to defend Wright, including suggesting he was doing a favour to a friend (Wright was actually incensed with Duffy) to arguing he was helping the beleaguered taxpayer.

Neither worked and Wright resigned (or as Harper later said, was dismissed) on the Victoria Day weekend.

The report set in motion seven months during which the spending scandal dominated all news from Ottawa and severely damaged Harper’s credibility and authority.

Oct. 17 — The Senate Conservative majority seeks to suspend Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau (Harb had already resigned) but the move backfires because during the debate, which stretches into November, the trio use the forum to toss further allegations, including lies, broken deals with Harper’s office and treatment by other senators onto the fire.

The debate devolves into a tacky version of high school confidential at times, but it gives Duffy enough time and space to fling a series of allegations back at Harper, forcing the prime minister to endure what is likely the worst two-week period of the year.

In the end, the Senate gets the job done, but does so by ignoring due process, embarrassing itself in the process and making its own argument for abolition.

Nov. 20 — An RCMP court filing seeking further email traffic and documents in the scandal alleges Wright and Duffy committed bribery, fraud on the government and breach of trust. None of the allegations have been proven in court, but more importantly the ITO — Information to Obtain a production order — delivered an unprecedented trove of correspondence between Wright and other members of Harper’s PMO, leading to further allegations about Harper’s involvement, potential audit tampering involving the Deloitte investigation of Duffy’s expenses and the level of involvement and pressure placed on the Senate by staffers in Harper’s office bent on whitewashing a Senate report on Duffy.

It raises questions about Harper’s knowledge of the initial plan to make $32,000 of party funds available to Duffy to repay the expenses and the involvement of another senator, Irving Gerstein, the party’s chief fundraiser who controls the party fund.

Apart from the original revelation of Wright’s payment to Duffy, no document provides more details about the shady deal-making and ethical transgressions taking place right under Harper’s nose.

A move by a heretofore ethically chaste chief of staff to make a problem go away turned out to be the story of the year and the Duffy bomb is a sure bet to be a major political player in the new year.

Tim Harper is a national affairs writer. His column appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Twitter:@nutgraf1

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Erika Fetterly, owner of EFP Studios, recently launched the Let Them Have A Voice campaign. (Contributed photo)
Central Alberta photographer’s campaign aims to give youths a voice

An Innisfail photographer is giving a platform to young central Albertans so… Continue reading

Chopped Canada-winning chef Pete Sok is trying to focus on the future as he reopens Boulevard Restaurant and Lounge in the Holiday Inn on Gasoline Alley during the pandemic. (Contributed photo)
Red Deer’s celebrity chef looks past the pandemic with new restaurant opportunity

Pete Sok is reopening Boulevard Restaurant — and betting on the future

The Red Deer Rebels hosted the Medicine Hat Tigers in the first game of the shortened 2020-21 season on Friday. The two teams faced off again in Medicine Hat Saturday (Photo by Rob Wallator/ Red Deer Rebels)
Red Deer Rebels fall to Medicine Hat Tigers on Saturday

Tigers 7 Rebels 2 The Red Deer Rebels have lost two straight… Continue reading

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
Red Deer reports 25th COVID-19 death

415 new cases identified provincially Saturday

Red Deer science-communicating dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped save a missing pet recently. The two dogs have more than 80,000 followers on Twitter. (Contributed photo)
WATCH: Red Deer science dogs help save lost pet

Red Deer science-communicating dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped rescue a missing pet… Continue reading

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks during a news conference in Edmonton on Feb. 24, 2020. It’s budget day in the province, and Kenney’s United Conservative government is promising more help in the fight against COVID, but more red ink on the bottom line. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta Premier slams vandalism after slur painted on MLA’s office window

EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is condemning alleged vandalism at the… Continue reading

Canada Pension Plan Investment Board President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Machin waits to appear at the Standing Committee on Finance on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on Tuesday, November 1, 2016. Executives who engage in so-called "vaccine tourism" show both an ethical disregard for those less fortunate and a surprising lack of business acumen, experts argue. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine tourism is both unethical and bad for business, experts say

Executives who engage in so-called “vaccine tourism” show both an ethical disregard… Continue reading

Edmonton Oilers' Jesse Puljujarvi (13) and Toronto Maple Leafs' Justin Holl (3) battle in front as goalie Jack Campbell (36) makes the save during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, February 27, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
No Matthews, no problem: Minus NHL goal leader, Maple Leafs blank Oilers 4-0

Leafs 4 Oilers 0 EDMONTON — The Maple Leafs knew even with… Continue reading

The Pornhub website is shown on a computer screen in Toronto on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS
Pornhub policies reveal legal gaps and lack of enforcement around exploitive videos

OTTAWA — Serena Fleites was in seventh grade when a sexually explicit… Continue reading

Sean Hoskin stands on a neighbourhood street in Halifax on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. Hoskin was diagnosed with COVID-19 almost a year ago with symptoms that still persist. Some provinces have established programs to deal with long-term sufferers but Atlantic Canada, with relatively low numbers of patients, has yet to provide a resource to assist them. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
On East Coast, exhausted COVID-19 ‘long haulers’ hope specialized clinics will emerge

HALIFAX — On evenings when Sean Hoskin collapses into bed, heart pounding… Continue reading

Ottawa Senators goaltender Matt Murray (30) stands in his crease as Calgary Flames left wing Andrew Mangiapane (88), left to right, defenceman Rasmus Andersson (4), Matthew Tkachuk (19), Mikael Backlund (11) and Mark Giordano (5) celebrate a goal during second period NHL action in Ottawa on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Calgary Flames beat Ottawa 6-3 to end Senators’ three-game win streak

Flames 6 Senators 3 OTTAWA — The Calgary Flames used a balanced… Continue reading

Crosses are displayed in memory of the elderly who died from COVID-19 at the Camilla Care Community facility during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mississauga, Ont., on November 19, 2020. The number of people who would have died from a COVID-19 infection is likely to be much higher than recorded because of death certificates don't always list the virus as the cause of a fatality, experts say. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Death certificates don’t accurately reflect the toll of the pandemic, experts say

The number of people who would have died from a COVID-19 infection… Continue reading

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto, Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021. A single dose of Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine is barely enough to cover the average pinky nail but is made up of more than 280 components and requires at least three manufacturing plants to produce. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
From science to syringe: COVID-19 vaccines are miracles of science and supply chains

OTTAWA — A single dose of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine is barely enough… Continue reading

Most Read