Earlier this week, the Senate received an independent audit of former Conservative Senator Pamela Wallin’s expenses. This report not only confirmed what has been reported in the news for weeks – that Senator Wallin was involved in submitting potentially fraudulent expense claims costing taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars – but it exposed the latest example of Stephen Harper’s poor judgement.
It was this Prime Minister who appointed Senator Wallin, who for weeks defended her to Parliament and Canadians, and who refused to call in the police despite the seriousness of the allegations against her. In fact, on February 13, he rose in the House of Commons and clearly stated:
“In terms of Senator Wallin, I have looked at the numbers. Her travel costs are comparable to any parliamentarian travelling from that particular area of the country over that period of time.”
Either this Prime Minister deliberately misled Canadians or he didn’t really inform himself on the facts of Senator Wallin’s case contrary to what he told Canadians. Whichever, it demonstrates a bona fide lack of honesty, integrity and accountability that has become a hallmark of the Harper Conservatives.
Canadians will also recall that Stephen Harper and his government have been embroiled in another ethics scandal, which has claimed a key Conservative Party fundraiser – Senator Mike Duffy – and the PM’s right-hand-man, then Chief of Staff Nigel Wright. The details here are sordid in nature – Mr. Wright appears to have written Senator Duffy a $90,000 cheque possibly in order to shut down an internal investigation into the Senator’s potentially fraudulent expense claims – and again demonstrates a serious lack of respect for transparency and respect for taxpayers’ dollars. In this case the Prime Minister also came to their defence, before changing his tune and claiming that Mr. Wright acted alone. Unfortunately for the Prime Minister, the RCMP has now revealed that he misled Canadians. In truth, three close collaborators of Mr. Harper’s and a Conservative Senator were all well aware of the secret deal about this cheque.
There is no question that these two situations say something very disturbing about Stephen Harper’s judgement. Instead of referring these troubling cases to the authorities, he sprung to their defense and then attacked those who raised questions. When it became politically unpalatable to continue his defense, he threw the accused under the bus and took no responsibility for allowing such serious breaches to occur on his watch.
Canadians are tired of this Prime Minister’s manipulative and secretive behavior. He must come clean on both Wallin and Duffy-Wright affairs; explain why he misled the public, why he refused to call in the police, why he showed such poor judgement. He cannot hide himself, dodge legitimate questions and keep Canadians in the dark anymore.
Liberal Critic responsible for Intergovernmental Affairs, the Queen’s Privy Council of Canada, Democratic Reform, Official Languages and La Francophonie