What Canada Senate expenses scandal?

Posted 06.02.13

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Before we go running for the barricades -- or the exit doors -- over the Conservative senators' spending scandals, consider a couple of other images.

We haven't forgotten, have we, that politics is all about what's under the radar screen, not what's grabbing today's 3-minute media bite? How else explain this government's record-breaking use of omnibus bills to slide in innumerable measures that would, by definition, surely not pass on their own. Or, at minimum, these secret-agenda items would bring public wrath or a spotlight on the manipulations of this toxically-secretive government.

Besides hiding these secret-agenda grenades in the birthday cake, or in any cake so sweetly named we'd surely rush to approve it without House debate, expert witness testimony, or public committee consideration, there's another image:

The PM's office door opens and out is tossed down the hall is a big shiny bone; all the dogs go barking after it, while the PMO's bag men and assorted characters make for back stairs.

The bone -- oh, it does have some meat on it -- is the Senate expenses cover-up. Our media's barking dogs (another accurate image) have a nose for meat scraps. But here's the hollow news: While the Harper Government assures us it will clean up the Senate, with very, very strict rules, etc., Duff Connacher of Democracy Watch tells us that there are absolutely no consequences for Senators who break any of the Senate's own rules.

No consequences.

So, the guy Frank magazine used to call Puffy gets caught with both hands in the cashbox. "Oh, my mistake," says the Puffster. "I thought I was robbing a bank. Here, I'll give back the cash I grabbed, thanks to this cheque from the PM's office." Ask any real bank robber: This is no-consequence crime. Harper's not changing that.

So, if the new rules are basically window dressing, where is the meat? Harper has two long years to convince us he's cleaned house.

The meat was never there, it's terrible, but it's nothing but a bone.

The meat is in the next omnibus bill which will give the Harper Government seats on the boards of directors of crown corporations -- like the CBC and Radio Canada. This is the end of the concept of crown corporations in which these public bodies are insulated by an arms-length distance from political decision-making. Harper is removing the arms-length insurance.

Canada thought Harper would try to kill the CBC. He's smarter than that. CBC/Radio Canada are very popular, so why not turn them from public broadcasting to state broadcasting? Take over the CBC by slashing its budget, loading its management with Conservative appointees (probably like his quality senate appointees), and directly taking control of CBC spending (Bill C-60) to hinder unfavourable broadcasts and investigations -- that is, state broadcasting.

There's little time left to drop the bone and go after the real meat. Protest! Write! Talk! Donate to Friends of Public Broadcasting ("friends.ca").


Copyright © 2013 Fred Ryan/Log Cabin Chronicles/06.13