As the New Year was approaching, a Nanos Research opinion survey indicated that Stephen Harper was regaining support due to perceived foreign policy successes and tax cuts.
But if the poll respondents were compelled to read this devastating review of Harper’s legacy, assessments of his leadership would surely plummet.
Journalist Michael Harris first describes Harper’s political evolution, from Reform Party stalwart and MP, to head of the anti-government, anti-union, pro big-business National Citizens Coalition, to his takeover of the Conservative Party of Canada – the October, 2003 merger between the Progressive Conservatives and Canadia Alliance. Basking in the glow of no-nonsense, business like stewardship of the ship of state, and for many Jews as Israel’s best friend among foreign leaders, two seminal scandals of his rule have revealed another, seamier side to his administration.
The robocalls affair in Guelph, Ontario and attempts to cover up the shenanigans of Senator Mike Duffy are described in breathtaking detail, as well as Harper’s other shortcomings. They indicate that under Harper’s reign, abuses have been committed that make the Liberal Sponsorship Scandal, which contributed to the party’s demise under Paul Martin, pale in comparison.
The book is briskly written and exhaustively researched. On the robocalls scandal, the only person convicted, Michael Sona, asked the writer rhetorically how a “22-year-old guy managed to coordinate this entire massive scheme when he didn’t even have access to the data?”
Potentially more withering is Harris’s elaborate dissection of the in’s and out’s of Duffygate – the various efforts by operatives in the Prime Minister’s Office, including disgraced chief of staff Nigel Wright, to deal with what began as “Old Duff’s” money issues.
After investigation, it quickly ballooned, with questions on claims for per diems and travel expenses when Duffy was the Conservative’s star bagman, crisscrossing the country on fund-raising expeditions.
Senator Irving Gerstein, the party’s chief bagman in charge of the Conservative Fund, first agreed to pay off Duffy’s $32,000 in debt to the Senate if he agreed to not talk to the media, then balked when the amount became $90,000. Was it a matter of principle or the amount?
Then came the now-famous emails from Wright to Harper’s personal lawyer in the PMO, Benjamin Perrin, when Wright says: “We are good to go from the PM…”
On March 23, 2014, the day after Wright paid off Duffy’s $90,000 debt, Perrin left his job in the PMO. Harper says he had no knowledge of this transaction, but as Harris demonstrates in this intricate account of the scandal, questions remain.
Wright returned to work for Onex Corp. where he recently masterminded two massive deals totaling more than $5 billion from his base in London.
Duffy was charged with 31 counts related to fraud, bribery, and breach of trust, prompting Duffy’s lawyer, Donald Bayne, to ask: “How what was not a crime or bribe when Nigel Wright paid it on his own initiative, became however mysteriously a crime or bribe when received by Senator Duffy.”
Duffy is scheduled to appear in court April 7 and the trial is expected to last 41 days. Will promised disclosures erode Harper’s standing in the polls?
Retired Radio-Canada journalist Pierre-Léon Lafrance published the following article, in French, in the Lambert Express, a local community newspaper in the Montréal. region. (Translated by Gérard Malo, national vice-chair of CWA/ Canada Retirees Council.)
After enduring countless painful stomach cramps while doing long and hard thinking, I will do here what I’ve never done during a 40-year-long career in journalism. I will speak in the first person
to publicly discuss the situation at Radio-Canada/CBC. I have spent 37 years at Radio-Canada as a local journalist, parliamentary and international correspondent, columnist, and with Radio-Canada International, as Chief Editor.
As we know, our national public broadcaster is now in the eye of the storm, and will come out of it seriously disfigured and wounded to the core. Many things have been said in the last few months about the long series of budgetary cutbacks at Radio-Canada/CBC. It all began, let’s not forget in the 1980s under the Brian Mulroney government. But I will focus on three points : Public service, the shift to digital media, and what happens next. Continue reading CBC – Enough is enough, a first-person account→
I have been aware and concerned about democratic and social-justice values ever since I first voted, a very long time ago. It was in the 1966 Québec provincial election. I’ve been defining myself as a “social democrat” since my young-adult years, which saw me canvassing for a then new Québec political party where most progressive people could be found. Of course in 1976, when I became a broadcast journalist, I had to end my involvement in partisan politics. But throughout my 37 working years, 33 at Radio-Canada, I would dream about getting back into active politics once I retired. Well, the dream finally came true on Aug. 2, 2012, the day after I officially retired from CBC/Radio-Canada. That is when I first joined the New Democratic Party.
In my 33-year stint at the CBC I managed to survive at least a dozen cuts, down-sizings or re-visioning. And the survivors were all led to believe, every time, that THIS one, was the fix. The attrition war to end all attrition wars.
Yesterday’s news about the latest round of deep cuts has left me thinking about what it must be like for those still working for the public broadcaster. I could be off-base here, but I can’t recall any other workforce that has had to live with such uncertainty for so long.
Easing into retirement could be compared to moving to another country.
Matthew Radz has been easing into retirement since he quit working seven years ago after 40 years in the newspaper business. He was an editor and arts writer on half a dozen publications, including The Toronto Telegram, the Montreal Star, Harrowsmith magazine and, since 1980, The Montreal Gazette. Post-retirement passions include nature/urban photography, long 19th-century novels, and he still dabbles in writing. He took time out from his busy retirement life to write this piece.
No visa or passport required, but there is the paperwork and the hundred and one details, to say nothing of the nagging questions. Will I have enough money to live on? – the most pressing and immediate.