There is very little satisfaction in saying “I told you so.” Being right is no fun when the consequences are actually dire. There is no bragging when we look back in time and know that we were right all along; however, it can be important to remind everyone of what happened when it forms part of a larger pattern.
Canadians are shocked that Stephen Harper’s staff would pay Mike Duffy $90. Duffy is a sitting legislator, and there are strict rules, criminal law rules, about when payments can be made to law-makers of this type. Since even in the version of this story, Stephen Harper’s staff paid Duffy in order to effect the business of a Senate committee investigating expenses, it is almost certainly an illegal payment.
Nigel Wright, Stephen Harper, they will tell you that the purpose of these payments was to prevent taxpayers from bearing the expense of the Duffy cheque. This does not matter. Even if it is true, it does not change that Stephen Harper’s staff made a payment, likely a criminal bribe, to a sitting legislator.
Consider the alternative – Stephen Harper’s version – in which it would be OK to pay a $90 000 bribe to a sitting member, affecting the business of Parliament, any time that (in your judgment) taxpayers would be saved money.
At the risk of making a daring, shocking, and unusual argument, let me submit to your learned judgement that bribery actually is not OK. The fact that we have laws on this subject could influence your thinking, if you allow. Other countries do as well, so being against political bribes isn’t just a hokey Canadian thing. Bribes are actually wrong. They pollute our politics with private interests. They interfere with the basic democratic principle that the people should hold the power by corrupting that power under the influence of money. They are wrong, and it was wrong for Stephen Harper ever to authorize any payments to sitting members of the Parliament of Canada.
When I say “I told you so,” it’s because this isn’t Stephen Harper’s first bribe. Years ago, when he was opposition leader, on the eve of a confidence vote, in a very similar manner, he sent Tom Flanagan and Doug Finley to offer Chuck Cadman, a member of the House of Commons, a one-million dollar life insurance policy. The purpose of this offer was to allow Cadman to vote against the Martin Government, something Cadman ultimately refused to do.
In the Cadman situation, as in the Duffy situation, Harper offered the justification that the bribe served the greater good. Where the Duffy payment protected taxpayers, allegedly, from bearing the cost of bogus expenses, the Cadman bribe allowed a dying man not to be deprive his family of a million dollar legacy just because of parliamentary funny business.
That is Stephen Harper’s value system. In order to achieve his political goals, defeating the Martin government, avoiding the Senate scandal, he is willing to bribe parliamentarians. He sends his henchmen to do it. After being caught on tape discussing the first bribe, he better insulated himself from his henchmen for the Duffy bribe attempt, and now the best connection we have between Harper himself and the actual payment is an e-mail from Nigel Wright saying that Harper had personally approved the payment.
Perhaps bribery isn’t high on your list of concerns today in your by-election vote. The economy, social justice, education, foreign policy, and other things are equally worth considering. I merely write this today because it angers me that Stephen Harper can campaign in the name of accountability, and win, all the while secretly passing bribes, washing money illegally through dormant riding campaigns in the in-and-out scandal, attempting to prevent voters from reaching the polls by sending criminal robocalls, and win again. For me, all this defies comprehension. It is almost as if we are OK with bribery and corruption.