Regular readers of this space will know that I am no fan of Prime Minister Harper.
Yesterday's revelation that a "boot camp" for new Conservative Senators explicitly told the new Senators that partisan travel was a legitimate expense makes me downright furious.
Three former Conservative senators at the heart of a spending scandal were given clear directions from their leader in the upper chamber that they could bill for certain partisan — that is, political — travel when they first arrived in the Senate.
The directions were given during a two-day “boot camp” for new Tory senators that outlined expense-claim dos and don’ts, expectations for senators, and a warning to be careful with how they spent Senate money.Let me be abundantly clear here: The Senate, and the House of Commons, exist for conducting the business of this country. NOT the business of the Conservative Party of Canada or any other party. That the Harperites would give explicit instructions about this tells us a lot - and none of it is acceptable.
First, that they would even state that any kind of partisan travel is an acceptable expense is plain wrong. It speaks to a degree of intent to abuse the system. In essence, the new Senators are being told "break the rules, but don't get caught - nudge, nudge, wink, wink". I suspect that if Duffy or Wallin had only done one suspect trip in a year, nobody would be particularly outraged. It would fall under the "cost of doing business" kind of logic that most of us understand. However, that isn't what happened. Instead, these two Senators were put into a position where suddenly they were doing a lot of travel on questionable business, and apparently the CPC machinery wasn't willing to invest some of the millions it raises in donations every year into funding this travel.
Second, this is little different to me than the "How to Disrupt Parliament" manual that Harper handed out to his MPs back in 2006. It speaks to a clear intent to abuse the privileges and rights of power for partisan gain. Make no mistake about it, the tone in the party that makes this kind of abuse of parliament and taxpayers starts at the top - look in the direction of the PMO when assigning responsibility - the man at the top should be held accountable for this.
Like the Economic Action Plan ads which are really little more than CPC propaganda, what we have here is another example of a government which is willing to abuse taxpayer funds for partisan purposes. Canadians are paying for Harper to publish partisan propaganda - no more, no less. Now we find out that Harper's Senate appointees are being given specific instructions on how to abuse the funding of the Senate so that they can further their partisan work. Makes one wonder just how much of the same kind of thing is going on in the House of Commons with his caucus. (I know that I seldom see anything from my MP except for the occasional leaflet which is completely devoid of actual content)
More so than any Prime Minister before him, Harper has gone to enormous lengths to corrupt Parliament from the ground up. From clear violations of Canada's election laws (remember the "In-and-Out campaign financing in 2006?), to electoral fraud in 2011(yes, I hold the CPC responsible for the Robocalls mess - their database was used for it, and I do not accept the "it was hacked" line), a manual for MPs on how to disrupt parliamentary business, a steady rebranding of Canada's government using CPC colours, and now we learn that the Senate has been instructed on how to abuse the finances provided to run that body.
I have seen a few apologists for the Harperites point to Mac Harb and a couple of other Liberal Senators and claim that "the system has been broken for years". Yes, it has - no argument there. The issue is the lengths to which Harper has abused the system, especially when he was elected in 2006 on a promise to provide Canadians with more open and accountable government. He has provided anything but. In fact, the corruption under Harper is far, far worse than what we have ever seen on any previous Prime Minister in living memory.