The Duffy Affair tarnished the Conservative record on integrity by demonstrating how much and how often a Prime Minister can contradict when he isn't trying to dodge straight forward questions - after criticizing the last Prime Minister for doing so. After defending Wright for a good while, Prime Minister Stephen Harper threw his former chief of staff Nigel Wright under the bus.
When the news that Wright cut a $90,000 cheque to then-Conservative Senator Mike Duffy, the next related news was the suspicion the cheque was, by itself, a breach of law, along with the obvious breach of public trust. Today, the RCMP confirmed the suspicion of illegal doings with the cheque. According to court documents, the RCMP is alleging the cheque was illegal and is in the process of investigating it - no surprise.
RCMP Cpl Greg Horton said Duffy "did, without the consent in writing of the head of the branch of government, pay a reward or confer an advantage or benefit on Mike Duffy."
Furthermore, he stated Duffy and Wright "did commit breach of trust in connection with the duties of their offices," breaching the criminal code.
In addition, he suggests Duffy and Wright "did directly or indirectly corruptly give or offer to a member of Parliament for the benefit of that person, any money, valuable consideration, or office in respect of anything done or omitted, or to be done or omitted by him in his official capacity," between February 6 and March 28 - again breaching the criminal code.
This is the first time the RCMP has accused Wright of criminal activity, although Harper confirmed yesterday that the RCMP was investigating Wright - even though the RCMP declined to comment on the matter.
Given the breakdown of the Duffy Affair, it has become harder to believe Harper's side of events and as such, his credibility has been shattered making him vulnerable to scandals that have left the headlines, like Robocall, and future scandals and incidents like Rob Ford's entertaining experiment with crack.
When Canadians thought the political scene didn't have enough excitement with Duffy releasing bombshells on the government's role in the Duffy Affair, the video of Rob Ford's use of crack, along with other troubling videos of him, among the explanations Ford has given for it all, exploded and dominated international media. American late-night comedians have had a field day taking aim at Ford, and Ford has given them quite a bit to feed on.
Rob Ford, who is a staunch Conservative, best friends with Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, a fishing partner of Harper's, and once uttered the most pointed tough on crime and tough on drugs rhetoric is now falling into the status he once defined and attacked. We are now at a point where American talk shows have praised Ford's commitment to keep drugs off Toronto streets by making sure it all stays in his home.
The Duffy Affair and Ford Saga have left the Conservatives in a bad situation. Their former friends and close allies are facing public scrutiny and ridicule, and it's only a matter of time before they turn to the desperate state Duffy has found himself at where he and his lawyers will attack the very people who built him to what he was before the scandal was uncovered.
Time and time again, we've seen the Conservatives defend, dismiss, or hide from these events, contradicting the entire "tough on crime" brand. When a breach of trust based off corrupt and collusive motives happens in the Prime Minister's Office, it is the Prime Minister's responsibility to know and react accordingly to the affair. Harper has denied knowledge of the affair, stating he learned it from the same sources we did. Either he is lying or he isn't effectively doing his job as a boss and Prime Minister. Which is it? Harper defended Wright when the allegations surfaced, but he was quick to skip judicial process when evicting Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau from the senate meant ending weeks of ongoing headlines concerning the scandal that a responsible leader would never have let happen. The optics are worst when one considers the fact that Duffy and Wallin were effective Conservative fundraisers.
The Robocall scandal was tossed under the rug and dismissed as conspiracy. While the past Conservative run-ins with electoral law and surpassing campaign limits has been the reality of a few cabinet ministers, it becomes questionable as to whether the claims surrounding the Robocall scandal are valid and worth the look. Harper's response was simple: it didn't happen, stop talking about it. Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro, who was the Conservative Party's defence at the time changed arguments on the fly. First, the scandal was an "unsubstantiated smear campaign," then it became a Liberal scandal, then it became a mistake. Today, Del Mastro is under investigation for the way his campaign was managed. The shining moment for Harper would have been to call for a public inquiry. Voter suppression is a massive breach to our democratic system - being antidemocratic doesn't sell in Canada. Calling for a public inquiry would have seemed tough on crime - and even shown the allegations against the Conservatives was false - assuming they are.
Now, that Ford has taken the headlines, the Conservatives have the perfect distraction - who incidentally also wants to become Canada's next Prime Minister (only one party he can go for). Justice Minister Peter MacKay took the opportunity to attack Liberal leader Justin Trudeau who admitted he has taken a puff from a joint in his days. This, after, saying that Ford should seek rehabilitation - the exact opposite of Conservative tough on crime laws. Funny enough, as the Conservatives hammer Trudeau on pot use, Ford was caught with crack - a drug that is typically deeper rooted into the likes of organized crime. Conservative crime laws should have Ford hauled off to jail - especially with the evidence prosecutors would have a field day with - not to mention the American media...
The Conservatives have been reluctant to confront Ford for his obvious and admitted contradictions with the laws the Conservatives themselves brought in. They are, however, quick to attack political opponents and stuff innocent people in jail cells, however. Conservative MPs, instead, are hoping he gets rehabilitation for his issues with alcohol and crack - a sentiment that completely contradicts their policy. Not to worry, the media has this covered and the world is still laughing.
“These latest allegations are troubling,” said Jason MacDonald, Harper’s director of communications. “Our government does not condone illegal drug use, especially by elected officials while in office, including Justin Trudeau, nor do we condone drinking and driving.”