On Monday, November 25th elect

Linda McQuaig

for Toronto Centre

Linda on the Senate Scandal

Harper's Bad Week

October 30th, 2013 - 2:13pm

With fresh Senate revelations almost every day, we’re learning more and more about the story that lies at the heart of the scandal: how the Prime Minister’s Office – and possibly the PM himself – authorized hush money to cover up a deeply embarrassing political scandal.

Under tough grilling from Opposition leader Tom Mulcair, Stephen Harper has admitted to Parliament that not just one, but a number of individuals in his office were aware of the hush money payment.

As I learned out canvassing this past week, Canadians are increasingly cynical about the unelected upper chamber – which the NDP has long sought to abolish.

Senate abolition would take some time, but some of the worst abuses of taxpayer money could be shut down immediately -- by blocking Senators from using Senate resources to carry out partisan political activities. This is exactly what the NDP proposed in a motion tabled in the House of Commons last week.

Yet, unbelievably, both the Conservatives and the Liberals voted against the NDP motion, keeping the Senate trough dangerously open to abuse. 

The continuing Senate revelations leave in tatters the original, preposterous Harper claim that Wright, completely on his own, paid $90,000 of his own money to help Senator Mike Duffy repay improperly claimed housing expenses. According to that far-fetched scenario, Wright was just a generous fellow acting out of some sort of good Samaritan impulse, and wasn’t at all thinking about trying to shut down a growing scandal that was threatening to destroy the credibility of his boss, Stephen Harper.

In fact, Wright lies at the very nexus of the Conservative party, money and power.

He has long been a politically savvy, well-connected operator with exceptionally close ties to Harper. He was key to Harper’s rise to power, as a central player in the “unite the right” movement a decade ago, which led to Harper’s takeover of the Conservative party. A Bay Street insider, Wright served as managing director of the private equity firm Onex, partly owned by billionaire Gerry Schwartz. And Wright was one of three founding directors of the Conservative Fund Canada, set up in 2003, to finance the new conservative movement and bring about a Thatcher-style conservative revolution in Canada.

On the board of the Conservative Fund, Wright worked closely with another board member, Senator Irving Gerstein, a well-connected corporate player who has recently been identified as one of the individuals who knew about the $90,000 payment to Duffy.

Somehow we’re supposed to believe that while two long-time Harper confidantes -- Wright and Gerstein (among others) -- were negotiating with Duffy to shut down the biggest political scandal ever to rock the Harper government, they didn’t bother to inform their long-time comrade-in-arms Stephen Harper.

Here’s what seems more likely: Harper was deeply involved in strategizing with his trusted top generals, Wright and Gerstein, to do something to stop the unraveling of their well-laid plans to foster a right-wing conservative revolution in Canada. 

When the hush money became public, Wright willingly took the fall. And as this week’s allegations left Harper increasingly cornered, the Prime Minister showed his complete unwillingness to take any responsibility, dumping all the blame onto his steadfast ally, Nigel Wright, in order to save his own skin.

The post-Harper era can’t come fast enough.  

Thanks so much for all your ongoing efforts to hurry it along by adding Toronto Centre to the NDP’s 100 seats in Parliament.

Linda McQuaig