At some point, you have to feel for the true-to-their-heart Conservatives who’ve endured much during this recent Senate debacle.
Of course, the left will likely be appalled at any sympathy expressed towards Conservative voters or their Senators/MPs, but we should always draw a clear distinction between the two.
But the left in this province should understand better than most the separation between the party rank and file and the actions of their politicians while in government.
Whether it is the wasteful Spudco of the NDP, caucus fraud of the Progressive Conservatives or the Saskatchewan Liberal leadership fiascos there is nothing more disheartening to the rank and file of a party than to helplessly watch the implosion of the governing party it supported.
In fact, in can be argued that those Conservatives who extended their support to the political party/cause by signing a party membership card or by offering a political donation should be most appalled by the shenanigans of Mike Duffy or even Pamela Wallin, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, his former chief-of-staff Nigel Wright et. al.
But by the same token, it should also be these rank and file supporters/donors who should be the loudest in demanding accountability from their MPs, Prime Minister and Senators — accountability that nobody in this country is getting right now.
Admittedly, what exactly politicians believe and what they say in the heat of battle/desire to get elected can sometimes be two different things.
But those that open up both their hearts and their wallets to a politic party either through ballot support or monetary donation are usually unwavering in their beliefs and principles.
So when then federal opposition leader Stephen Harper vowed in 2005 that “Conservatives believe as basic principle that politicians should not be accountable to other politicians”, it was a comment most cheered by Conservatives.
“There is going to be a new code of conduct on Parliament Hill,” Harper said in the wake of the Jean Chretien-Liberal sponsorship scandal. “Bend the rules and you will be charged. Abuse the public trust and you will go to prison. If you behave unethically or dishonestly, then don’t expect a reward from this prime minister of Canada.”
Added to his calls for a tougher stance on crime, an end to the long gun registry, support for lower taxes and an end to the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly and we got from Stephen Harper of 2005 was an agenda worthy of conservative-Canada — especially in rural Western Canada where values are simple and straight-forward.
But contrast this with today’s goings-on with Conservative Senators.
What’s at issue has long-ago breached the political gamesmanship of whether Senators are actually permanent residents of the provinces in which they represent or whether their appointments were ever more than a reward for being good party fund-raisers.
With the allegations of a $90,000 cheque Wright to cover off Duffy’s inappropriate housing claims, we have entered an area of much more serious impropriety — interfering with a Senator who has admitted to claiming tax money for personal gain. This should rightly make Conservatives bristle.
It simply isn’t good enough for Harper to say he is angry after the resignation of Duffy from Senate caucus and Wright from his job as chief of staff. Nor is good enough to wax on to his Conservatives MPs about their “culture of accountability” and then refuse to take reporters’ questions and skip Question Period and the country without any answers or commitment to a process that would provide answers.
Like all other Canadians, Conservative should be demanding better.
Party supporters have not just the right but also the duty to demand accountability that will only come through an independent review process.
If Conservatives are true to their values of fair tax spending and accountability in government, it is only logical that they make this demand of their leader.
Murray Mandryk has been covering provincial politics for over 22 years.