Good government is about delivering a broad range of effective and responsive policies, but it’s about more than that.
Admittedly, this has largely been the success formula for the Saskatchewan Party, which has enjoyed the added luxury of governing during perhaps the best economic period in the province’s history.
In fact, 2008 was the best economic year Saskatchewan has seen — a stark contrast to what the rest of the country was going through. Some might go so far as to argue this is why Premier Brad Wall has delivered better government than Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
But the reason why Harper’s Conservatives are in trouble today has precious little to do with the dip in 2008 that they actually weathered rather well.
The difference between the Wall and Harper administration goes back to what each should have learned in governance 101 about being elected to serve the people’s interests and not your own.
Except for a few notable bumps, Wall’s provincial government has consistently left the impression in its six years that the public need comes first. Few would describe Harper’s federal government in that way right now.
And nowhere is this more evident that Harper’s handling of the Senate.
The issues here goes well the ethics of either Senators Mike Duffy or Pamela Wallin claiming tens of thousands of dollars to which they likely were not entitled. (Although, it is sad to see a stand-up individual like Wallin caught in her expense travel quagmire.)
The issue isn’t even so much Duffy secretly getting a $90,000 cheque from Harper’s well-heeled former chief-of-staff Nigel Wright. (Although, the old saying that it’s not the crime but the cover up that tends to get you in trouble in politics.)
The issue is the loss of moral compass by a Conservative government that was elected largely because of the sponsorship scandal in which Liberals demonstrated their own self-interest outweighing the interests of the voters that elected them.
That we would see this misspending and cover-ups from Conservatives in the Senate — the place Harper once called a haven for Liberal partisans that he intended to reform through elections and accountability — is almost shocking.
Consider the fact that Duffy and Wallin were not long-serving Conservative fund-raisers being awarded for years of contribution to the party. Harper appointed them to Senate so they could become Conservative bagmen.
Is this how Conservatives envisioned Senate reform? Did anyone believe this is what Stephen Harper stood for 10 years ago?
How badly Harper and Conservatives have lost sight of whose interests they represent can best be summed up by former Triple-E advocate Bert Brown, who said in an interview that Conservative Senators don’t even bother to attempt to represent the interests of their province.
“They just follow what their party’s leadership tells them to do, Brown told the Huffington Post website. “I was there for five years and eight months and we voted everything that was voted to the Conservative government — every one. There was one guy who said who wanted to abstain once.”
It was rare honest admission of the problems in federal Conservative ranks, albeit one that has come a little too late and is salted with a lot of hypocrisy.
It was also Brown who also offered this view of the Senate two years ago:
“Every senator in this caucus needs to decide where their loyalty should be and must be,” Brown wrote. “The answer is simple; our loyalty is to the man who brought us here, the man who has wanted Senate reform since he entered politics, the Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper.”
Essentially, this is the problem. Harper, Conservatives and their appointees bought in the mindset that political interests come first.
They’ve forgotten the most basic lesson in governance.
Murray Mandryk has been covering provincial politics for over 22 years.