Thursday, May 30, 2013

Ethics, the Senate, and Stephen Harper

I read an article from the National Post by Andrew Coyne.  Yes I visited the National Post Site and that in itself could be news.  The article was about whether the Harper Party’s “culture of expediency” was behind the current crop of scandals in Ottawa.

If you want my comments to Andrew you’ll have to scroll way down the comments list, look for the black cat.

I found myself agreeing with Andrew’s premise that many of the Harper Party Scandals have their roots going into the practice of forcing through legislation that looks good to the party’s supporters but that are not well thought out, political expediency as it were, but I took issue with his idea that

People don’t make ethical choices in isolation. They take their cues from those around and above them.

I believe ethics is what you do when you think no one is watching.

Andrew is of the opinion that even if you are an honest person when you walk into the Senate or the House of Commons that you will soon lose that honesty when you see all the other people grabbing with both hands and not getting caught.  I think he’s wrong.

Look, I know a woman who drove 30 minutes out of her way to go back to a store because they made a mistake and didn’t charge her for an item.  She was free and clear, she wouldn’t have been caught.  So why did she do it?

She felt it was wrong to keep something she didn’t pay for.  She didn’t do anything wrong, the store made an error, but she just didn’t feel right in not paying for it.

She did the right thing because it was the right thing to do.

It’s the same thing as picking up a lost wallet and handing it over to the store or the police unopened because it’s not yours.

Acting ethically can be a choice, but for most of us it seems to be ingrained into us.  We were taught to be honest, to act appropriately, and to be good citizens.  We may choose to be with people of like mind when we are  with our friends, but unfortunately we do not get to choose who were work with.

Stephen Harper is not in a position like most of us.  He has the ability to choose who he has in his inner circle and those who he appoints to various positions including the Senate.  He can check into these people to ensure they are of high moral standing, to ensure they are ethical, but he apparently does not.

We have a number of Senators in Ottawa who don’t appear to live in the regions they represent.  This is a condition for sitting in the Senate stipulated in the Constitution.  If these people took the high moral road, if they acted ethically they would have at least questioned if they were entitled to sit in the Senate.  Instead they just sidled up to the trough and proceeded to gobble all that they could get.

If Stephen Harper were to call me today and say “You want a Senate seat?” I’d say “Thanks, but I can’t.”  I know that I don’t meet the requirements.  Believe me, if I got the call and I could figure out how to make myself eligible I would.  Wouldn’t you? $130,000.00 to start plus the perks would be awfully hard to turn down.


One way to judge a person is by looking at the company they choose to keep.  Stephen’s had a disbarred lawyer in his inner circle that later got into trouble for lobbying the Government improperly.  A Cabinet Minister who had a child with a baby sitter while he was still married.  Another Cabinet Minister who sold out his own party to have a seat in Harper’s Cabinet.  And of course the befuddled Senator who doesn’t know where he lives.

This does not reek of ethics folks, it reeks of something else.

Stephen Harper has “daylight ethics”.  Or maybe we can call it “political ethics”.  He tries to look like he’s doing the right thing when the harsh lights of public opinion are on him and his people, but when he thinks no one is looking, well that is an entirely different matter.  He thought that no one would notice if he clawed back danger pay from our Forces in Afghanistan.  He tried to reduce the danger pay for others.  These things were in the works until we noticed, until we turned on the lights and said that it was wrong… Then they went away quietly, “mistakes” they said.

Just today Stephen Harper was asked about Pamela Wallin’s travel expenses.  He said that if there are improper expenses that they should be repaid and that when they were repaid that Ms. Wallin would be welcomed back into caucus.

That’s not ethics.

Just paying back ill gotten gains is not sufficient.  Theft and fraud are not the pastimes of ethical or honourable people.  If Senators are bilking the system then they shouldn’t be in the Senate.  If MPs are bilking the system they should not be in the House.  At the very least they should be fired.  If it is warranted, they should be jailed.

When Stephen Harper isn’t wrapping himself in the flag or flogging his love of watching hockey, he claims to be a Christian.  Well he strikes me as one of those “Sunday Christians.”  You know the ones, Monday through Saturday they’ll lie and cheat and steal, or they’ll be all liquored up and chasing skirts while their family sits at home, but on Sunday, they dress up nice and listen to the preacher for a bit and they’re good to go for another week.


You see Andrew, the problem isn’t that these people are losing their ethics when they walk into the Senate or the House.  The problem is that they didn’t have any before they got there.  Of all 105 Senators and 308 MPs, we only hear a few bad eggs.  Maybe the rest are just smart enough to not get caught, I’d like to believe that the few do not necessarily represent the majority.

I believe that Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin are ethically challenged, should I believe that all journalists are like them?  Should I believe that You are like them?

Cheers, BC

Good Lord the Duffy Situation just keeps getting worse.  Now it appears he was demanding a Ministerial position so that he could have a car and driver and even more travel allowance?  I’m sure glad I didn’t appoint this buffoon.

1 comment:

  1. Unfortunately, I think Coyne is right on this situation. Especially in politics, an individual enters a well-established system, and cannot function within that system without adapting - at least partly - to its ethical model, which in this case, is indeed expediency. Must be overwhelming to try to go against the tide.