Saturday, October 26, 2013

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Andrew Coyne highlights the ultimate issue in the Cons' Senate patronage, scandals and cover-ups:
(I)f the prime minister sets the standard, then we are entitled to ask: Why has this standard been so inconsistent? On essentially the same set of facts, the senators in question have been held to three entirely distinct standards: total indulgence, in the first stages of their tenure, when they were viewed as assets to the party; total ostracism, since the scandal broke, when they had become political liabilities; and in between that strange interlude, at least with regard to Duffy, when he was both being punished — pay back your expenses! — and indulged: play along, keep quiet and Nigel will pay.

So if the prime minister seeks to be congratulated for cracking the whip now, he must also accept responsibility for doing nothing before, when the same senators were touring the country attending Tory fundraisers and speaking at campaign events on the public dime. Can he pretend this was a secret? Indeed, he must earnestly hope the auditor general, in the course of his investigations, does not find others of the senators at his command have done the same — as of course must they. For then the hypocrisy would be total.

This is why the Watergate question — what did the prime minster know when — while important, is not the issue. Whether he specifically approved the decision to bail out Duffy, he was the author of the climate of expediency in which it was made. He is responsible, because he is the standard.
- Meanwhile, Thomas Walkom wonders whether an undue focus on the interests of Pamela Wallin, Mike Duffy and Patrick Brazeau might help Harper to avoid accountability himself. But Susan Delacourt recognizes the real conflict between the entire Con cabal - still including Wallin, Duffy and Brazeau in their belief that they're above the rules which apply to everybody else - and the Canadian public:
(T)his is a live-by-the-sword, die-by-the-sword world — it has the ring of truth.

Over the past eight years, Harper and his PMO have repeatedly gambled that Canadians — not just the Conservative base — can be made to believe in spin over the truth.
Leave aside what all this week’s drama says about the state of Parliament and politics in general for now. Look for a moment at how the Canadian voters are being portrayed by their politicians.
It is not a flattering picture that’s being painted of the Canadian public throughout this Senate scandal — an apathetic lot, gullible to spin, villagers with torches when they get whipped up about perceived elites misusing their taxpayer dollars.
A little more than a decade ago, I was talking to Harper on the phone, around about the time that he was considering a return to politics after swearing off it a few years before.
I joked that one of the job requirements is liking people. He had an excellent comeback: “Oh, I like people. I just don’t like the people you like.”
That witty rejoinder has kept coming back to me this week. How do you like a public you see as an apathetic, “don’t care” kind of crowd, more persuaded by the ring of truth than truth itself?
This past week has made many politicians look bad. But it hasn’t been a great week for the public either. That “mob” they’ve all been talking about is the Canadian electorate — you, in other words.
- And Kathleen Blanchard helps to explain where that attitude of contempt for mere citizens comes from, writing about yet more research showing that a sense of power tends to suppress empathy.

- Amy MacPherson neatly details Kellie Leitch's dubious combination of conflicting interests and selective disclosure which resulted in her sitting in cabinet for five months while also holding a paid director position with a real estate income trust which leases multiple properties to the federal government.

- The CP confirms that the Cons are ending any environmental assessment of the in situ tar sand production which figures to be used to access 80% of all tar sands crude. And Jessica McDiarmid notes that while applying to have its Line 9 pipeline reversed and turned into a conduit for diluted bitumen, Enbridge is refusing even basic testing to ensure a four-decade-old pipeline designed for another type of product can operate safely.

- Finally, pogge weighs in on the routine overcollection of Canadians' personal financial information by FINTRAC, and wonders what role it might play in the wider surveillance state.

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