By Ralph Goodale
It's Hallowe'en, a time for witches and goblins, and the day on which Stephen Harper's Conservatives begin their National Convention in Calgary.
Mike Duffy won't be there. Neither will Pamela Wallin or Patrick Brazeau. At least not in person. But their ghosts will no doubt haunt the proceedings. Once upon a time, all three were hailed as national celebrities, lured by Mr. Harper's "brilliant leadership" to enter the world of politics, and hand-picked by him to join the Senate.
Now, he reviles them at every turn -- a profound criticism of his own poor judgment in appointing these people in the first place. Worse still, the stench of cover-up hangs in the air. Mr. Harper and his entourage twist and turn with constantly changing stories about that secret payment of $90,000 that Duffy received from former PMO Chief-of-Staff, Nigel Wright.
Contradictions abound. Mr. Harper first said Wright acted all alone. But subsequent revelations show that more than a dozen senior Conservatives were intimately involved, including several lawyers, in facilitating the payment and then hiding it. Mr. Harper first said no documentation existed. But page-after-page of incriminating paperwork is dribbling out. Mr. Harper first said Wright was an honourable man who made a mistake and resigned. But now he's portrayed as a serious evil-doer that Mr. Harper had to fire.
The Prime Minister says he ordered Duffy to repay his wrongful expenses on February 13th. But then he wants us to believe that, for three full months, he was never told about how his order was being executed. Nor did he ever ask. He claims he was surprised on May 15th to learn that Wright had paid Duffy's debts in a complex deal that pre-empted a forensic audit by Deloitte and whitewashed a Senate report. As part of it all, Duffy claims he was counselled by the PMO to lie about the source of his funds.
The whole thing is a huge unsavoury mess. And getting messier, with no respectable answers coming from the Harper government. None of the players is credible. But they do have one thing in common -- they were all appointed or hired by Stephen Harper. And they all ran amuck!
So it's probably appropriate for the Harper gang to gather on Hallowe'en.
They will also be "celebrating" another dubious occasion. It was on Hallowe'en in 2006 that Stephen Harper broke his explicit commitment to savers and investors that he would never, ever impose a tax on Income Trusts. That "promise" was turned into a lie by the implementation of a new Conservative tax-on-trusts at the fatal rate of 31.5 per cent.
Mr. Harper's betrayal slashed the savings accounts of some two million ordinary Canadians by about $25 billion.
Ralph Goodale's Report is a commentary by the Member of Parliament for Wascana.