As Canadians United for Change listens to voters in the 2015 election campaign, we’ve found that the Senate expenses scandal focused on Senator Mike Duffy is a tipping point for many.
People who have never supported Stephen Harper and the Conservatives say it confirms their suspicions and fears about why the Prime Minister is so secretive and controlling – that he has something to hide.
At the same time, many Canadians who voted for the Harper government say they’ve been disappointed by how the Prime Minister has handled the Senate scandal – so much so they can no longer support the Conservatives.
What unites all these voters is a shared belief that the Senate scandal is revealing that Stephen Harper and the Conservatives are not demonstrating the honesty and integrity Canadians expect from their Prime Minister and the party that forms the government.
Across the country, Canadians are coming to the conclusion the Senate scandal shows Stephen Harper and the Conservatives have concealed the truth, have contempt for voters, no longer deserve our trust, and should no longer be supported.
Stephen Harper has claimed to have no involvement in or knowledge about the wrongdoing of the Senate scandal. But history shows he has been closely involved with the story. He appointed Mike Duffy as one of 18 new senators in 2008 to create a Conservative-controlled Senate that would help keep his minority government in power if the other parties tried to form a coalition. In 2012, Mike Duffy was one of four senators accused of wrongfully claiming their homes were outside of Ottawa so they could claim living expenses for working in Ottawa. When an audit showed his claims were improper, Duffy paid them back but signed an agreement with the Prime Minister’s Office to give him the money. Stephen Harper’s Chief of Staff wrote a personal cheque to Duffy for $90,000 to cover the improper expenses – a payment Stephen Harper says he didn’t know about. Canada’s Ethics Commissioner launched an investigation into the payment, and Duffy resigned to sit as an independent, then was suspended without pay by the Senate for two years for his wrongdoing. The RCMP investigated, and charged Duffy in 2014 with 31 counts of fraud, breach of trust and bribery, for which he faces up to 14 years in prison. His trial began in April, and is continuing now during the current election campaign.
Since the Senate scandal began and throughout Mike Duffy’s trial, Stephen Harper has claimed not to have known about Duffy’s wrongdoing, about the agreement his staff signed to reimburse Duffy’s improper expenses, and about efforts to mislead and conceal information from the public. But these claims are in conflict with Stephen Harper’s reputation for managing all the details of key issues.
The Office of the Prime Minister is the highest office in the land. Whether Stephen Harper approved his Chief of Staff’s cheque to Mike Duffy as reimbursement for Duffy’s improper Senate expenses remains an open question. But the Senate scandal and Duffy’s trial have Canadians struggling to believe Stephen Harper, and questioning the ethics, honesty and integrity of the Prime Minister and the Conservative Party.
For individual Canadians asking these questions, Canadians United for Change has a message: You’re not alone. In the 2015 election, voters are entitled to know the truth, and to have a sound basis for believing that the person and party they vote for is ethical and forthright. Questioning the honesty and integrity of Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party is valid and legitimate – and important for Canada.