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A creative definition of 'honourable'

By Linda Leon Open letter to MP Ryan Leef: "Come I to speak in Caesar's funeral. He was my friend, faithful and just to me: Yet Brutus says he was ambitious; And Brutus is an honourable man." The quote is from Mark Anthony's speech at the funeral of Caes

By Linda Leon

Open letter to MP Ryan Leef:

“Come I to speak in Caesar’s funeral. He was my friend, faithful and just to me:

Yet Brutus says he was ambitious; And Brutus is an honourable man.”

The quote is from Mark Anthony’s speech at the funeral of Caesar from Julius Caesar by Shakespeare.

We are living in Shakespearian times, Ryan. Large figures are brought low by intrigue, ambition and hubris.

Senator Dan Lang, with regard to the Senate scandal, told the Yukon News, “All I know is that the prime minister is an honourable man, and he’s doing the best he can for Canada.”

Senator Irving Gerstein also has a broad definition of the word “honourable.” “I do not only admit to being a bagman, I have always proclaimed it, because raising money for our party, or any party for that matter, is both honourable and necessary.” Irving Gerstein and his fellow bagman, Doug Finley, were well-rewarded with Senate seats for their part in the in-and-out Elections Canada scandal, in which illegal election expense fiddling helped the Conservative Party win the 2006 election.

Mike Duffy wanted to be a senator so bad, his nickname when he worked at CTV was “the senator.” Jonathan Gatehouse, for Maclean’s Magazine, wrote, “The Liberals kicked his tires at least once.” Wise heads prevailed and it was left to Mr. Harper to appoint Mike Duffy to the Senate. It is clear that Mr. Duffy would have been just as eloquent and just as enthusiastically partisan had he been stumping for the Liberals.

Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin were big guns for hire. By their own reckoning, they did what they were paid to do, campaign on behalf of the Conservative Party. Both senators were talented persuaders and they did much to further the prospects of the Conservative Party. No wonder they feel betrayed.

No wonder the Prime Minister’s Office and the Senate Board of Internal Economy took such twists and turns around the expense scandal. If you look past the sanctimony, there is panic in Conservative ranks. They lost three, if you include Nigel Wright, important Conservative operatives. They have discovered that the Prime Minister’s Office keeps big binders on caucus members. And they now know anyone can be thrown under the bus.

Mike Duffy was too much of a professional to not keep a detailed paper trail. I wonder what else he knows?

Please don’t get me wrong, Ryan. I don’t admire the disgraced senators. It is just that I admire the prime minister, the Prime Minister’s Office and his caucus wranglers even less.

The problem with the Senate is that it has always been used for patronage appointments. But not all senators are bagmen or crooks. Outstanding individuals have been given senate appointments, if for no other reason then that their stature would reflect well on the prime minister who appointed them. The principled Hugh Segal, humanitarian Romeo Dallaire who has done so much for child soldiers, and Lillian Dyke, a professor of neuropsychiatry and proponent of science and human rights, are genuine assets to the Senate. But Mr. Harper doesn’t like to be upstaged. And, from the way his Senate appointees behave, it appears that he based his choices on their willingness to obey.

Senator Lang said, “we’re supposed to be a sober second thought… a check against the power of the House (of Commons) and a way to slow down that legislation if needed. That’s important.” In November 2010, the Conservative senators, after skulking like vultures for a day when there weren’t enough Liberals present to stop them, killed the Climate Change Accountability Act. This is the first time in Canadian history that the Senate ever killed a bill that had been passed by elected representatives.

That they did so without a thought, without a word of debate and in a flagrantly devious way says everything one needs to know about the character of Mr. Harper’s senators.

In his book, Harper’s Team, conservative pundit Tom Flanagan said, “We cannot win by being Boy Scouts.” Boy Scouts being famously associated with notions of honour, we now understand how the current Senate scandal came to be.

Personally, I would like to see Senate reform. We do need a check on the House of Commons. But as long as Mr. Harper is prime minister, I fear any action taken on the Senate would be for partisan advantage and not be best for Canada.

Is Mr. Harper an honourable man?

May you walk on the high road.

Linda Leon is a

Whitehorse freelance writer.

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