Cone of Silence

ford harper

Rob Ford and Stephen Harper are about as different as two politicians can be, but the one thing they have in common is an uncanny ability to brush off scandals before they stick. Harper entered the 2011 election facing a “controversy of the day” – from Bev Oda’s orange juice, to Bruce Carson’s fraud charges, to Jason Kenney’s use of government resources to target “very ethnic” voters, to “in and out”, to a historic contempt of parliament vote. What did all that get Harper? A majority government.

If I tried to list all of Rob Ford’s blowups here I’d run out of virtual ink, but despite being one of the most controversial politicians in Canadian history, his approval rating stood at 49% just last month.

However, this past week we’ve seen holes form in both Ford and Harper’s teflon and, in both cases, they have no one but themselves to blame.

It’s been nearly a week since claims surfaced of a Rob Ford crack video, yet the Mayor has refused to respond, beyond calling the allegations “ridiculous” and blaming it on a Toronto Star witch hunt. He’s cancelled his weekly radio show and has dodged reporters, to the point where even the Toronto Sun has joined the witch hunt, demanding he clear the air.

In Ottawa, Harper has been equally evasive when it comes to Nigel Wright’s $90,000 gift to Senator Mike Duffy, letting his enforcers take questions in the House before fleeing to Peru. In his lone public speech on the topic, Harper refused to admit anything wrong had happened, painted himself as the victim. More troublingly, he did not offer any sort of compelling explanation or solution.

Both Harper and Ford appear content to plug their ears and hope these latest scandals gently fade away, like so many scandals have before. However, by failing to offer any sort of consistent or coherent explanation as to what happened, the public has been left to assume the worst.

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Federal Politics, Scandals, Toronto Municipal Politics

About CalgaryGrit

A former Calgary Liberal, now living in Toronto. My writings on politics can be found at and online at the National Post.

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10 Responses to Cone of Silence

  1. Marc from soccer

    It’s because they know that regardless of what they say the public will assume the worst. Anyone who is going to stop voting Conservative over Wright/Duffy has long since stopped voting Conservative, or at all. Rob Ford could probably still pull off an election win even after the latest developments, though it’d be tighter than it would have been three weeks ago. So there is no gain in confronting the issue unless they want to keep it in the papers for even longer. There have yet to be holes poked in Harper’s suit. I’d guess Rob’s is starting to wear thin but a hole or two isn’t a reason to replace the jacket.

  2. Nuna D. Above

    Mulroney was racked by scandal in his first term, and Ed Broadbent’s NDP was number one in the polls. What Harper if facing is minor compared to what the 1984 PC’s went through.
    The Supreme Court will rule in the fall on reforming or abolishing the Senate. The NDP is in favour of abolishing it, and Harper would likely be as well if reform is not in the cards. Does anyone know the Liberal position? I haven’t heard it.

    • Luke

      I’m not sure about the Liberals’ official position, but Justin Trudeau did make some comments during the leadership campaign about the senate. He figured the solution was to choose “better senators” rather than switching to an elected senate or abolishing it. Now, I wonder if would change his tune given these scandals of late.

      I personally get the idea of the senate, but its behaviour lately (whitewashing inconveniences from their reports, the ineligible expenses themselves) and some historical problems with very poor attendance make me think that perhaps it isn’t very useful in its current form. I wonder if strict rules and their full enforcement (including the possibility of dismissal for breaking the law) would make for a more well behaved and perhaps useful senate.

  3. Jason Holborn

    After all this silence, I am beginning to assume the worst about Rob Ford. It was a tough decision, what with the money going to crack dealers, but I ultimately donated cash to ‘Crackstarter’ because it’s come to a point where the public needs to see the video and judge for themselves if it is real or a hoax.

  4. Luke

    Dan, I revisited your esses of scandal blog thinking about this one. I think this one scores as pretty scandalous, but I do wonder about its staying power. If dribs and drabs keep leaking out, this could be damaging for some time, but maybe not if it is over and done with in short order.

    But then it is just a flagrant example of behaviour that has come to be expected.

    Still, I think there’s the possibility that it will play out as Andrew Coyne predicts, which is to disappear amid other news as the CPC sticks to its final message that Harper simply didn’t know what was going on.

    • Luke

      FYI, I’m referring to the Senate scandal as opposed to the Ford crack scandal.

  5. Robert V

    One of the hardest things to predict, for politicians of any stripe, is which controversies will stick and which ones won’t.

  6. CuJoYYC

    The one essential element about the senate spending coverup, is that it’s numbers that most Canadians can relate to. We can relate to $90,000. That’s either an annual income, or double an annual income, or the balance on one’s mortgage but the billions of dollars associated with the F35s or hundreds of millions just for the DESIGN phase of arctic patrol ships are just too far outside of the daily activities of most Canadians. Moreover, the cost estimates can be argued about and all sorts of “experts” can be brought in to muddy the waters BUT writing a $90,000 cheque to a senator during an outside audit is wrong and, more importantly, FEELS wrong deep down in the gut of even the most ardent Conservative supporter, whether they admit it or not.

    It’s also why $16.00 orange juice resonated more than $50 million for gazebos and why glow sticks pissed off more people than the incarceration of peaceful protestors at the G20 in Toronto (let alone the shameful waste of $1.2BILLION on security).

    It’s the little things that have a lasting affect. These are the things that go to the character of the people involved.

    • Nuna D. Above

      “It’s the little things that have a lasting affect.”

      And that is a sad comment on the intelligence of many Canadians. When the Liberals plunder $20 billion from CPP and $50 billion from EI-which the Supreme Court ruled they had no right to do-it doesn’t attract as much attention.
      Bev Oda’s $18 OJ being a sore point is probably race based more than anything. She is the “other” to many, and her expenses were judged more harshly than white millionaire Justin Trudeau’s expenses at Katimavik being picked up by the tax-payer.

      • Marc from soccer

        No, it is not about intelligence, it is about self-interest – organizational vs. personal.

        It’s not right for the Liberals to have plundered the EI and CPP funds. It’s not rational for the Conservatives to waste money on the G20 or fighter jets. We’re rational people who understand that the individuals we elect can’t always steer the ship the right way, particularly in the face of the organization self-interest of a huge body run by diffused and often confusing lines of authority like a government. It is understandable why it happened. The individuals involved can’t be fingered for bad judgment on an individual basis. At worst, it was a terrible decision of which they owned a tiny part. At best, it was an understandable albeit still wrong decision given the circumstances.

        But when the individuals we elected pull stunts like Duffy or Oda, they are doing the wrong thing in their explicit person self-interest. They absolutely know better. They are individually accountable. That shows a disregard for their position, the trust placed in them. That stings.

        That’s why the Ontario Liberal power plant scandal has stuck around so long. At first glance it seems like one of those big government money-wasting organizational self-interest problems that rears its head every few years. Like e-Health. But it is different, because it’s about the personal self interest of those involved – the immediate political fortunes of the Liberal party and the individual politicians in those seats and the Premier at the helm.

        The only people lacking intelligence are those that can’t see past their own partisan affiliations.

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