Nowhere but in politics do we so clearly see the manifestation of the principle of unintended consequences. Two national media icons are appointed to the senate for no other reason than to lend their star quality to a taxpayer-funded never-ending campaign tour. Fast forward to the past week and Mike Duffy and Pam Wallin have gone from a-listers to objects of scandal, or at minimum, derision. For Stephen Harper the past week, in addition to the embarrassment of seeing his two star senators disgraced, has seen him lose his best political strategist Doug Finley to cancer, and then the resignation of his brainy chief of staff Nigel Wright who put up $90,000 so Duffy could repay his improperly-claimed housing allowances.
Paul Martin drank from the poisoned chalice of the Chretien sponsorship scandal. Chretien was willing to stay in office through the Gomery inquiry and then resign. Bur Martin’s advisors did not trust Chretien to keep his word and forced him out; making it Martin who faced the brunt of a scandal that he had nothing to do with. The result—the election of a Harper government pledged to clean up corruption and sleaze in Ottawa. Now Harper faces his own ordeals—backbenchers revolting against his command-and-control management style, senators who were to be key players in the next election becoming albatrosses, loss of his campaign and administrative brain trust. There are still two years to go before the next election; and all of the events of the past few days may have lost their toxicity by then; but the political strategy for the next while needs to be re-thought. For instance, would this be the time to unleash a new series of attack ads on Justin Trudeau? Don’t think so.