Everywhere I go people ask me about the political tornadoes swirling around Rob Ford, Pamela Wallin, Mike Duffy and Stephen Harper.
These are fair questions. First, my friends know I’m a political junkie. Not only that, but for over twenty years as a commentator on CFRB in Toronto my bailiwick included major political stories. And when it comes to the individuals involved, Mike Duffy and I have been friends for decades, Pamela Wallin is a former client, I voted for Rob Ford, and by voting for the Conservatives I also indirectly voted for Stephen Harper.
The questions I’m asked about our mayor are: If I could turn back time, would I vote for him again; would I vote for him if he runs in the next election; and, do I think he has connections of some kind (video or no video) with known drug dealers.
The answer to the first question is an unqualified “yes.” If the clock was turned back to the last mayoral election I would still vote for Rob Ford. The reason is because he would still be running against George Smitherman, who, if he was even one-tenth as incompetent as mayor as he was as a provincial cabinet minister, the city would be in financial ruin by the end of his term. Under Ford, Toronto is sounder financially than it’s been in years.
The answer to whether I would vote for Ford should he run in the next mayoral election, is a distinctly qualified “maybe.” If it were a two-way race between Ford and one of the condescending, supercilious, elitist downtown snobs currently on City Council, I’d vote for Ford. But the question is probably academic; there will likely be more than two viable mayoral candidates next time around.
As to the third question, I have no idea whether Mayor Ford has connections with known drug dealers. But I do know that by not confronting the relevant issues head-on, with every passing day he’s driving more and more people to the view that he has something to hide. He needs either a flat out, non-Clintonesque denial, or an admission of what behaviour has put him in this unenviable position and what he intends to do about it.
When it comes to Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin, everybody asks me the same question: Am I surprised? No, I’m not surprised; I’m shocked! I’m absolutely baffled as to what’s led them to this sorry place in their careers. It’s not the type of behaviour of which I ever expected either of them would someday be accused. The most plausible explanation is that they got caught up in, to paraphrase former Liberal cabinet minister David Dingwall, “being entitled to their entitlements.”
I have a degree of understanding when it comes to this view. As high-profile TV personalities (and then government envoy in Pamela’s case) they probably never had to pick up a check or personally pay for transportation in their professional lives. I suppose it’s possible that when they saw all that was there for the taking in the Valhalla of entitlement venues (the Senate), the temptation was simply too much. But, I emphasize, I don’t know. I haven’t talked to either of them for years and, unless I run into Mike in PEI this summer, I’m not apt to.
I’m asked two questions about Prime Minister Harper. The first stems from the fact that, although I’m a Conservative, I’ve never been a big fan of Stephen Harper. I like what he does, but I don’t like the way he does it; so my friends ask me if I’m enjoying his obvious discomfort over the Duffy fiasco. The answer is “no.” My feelings about Harper notwithstanding, I don’t like the harm that’s being done to the Conservative party. The second question is: Why is Harper so badly mishandling it? I don’t have an inkling, and I’ve been told it takes seventeen inklings to make up a clue.
As inexplicable as the senators’ behavior is, Stephen Harper’s is even more so. Not many people would accuse the Prime Minister of being politically naive, but his handling of the Duffy affair is just that. Why he didn’t immediately deal with the situation when he found out about Nigel Wright’s involvement defies logic. A frank and contrite (if necessary) explanation of the entire business at that time would likely have gotten him off the hook. Instead there’s a growing belief that there’s something big going on here that we don’t know about. And it’s my guess that it has to be more than Harper appointing two senators who may not qualify as residents of the provinces they ostensibly represent. If that’s all it is then Dale Carnegie’s century-old advice should be heeded by the Prime Minister: if you’re wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically. Yet, he continues to stonewall and evade.
Once, back in my CFRB days, I had the great pleasure of spending a morning with John Dean, Nixon’s former White House counsel, and the man who more than anyone else brought Nixon’s presidency tumbling down in the aftermath of Watergate.
Dean was emphatic in his belief that had President Nixon, the day after the Watergate burglary, admitted it had happened, distanced himself from it, and said that he would ensure nothing like that would happen again, the story would have died a quick death. On the other hand, Dean said, it was the length, breadth and depth of the cover-up that caused Nixon’s impeachment. Harper is enough of a political historian to know this. So what is going on?
The only thing I know for sure about any of these situations is that there’s a lot more that I don’t know than what I do know.
Very interesting times for political junkies, though.