2013 12 30
Lowlight #2: Conservative and Liberal Senators reach new lows in 2013

Stephen Harper’s Conservatives had a very bad year. Plagued by an expense scandal and cover-up reaching right to the top of the prime minister’s office, Conservatives have shown they are a tired and out-of-gas government.

We are condensing a year’s worth of lowlights into a countdown of the top 15 examples of Conservative blunders, scandals and ineptitude.


We already had a low opinion of the Senate – an archaic and outdated institution, undemocratic and unaccountable to its core.

But an impressive number of senators found ways to show Canadians that things are even worse than they imagined in the Senate.  

Mike Duffy (Harper appointment)
His downfall in 2013 was swift and full of drama – from a Conservative fundraising star, raising millions for the party, to a political outcast under police investigation. 

The cover-up around his expense repayment implicated a number of Conservative staffers and even brought down the prime minister’s chief of staff. 

Irving Gerstein (Harper appointment)  
RCMP documents show that Senator Gerstein agreed the Conservative Party would repay Mike Duffy’s fraudulent expenses – before eventually refusing when the price tag grew too high. Senator Gerstein even tried to help the cover-up by calling a friend at Deloitte to try and influence the audit report into Mr. Duffy’s expenses.

When speaking to the Conservative Party’s convention, Mr. Gerstein gave the impression he would never have let the party pay anything to Mr. Duffy. Unfortunately for him (and Conservative Party donors) Mike Duffy’s legal expenses had in fact been paid off by the Conservative Party.

David Tkachuk (Mulroney Appointment)
As the chairman of the internal economy committee, Senator Tkachuk was overseeing the investigation into his colleagues’ fraudulent expenses and privy to confidential information.

As part of the cover up, this Conservative Senator worked with the prime minister’s office and Nigel Wright to whitewash the audit’s report on Mike Duffy.

Pamela Wallin (Harper appointment)  
Caught red-handed filing fraudulent expense claims, the senator then tried to make retroactive changes to her calendar – and offered up one questionable excuse after another for her actions.A prime example of Conservative entitlement.

Patrick Brazeau (Harper appointment)
Between legal troubles, tax issues and questionable expense claims, Senator Brazeau made headlines for all the wrong reasons this year.

Colin Kenny (Trudeau appointment)
Serious accusations of sexual harassment, and foot dragging by the Liberal leader’s office in responding, places this Liberal senator in a special place within the pantheon of the senatorial lows of 2013.

Carolyn Stewart-Olsen (Harper appointment) 
RCMP documents cast doubt on her story – calling it “not consistent with facts” – and show how instead of helping to shed light on her colleagues’ fraudulent expenses, this Conservative Senator and Harper confidante followed the PMO’s instructions to the letter, declaring in an email she was “always ready to do exactly what is asked.”

Pana Merchant (Chrétien Appointment)
Senator Merchant is the beneficiary of a trust fund set up by her husband, lawyer Tony Merchant. This $2 million fund was moved to secretive tax havens in the Caribbean, raising questions about the ethics of Senators using tax havens to avoid paying taxes in Canada.

Jean-Guy Dagenais (Harper appointment)  
After his disappointing 3rd place in the 2011 election, Jean-Guy Dagenais was appointed to the Senate by PM Harper, another failed candidate being made a parliamentarian through the back door. Still bitter about his drubbing at the hands of the voters, Senator Dagenais wrote a misogynistic missive to all MPs denouncing the position on the Senate of a young MP who, unlike the Senator, actually received the confidence of voters. 

Using his platform as a senator to launch a vitriolic attack on a democratically elected MP brings sour grapes to a new low. 

With a track record like this, it’s no surprise more and more senators are running for the exit to avoid further association with this decayed and decadent institution.  

Canadians deserve better.

While other leaders have been missing in action, Tom Mulcair has been showing up to work on behalf of Canadians – holding Stephen Harper accountable and putting forward practical solutions to help families make ends meet.

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