Sunday, May 19, 2013

What's That Between Steve's Shoulder Blades? Oh, That's a Knife.

The Tories have a rich history of backstabbing.   Dalton Camp did in John Diefenbaker and was never forgiven.   Brian Mulroney shoved Joe Clark out of the way and into a ditch.   Could it be possible that the knives are coming out for Steve Harper in the finest Conservative tradition?

Trying to make sense of what's been happening this week isn't easy.  On the surface, nothing seems to add up.  It has the confused improbability of palace intrigue.

Someone or some group on the inside is playing a high stakes game in which Stephen Harper may be the intended target.  Sure they're going through two of his most prominent Senate appointments, Mike Duffy and Pam Wallin, but that doesn't mean either of them are necessarily the target.   They could just be the means to a less obvious end.

The way Harper handled the Duffy problem suggests he saw himself as personally exposed.   Duffy was caught, sure, but he already had financing arranged through The Royal Bank.  Harper, however, had reason to bring that problem "in house."

He wanted it dealt with quickly and cleanly.   He wanted the problem to go away.  Perhaps, for reasons yet to emerge, Steve genuinely needed the problem to go away.  Forget about Duffy borrowing the money, give it to him with only a couple of strings attached.  He had to repay every dime in question and he had to stay clear of the auditors and remain silent.   The whole business was to be kept private, including the money trail.   That explains the personal cheque.

Those targeting Harper countered by feeding their media boy copies of Duffy's e-mails and details of the secret, private payment.  Duffy and Wright were forced to come clean and admit the curious transaction.

One other key element that was also leaked was that Duffy was promised that the senate inquiry would "go easy on" him.  There's a hell of a promise to someone you're already bailing out with free cash.  Why?   So, when Duffy and the PMO said "debt repaid, nothing to see here"  Harper's foes released the original Senate committee report to show how the final report had been laundered just as Duffy said he had been promised.

Difficult as it may be to feel sympathy for Mike Duffy, it would seem that he has been used by Harper's dissidents and by Harper himself and both have simply worsened the Cavendish Cottager's position.

So far all of the points have been scored by Harper's adversaries.  They have used a succession of well-timed leaks of e-mails, documents and information to keep Harper constantly on the defensive.   They have forced two key Harper senate appointees  out of caucus.   Best of all, they have forced Harper's most critical adviser, his powerful and brilliant Chief of Staff to resign in disgrace, leaving Harper isolated, vulnerable and under a very dark cloud.   Now a criminal investigation looms and it could go right to the top tier of the PMO.

This is a terrible position for a guy like Steve Harper to be in.  He's been an autocratic party leader.   He's not beloved, he's not even well liked.  There are plainly well positioned people who have been biding their time, waiting to get back at him.   A lot of his own people do not like how he has ruled the country, what Canada has become under the Harper regime.   Many of them were "progressive" Conservatives before Harper lurched to the hard right.

Could we be staring at a possible fracturing of the Alliance/PC entente?   Have the old school ProgCons had enough?   Are they preparing to move in for the kill?

All eyes should be squarely on Steve Harper in the coming weeks as he struggles to recapture his hold on power and vanquish these unnamed dissidents.   Will he fight back or will he sue for peace?

Is it just coincidental or does this growing tempest have anything to do with Harper's move last month to gag the RCMP?


Beijing York said...

LOL, in my last post I forgot that Petey "Spuds" McKay is a "progressive conservative".

Anyway, not only did Harper lose the very competent Nigel Wright, who definitely had a veneer of Bay Street smarts and credibility, but Sen. Doug Finley, his election ring master passed away.

The Mound of Sound said...

No, as I replied in that earlier post, this apparent subterfuge is going on in the Senate, not the House. Harper has a well-entrenched and thuggish front-bench in the Commons but could fear a spillover from the Senate if he can't control this soon.

leftdog said...

If, as you speculate, "Could we be staring at a possible fracturing of the Alliance/PC entente?" .. then it surelywill infect some of the unhappy backbench MP's in the HoC .. starting with the Anti-choice bunch. (And my friend, I do think you are onto something here). Good stuff!

The Mound of Sound said...

Thank you for the kind words, Dog. I appreciate your support.

As you suggest, there's always been an unnatural fit among the factions that now constitute the Greater Conservative Party.

There is nothing inherently contradictory in conservatism and progressivism. Read Edmund Burke or especially Lincoln or Teddy Roosevelt. Their views are well left even of today's Mulcair New Dems.

Why would decent Cons not be repulsed by Harper's tyrannical and intensely autocratic rule? It's not just Harper who rankles but guys like Baird, Oliver, Kenney and Kent also.

Do you notice how there has been so little movement in Harper's front ranks? That's because he's not looking for dynamic talent but obedient water carriers. A lot of caucus members have seen their aspirations stymied, thwarted. For years I have heard many tales of frustration and discontent.

It takes an iron fist to successfully rule over this sort of discontent and if that grip weakens or falters the whole business can bubble over.

We both know that, on merits alone, Harper has been a lousy prime minister. He didn't see the recession coming, he botched the recovery, he has sacrificed pretty much the rest of Canada to advance the interests of Alberta. He's besmirched our country's reputation internationally and he's now become a happy bedmate with the same Politburo officials in Beijing he once fiercely rebuked.

There's no question he has his loyalists and his favoured few but how do you reconcile that with the unrest in the caucus at large? I don't know.

Fear is a remarkably limited currency.

Saskboy said...

He could be preparing to step aside this Summer. The RoboCon trial results are overdue also. Six byelections waiting in the wings.
What's sick about the media, is that they hype this Senate scandal as "growing", yet the crimes mostly took place in the past, and revelations are not growing. The difference is they are focusing more than a few days on it, like they did more than a year ago for robocalls, and it's making a dent.

the salamander said...

so the secretive backdoor to Stephen Harper, is suddenly the public, partisan front door. Who pays Ray Novak now? I've recently seen an article that described Ray Novak as a senior advisor to Stephen Harper on Foreign Affairs, Agriculture, Natural Resources etc etc.. Its well known of his involvement with elections, party operatives, Harper travel itinerary, household matters, staff hiring, ethical oil initiatives, arrangements for visting dignitaries, coordinating jobs for cronies such as Boessenkool.. liaison with lawyers such as Arthur Hamilton, flunkies like Fred de Loray, dealing with the Del Mastros, Guergis .. Things must be dire somehow for this unelected best buddy, capo, confidante to lurch into the public eye suddenly. I assume someone will soon come forward anonymously with grave information regarding electoral fraud .. Harper et al will disappear down the magic rabbit hole.. and Novak will slap a manhole cover over it.. and repel all comers ..

Kirbycairo said...

For years I assumed that Harper would fall as a result of some form of internal revolt. But that assumption wasn't necessarily motivated by the particular history of the creation of the Conservative Party as an unnatural amalgam of two parties. Rather, the assumption is based upon the pretty simple fact that autocrats like Harper collect enemies like chuck-farthings. Eventually one of those enemies sees an opportunity and if the first act of rebellion is successful others pile on until even those close to the leader jump-ship in the hope of making distance and ensure their own political survival. Sometime the event is quick because the first rebel has some monumental skeleton to expose as obviously happened when Michael Heseltine brought down Thatcher. Sometime it is slower as with Nixon.

Few people seem to be talking about the fact that someone out there not only has the motive but has enough power to get hold of private emails. People are forgetting that if there is a police investigation (as there surely must be now) they are going to try to find out who illegally accessed emails and leaked them. For this reason, whoever did this is going to have to act fairly quickly if he or she is going to bring down Harper.

The Mound of Sound said...

@ Saskboy - What would happen to Harper's precious Northern Gateway were he to step down prematurely? Who would succeed him? Baird? No, too many skeletons. Kenney? No, ditto. That would be too much for the fundamentalist back benchers. Odious Oliver, Prime Minister? I don't think so, too abrasive and unlikeable. I suppose that leaves Peter Kent.

I wouldn't be too quick to assume we know all the facts or that this is limited to housing allowances and campaign expenses.

@ Sal - You could be right about new revelations. Once the Iron Hand begins to lose its grip things can tend to slip out. As for Novak, he's been Harper's Principal Secretary for many years. If Harper is worried about sensitive matters coming out, Novak might be just the guy to have at his back.

@ KE. Hi, always good to stay in touch. I'm not sure how many more people Harper can count on to sacrifice themselves to save him.

I don't think we've gotten to the bottom of the Harper/Wright/Duffy business yet. Duffy may not resign unless there's a substantial deal in it for him.

Of course the way he's been looking lately, the Cavendish Cottager might not see the summer out unless he has a defibrillator unit in the Friendly Lane abode.

I'm just hoping I can get the name of the individual(s) behind this. Sometimes being out here in the Pacific has its drawbacks. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that, back in Ottawa, the identity is something of an open secret.

CuJoYYC said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CuJoYYC said...

Speaking of knives in the back, don't forget that Harper began his political career by stabbing his first mentor, Jim Hawkes, and then his next mentor Parson Manning as well - to name just two recipients of Stevie's special brand of political love. His day (hopefully) will arrive soon

The Mound of Sound said...

You're right, CuJo. I'd forgotten about that bit of Harper history. Thanks

Beijing York said...

I totally misread where the inner rumblings were coming from, MoS. For the most part, the PC Senators (many Red Tories) agreed to join the amalgamated CPC but as has been stated, it often takes one within your midst to wield a mortal blow.

Of the Mulroney and Martin appointed Conservative Senators, the ones I see as having the most gumption and intelligence to makes such a strike might be Hugh Segal and Pierre Claude Nolin (both are/were fairly powerful political operatives). Others who might be inclined include Noel Kinsella (Speaker), Nancy Ruth (Jackman political family) and Donald Oliver.

It might be viewed as an Eastern establishment coup but so be it if it collapses Harper's leadership.

The Mound of Sound said...

Yeah, BY, the PC Senators have, in motorcycle gang parlance, "badged over" but that doesn't mean they were happy about it. And it's the quality of the insurrectionists, not their numbers, that is having an effect here.

They are quite shrewd in feeding e-mails, documents and information to Fife. They act, Harper responds, then they feed Fife rebuttal information or documents. They're very adept, highly agile. I think that's the reason the Tories have fallen silent. They're tired of getting punched in the mouth whenever they say anything.

Hmm, I wonder who is not in Ottawa this weekend - other than Duffy, of course.

deb said...

thanks mound!
I am a political novice and couldnt quite grasp what was going on from the media reports. Your details cleared up what the heck was going on.

The Mound of Sound said...

Hi Deb and welcome. I wish I grasped what's going on. Bear in mind this is still "going on." It's something of a work in progress and we probably only have a partial understanding of what actually happened. There are many unanswered questions and investigations yet to come.

deb said...

yes I look foward to the unfolding of this latest political fracas, and I hope it eventually causes the govt to dissolve and an election called.

However after watching in horror the latest BC provincial election results, I can only imagine that the Harper govt will overcome any scandal, as the conservatives seem to vote more consistently and they seem to forgive their political leaders anything short of murder.