On ethics, patronage and the Senate, Stephen Harper is coming back to haunt Stephen Harper

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

Forget about the passionate questions from Tom Mulcair or the dramatic queries from Justin Trudeau: During the most recent Parliamentary scandals, Stephen Harper has been the most effective opposition to the Conservative government.

Not the Stephen Harper of now, of course, but the Stephen Harper of 'yesteryear.'

By all accounts, Stephen Harper was an effective opposition leader. He relentlessly railed against the Chretien and Martin governments for its pork-barreling, it's senate appointments to friends and insiders and against the sponsorship boondoggle. Those governments — especially at the end of their mandates — deserved to have their feet held to the fire and there was no one better at it than Harper.

[ Related: Stephen Harper to take hot seat in Senate expense scandal on Tuesday ]

Unfortunately for him, those attacks are coming back to haunt him.

On the Senate, this is what the old Harper used to say: (From the Regina Leader-Post's Murray Mandryk)

...Stephen Harper...told then-Liberal prime minister Jean Chretien that "we don't support any Senate appointments," called the Senate a "dumping ground for the favoured cronies of the prime minister" and said "Canadians ... are ashamed the prime minister continues the disgraceful, undemocratic appointment of undemocratic Liberals to the undemocratic Senate to pass all-too-often undemocratic legislation."

By contrast, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has appointed 58 senators in total consisting of many Conservative staffers, contributors and ex-candidates.

On patronage, the old Stephen Harper complained against Liberal appointments and vowed to introduce a patronage watchdog to "clean up the process." As explained by the Globe and Mail, the new Harper just approved appointments of 20 plus Conservative friendly individuals to a Social Security Tribunal. Each member of the board will earn up $125,400 a year.

[ Related: The Senate expense scandal isn't going away anytime soon ]

And, on the Senate expense scandal — involving his now-former Chief of Staff Nigel Wright gifting Senator Mike Duffy $90,000 — Harper is now playing the 'I knew nothing' card.

Here is an excellent comparison to the old Stephen Harper.

Interestingly, the opposition brought up some of those quotes in Parliament on Monday.

Yes, Prime Ministers Martin, Chretien and Mulroney all appointed friends and insiders to the Senate and to other posts even after they said they wouldn't. They each had their own scandals — some bigger and some smaller — to deal with.

Martin and Chretien had to answer to Harper. So does Harper.

In the Internet age, where old quotes are easily accessible by the masses, Harper might just be his own worst enemy.

(Photo courtesy of Reuters)

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