Is Stephen Harper a poor judge of character?

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

Yet another Harper government appointee is under investigation for allegedly breaking the rules.

On Monday, Saulie Zajdel — a former Tory candidate and “regional advisor” for Heritage Minister James Moore — was arrested in Montreal and now faces a cadre of charges linked to the city's ongoing corruption probe.

Zajdel was, by most accounts, a rising Conservative 'star.' Over a year ago, according to CBC News, he "joined Stephen Harper for a happy-hour pub stop in Montreal as the Conservatives' best hope to win their first seat in the city in a quarter-century."

While his alleged crimes occurred in 2007 and 2008 — prior to his affiliations with the federal Conservatives — the arrest is another black mark for the Tory brand plagued with scandal.

During Question Period, on Monday, Liberal MP Ralph Goodale recited a laundry list of Conservative government appointees that have gone bad.

The growing list is staggering.

There's the 'naughty' Senators Patrick Brazeau, Pamela Wallin and Mike Duffy who are all under investigation and/or review for improperly claimed benefits.

There's Nigel Wright, the prime minister's former chief of staff, who gifted Duffy $90,000 — we learned last week that the RCMP is investigating this transfer.

[ Related: RCMP investigating Nigel Wright's $90,000 cheque to Mike Duffy ]

There's ex-Harper aide Bruce Carson who is currently facing charges of influence peddling. Arthur Porter was the head of Canada's spy agency watchdog and is now wanted by Quebec police in relation to the province's corruption scandals.

There's former Labrador MP Peter Penashue who was put into cabinet by Harper but forced to resign after it was learned that he accepted ineligible donations during the 2011 election campaign.

And, on Monday, Postmedia News reported that Montreal RCMP are investigating a former Conservative Senate staffer and ex-candidate with a regard to a corruption probe into a "Parliament Hill renovation project."

[ Related: #NationalStopHarperDay trends on Twitter ]

Should Canadians have to question Stephen Harper's judgement in picking quality people?

Is there a pattern here or just a bunch of bad coincidences in a row?

Will any of this stick to the Tories: Is there a risk of a 'crooks by association' sentiment?

Political analyst Alex Tsakumis says there seems to be a trend at least with regard to Harper's Senate appointments.

"The pattern is unmistakable, however, this whole episode seems centralized in one area of government that has been aching for accountability no matter which party has been in power," Tsakumis told Yahoo! Canada News.

"As with any previous leader, Mr. Harper will be judged in how he handles any controversy. Thus far, he's demonstrated that he's prepared to act. The question is: How far is he prepared to go?"

Right leaning political consultant Gerry Nicholls says we shouldn't be too hard on the PM.

"As they say hindsight is 20/20 and it’s easy to say Harper made some bad choices when it come to the people he’s hired or appointed," Nicholls told Yahoo!.

"But at the time he made them, those choices seemed fine. For instance, Wright is a respected intelligent businessman, Duffy and Wallin were articulate and media savvy.

"The bottom line is human beings are hard to predict."

Regardless, luckily for the Conservatives, they're not the only ones with 'bad seeds' right now. The Liberals have now-independent Senator Mac Harb who owes taxpayers over $230,000 in improperly claimed expenses.

And the NDP has two MPs who haven't paid their taxes and could have their wages garnished.

Human beings — of any and all political stripes — are indeed 'hard to predict.'

(Photo courtesy of the Canadian Press)

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