The three worst months ever for the Harper government

On Tuesday, MPs pulled the plug on one of the most eventful sessions of Parliament in recent memory.

Across the board for all parties, it was a challenging session with flubs, missteps and scandals galore.

The NDP had to deal with Thomas Mulcair's Reese Witherspoon moment and two tax delinquent MPs while Justin Trudeau came under-fire for earning speaking fees from charities prior to becoming Liberal leader.

But for the Conservatives, it was the session from hell.

Here are ten things that wrong for the Tories' this session.

1. The beginning of the Justin Trudeau era

The spring-session was Justin Trudeau's first as Liberal leader. As has become the Tory's modus operendi, they chose to attack. Unfortunately, this time, some of their attacks backfired.

Their 'just in over his head' commercials caused a backlash against negative ads while an orchestrated push from the PMO about Trudeau-speaking fees was widely criticized.

[ Related: Tories file conflict of interest complaint against Justin Trudeau ]

A Forum Research poll released late last month suggested Justin Trudeau has won the hearts and minds of a lot of Canadians: the pollster predicted that the Trudeau-led Liberals are on their way to a commanding majority government in the next election.

2. Bye bye Penashue

On May 13, Peter Penashue — the former cabinet minister forced to resign after it was learned that he accepted ineligible campaign donations — lost his byelection in Labrador to Liberal Yvonne Jones.

This was a first for the Harper Conservatives. As explained by Sun News' David Akin, there have been 20 by-elections since 2006 and not once did the Conservatives lose a seat that they had. In fact, they gained three.

3. Brent Rathgeber and the backbench revolt

A month after rumblings of a backbench revolt, Brent Rathgeber resigned from the Tory caucus after his Conservative colleagues watered down his private member's bill — Bill C-461 — meant to shine a light on public sector salaries.

He didn't go quietly, however, suggesting that backbenchers in the Tory caucus were a bunch of trained seals.

4. So, where's that $3.1 billion?

The Conservative Party's 'fiscally responsible' brand took a hit in May when the auditor general's report slammed the government for losing track of $3.1 billion that was supposed to be earmarked for national security. While no one has suggested any misconduct, no one in government can explain exactly where the money went.

5. Senate shenanigans

The Senate expense scandal continued and intensified during the spring session of Parliament.

The expense claims of Senators Mike Duffy and Patrick Brazeau — both handpicked by Stephen Harper — are under RCMP investigation, or at least review. Meanwhile Senator Pamela Wallin's travel expenses are still being audited by Deloitte.

6. Harper says goodbye to a friend (aka former chief of staff Nigel Wright)

During this session of Parliament, Prime Minister Harper was forced to accept the resignation of his right hand man and now former chief of staff Nigel Wright.

Wright's maleficence was a personal cheque of $90,000 to Senator Mike Duffy so that Duffy could repay his improperly claimed expenses. That transfer of funds is now under investigation by the RCMP.

7. A battle with Elections Canada

At least three Tory MPs were embroiled in very public disputes with Elections Canada during this parliamentary session.

In a letter, Elections Canada advised Speaker Andrew Scheer that MPs Shelly Glover and James Bezan be suspended from Parliament because of their failure to comply with the Elections Act with regard to their 2011 election campaign returns.

Glover has since filed an amended return. Bezan will take his case to court while a House committee will decide his fate in Parliament.

8. Robocall scandal not going away

In late May, in a court action brought forward by the left-leaning Council of Canadians, Federal Court Judge Richard Mosley ruled that the "Conservative Party of Canada or any CPC candidates" were not directly involved in any campaign to mislead voters during the 2011 election campaign.

But — and this is a big but — he also said that "the most likely source of the information used to make the misleading calls was the CIMS database maintained and controlled by the [Conservative Party]."

As Elections Canada continues their investigation into misleading calls in Guelph, this is a story that will certainly dog the Tories in future sessions.

9. Another Conservative rising star becomes a falling star

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.

[ Related: Is Stephen Harper a poor judge of character? ]

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."

By itself, this story doesn't do any damage to the Conservative'brand. But put with the other Conservative appointees — Bruce Carson, Arthur Porter and Senators Patrick Brazeau, Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin — it tarnishes the public's opinion of Stephen Harper's judgement.

10. MP Eve Adams, her hair, nail appointments and her cell phone

Earlier this month, Tory MP Eve Adams was forced to defend herself over allegations that she broke Elections Canada rules for claiming over $2,777 in "personal expenses" during the 2011 election, on things such visits to hair and nail salons, mouthwash and whitening toothpaste.

She embarrassed herself again, this week, when it was learned that she received a $155 traffic citation for talking on her cell phone while driving on Parliament Hill.

 

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