Well. It’s been quite a week, hasn’t it?
The thing about political scandals like these is that, once they’re resolved, they fade pretty quick. Penashue? Resolved in the Labrador by-election. Duffy-Wright? Resignations. Wallin? Her leaving the Tory caucus means she sees her situation with wiser eyes than Mr. Duffy. Brazeau? That still has some time to play out, but it’s through a bureaucratic process, and it’s hard for media consumers outside Ottawa to follow bureaucracy.
Of course the Harper haters would like to keep this going; the question “What did the prime minister know and when?” Is likely to pop up among them trying to shove the PM into the abyss. I do wonder, though, whether they’ve thought this through.
First, although you can call into judgement Mr. Harper’s choices for the Senate, he can defend himself by pointing out that (a) there was nothing from his party’s vetting process to suggest that Messrs. Duffy and Wallin would mismanage their finances to this extent, and (b) in his ideal world, he wouldn’t be making these appointments to begin with; his ideal senator would either be elected by the people or selected by the provinces to be represented.
Second, even if the Harper haters managed to get the PM to admit to culpability, his most obvious remedy would be to call an election. Despite Justin Trudeau’s success in fundraising, Harper’s foes must still concede that, of all the major political parties, the Tories are still in the best position to fight and win an election. The government can counter accusations of corruption and incompetence with lack of experience (both Trudeau and the NDP) and naïveté (the NDP).
The question then becomes, will the Tories win a majority or a minority? And that’s what I mean by gut-check time.
Patterns of misbehaviour that could be excused during the first years of a new government’s mandate — that won’t be tolerated anymore. Not by the media, not just by the opposition — but by the voters. And especially not by the core supporters of the party. Two years ago, the federal Tories found themselves in the new situation of a majority government. People expected a change in partisan behaviour as a result. They’re still waiting.
Some backbenchers sense this, which is why they’re not blithely continuing with the anti-Justin campaign. Problem is, there’s still some folks in the PMO and in party headquarters who don’t get this. And this refusal to modify the way they do business is what’s going to do long-term damage to public perceptions of the party.
If there’s a message that I think the Tory core supporters should be sending to the caucus, it’s this: smarten up. If you don’t think your members’ misbehaviour will make the voters of 2011 reconsider the other opposition parties, you should have a talk with Paul Martin. Or Kim Campbell.