A fitting epitaph for Stephen Harper (courtesy of Nigel Wright)

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      Has Nigel Wright just uttered Stephen Harper’s ultimate epitaph?

      If Harper’s “Blue Man Group” does go down in flames on October 19, today’s words from his former chief of staff, in the Mike Duffy trial, will be indelibly stamped on its tombstone.

      To recap, Duffy’s lawyer, Donald Bayne, began his fifth day of cross-examining Wright by asking about his role in allowing the accused senator to publicly claim that he had paid back his own questionable expenses.

      As we all now know, that was never true, as Wright had secretly covered those claimed expenses with his own infamous $90,000 cheque to Duffy.

      "You didn't think that was a misrepresentation to Canadians?", Bayne asked.

      "I don't know if I'd go that far," Wright said. "I just didn't think it was a bad misrepresentation."


      In one line, Wright has nailed the core of the Harper government’s inveterate abuse of power and its ethically blinkered view of all it does.

      The ends justify the means that may be dishonestly presented for “good” political reason, to make all lies, “white” lies.

      Who knew that there are two types of misrepresentation: the bad type and the not bad type?

      Then again, should we really be surprised by Wright’s apparent view that deliberately misleading the public is really just tantamount to politically justifiable truth-fudging?

      After all, it is arguably the Harper government’s most defining and enduring attribute.

      OK, so contrary to the government’s claims, the economy may not be booming as advertised. Indeed, the country may well already be in a recession, as Harper was himself forced to acknowledge, by NDP Leader Tom Mulcair in the Maclean’s leaders’ debate.

      The Conservatives don’t think that constitutes a “bad” misrepresentation.

      Yes, yes. The “surplus” budget might be more accurately described as an obvious deficit, if you want to get all technical about it.

      So it’s written in red ink. Big deal.

      Only a New Democrat, a Liberal, or a Green would consider that a “bad” misrepresentation. Oh, and maybe most voters, too, if they want to interpret the election budget for what is obviously really is.

      Come on, people. Get with the program. A fib is not a lie if it is meant to make us believe it is the truth.

      Sure, the opposition might see something nefarious in the massive omnibus bills that are presented as “budget implementation” measures. But really, are they “bad” misrepresentations, just because they devote hundreds of pages apiece to changing laws and polices that have nothing whatsoever to do with the budget?

      Who cares if former auditor general Sheila Fraser has condemned them for undermining Parliament?

      So they gutted environmental assessments, obliterated the National Energy Board’s former independence, savaged good science, revamped immigration policies, compromised Aboriginal interests, and weakened protection for many species—to cite a handful of examples.

      What fair-minded person would call that “bad” misrepresentation?

      The Harper government wouldn’t. Because the very notion of inappropriate misrepresentation is not in its lexicon.

      Certainly it was a foreign concept to the Conservatives’ convicted robocall scammer, as it was to the PM’s foreign parliamentary secretary who was jailed for his election spending violations.

      Innocent misrepresentation. Not really so bad, in their own minds. And besides, they were only isolated actors among the many party faithful who just bent the rules a bit to help voters make the right choices.

      I mean, just because the ethics commissioner found that one Conservative MP acted inappropriately by misrepresenting his government’s infrastructure funding as his party’s gift to his riding doesn’t mean that he meant to do anything really “bad.”

      On and on it goes, in so many examples that speak to the Harper government’s assiduously crafted culture of righteous deception.

      It is the hallmark of its secret trade deals, of the glaring gap between its deeds and words on climate action, of its various abuses of democratic and quasi-judicial processes, of its abuse of taxpayer-funded advertising, and more.

      For Harper’s minions, what really counts is not the truth of their claims and actions. Rather, what counts is their “pure-hearted” mission in using minor lies and institutional deceptions for ends that are so self-evidently “virtuous” they demand no accountability or justification whatsoever.

      Starting with getting re-elected.

      Wright’s words today should remind all voters of that fact as they also lay bare the Harper government’s warped disposition on the relativity of truth and its moral underpinnings.

      When the situation demands, any wrong can be recast as right—or at least as not being so bad—no matter how far it is from the truth by dint of its innocent intentional misrepresentation.

      On October 19, Stephen Harper and his entire administration will at last be put on trial.

      In the meantime, the Conservatives’ campaign of deception continues, as they swear that, this time, they are telling us all the whole truth and nothing but the truth. So help them, God.

      After Wright’s testimony, they are going to need that help more than ever, when we all get to play judge and jury.

      Martyn Brown was former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell’s long-serving chief of staff, the top strategic advisor to three provincial party leaders, and a former deputy minister of tourism, trade, and investment in British Columbia. He is the author of the ebook Towards a New Government in British Columbia. Contact Brown at towardsanewgovernment@gmail.com.




      Aug 19, 2015 at 8:18pm

      It's a great epitaph, but I'm partial to "Shut up you lying pieces of shit". Now that r•e•a•l•l•y describes the attitude of the Harper government towards Canada.

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      Dog gone it

      Aug 20, 2015 at 5:30am

      So is Duffy guilty or not? Did he or did he not take Money for a non existing House ? He did, he is guilty as charged and should be fined $ 90 thousand or get 6 months jail . I n the meantime he cost us 1 million in legal fees, we the taxpayers will be paying !

      Drew Meikle

      Aug 20, 2015 at 8:58am

      As a Christian I am appalled at the hypocrisy of Harper's consistently solid base. For these folks, the ethics of honesty and integrity are disposable if ideology remains intact. Lying, manipulating, controlling are not grounds for turning away from Harper; rather, they are the necessary means to putting Canada on the hard right road permanently.

      Nigel Wright, golden boy hero, friend to needy senators, has been exposed as the cynical, artful, scheming strategist whose notion of Christian charity is very warped. And he is the emblem of Harper's ethics.

      If Canada returns Harper to power, it will be a textbook example of Orwell's double-think, holding two contradictory ideas together at the same time. Love, compassion, and tolerance are the thin veneer beneath which lie fear, power lust, and ruthless contempt for Canada as a democratic champion, a rare blend of capitalist economics and socialist heartstrings.


      Aug 20, 2015 at 9:56am

      Though I agree with every word of this piece, I can't see that the author as "former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell’s long-serving chief of staff" should be pointing fingers. Campbell was hardly a shining example of the opposite mode of governance, was he? Not as I recall it.

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      Aug 20, 2015 at 9:58am

      "misrepresentation". That's another word for "lie" , right?

      Two wrongs make a Wright

      Aug 20, 2015 at 11:12am

      Duffy was appointed by Harper because it would benefit him and his party especially during an election as the senator didn't come cheap on the speaking circuit. There is no doubt Duffy was told to put the Conservatives election expenses on his senator expenses. What a scam Conservatives don't claim Duffy's speaking engagement as election expenses and the public picks up the tab. Why didn't Nigel pick up the other disgraced Conservative senators expenses? No speaking engagement there only Duffy during an election from a senator who was hot commodity during the last election. Did the Cons claim the expenses of the speaking engagements because Duffy got all his travel expenses paid when he did speaking engagements surely the Conservatives didn't thing the Good fairy was going to pick up their election expenses?

      Chris Green

      Aug 20, 2015 at 6:11pm

      "I just didn't think it was a bad misrepresentation" deserves to go into the Hall of Shame, right next to "I am entitled to my entitlements."

      Good To Go

      Aug 21, 2015 at 1:25pm

      I'm Good To Go on October 19 how about you?

      ABC Heave Ho Heave Ho.

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      Harper for the Win

      Aug 21, 2015 at 7:08pm

      Harper will win in October because the majority of Canadians are morons and the Liberals, NDP and Greens will split the vote in key ridings.

      The original RM

      Aug 22, 2015 at 5:44am

      To the comment by "Dog Gone It":

      Totally agree with you, great point made. It will be worth it when it helps turf Harpo, however!