An obvious solution to my previously-discussed problem of wanting to draw more but possibly write a bit less is to just make more cartoons that reference stuff I’ve already written long editorials for the Huffington Post about. For example, Canada’s ongoing Senate expense scandal, which is becoming a bigger and bigger liability for Prime Minister Harper with each passing day.
As we’ve discussed previously, the crux of Senategate is that a number of senators Harper appointed have turned out to be real crooks, writing off exorbitant expenses that they were never entitled to, or claimed under false pretenses. They’ve all been since booted from the Conservative Party, and there’s currently a Harper-backed motion before the Senate itself to formally suspend them from the chamber without pay.
Anyway, the ongoing question is to what degree Harper holds responsibility for the mess, and as the story continues to unfold, that question is becoming more widely debated from more angles — particularly now that the embattled senators themselves have had a chance to air their side of the story. This is the question I engage with in my most recent HuffPo column:
According to that infamous Deloitte audit of a few months back, during the six-month period between April 2011 and September 2012, Senator Duffy milked tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars in per diems to cover all sorts of living-far-away expenses, including meals, flights, gas, and of course, his “second” house in Ottawa, where he’s been living for decades, even though the only time he spent in his “primary” residence — a resort cottage in P.E.I. — was during summer vacation. Senator Brazeau, for his part, was estimated to have spent a whopping 10 per cent of that same six-month period in his “primary” residence of Maniwak, Quebec, but still charged taxpayers almost $49,000 in travel and housing compensation. The RCMP thinks it’s possible he never lived there at all.
In his long and self-righteous screed on the Senate floor yesterday, Duffy recounted a conversation he had with the Prime Minister once word of his dubious travel expenses began to leak to the press. Harper, he said, was forcing him to take a fall for doing “nothing wrong” and having “violated no laws.”
“It’s not about what you did,” responded the PM, according to Duffy. “It’s about the perception of what you did that’s been created in the media. The rules are inexplicable to our base.” And so Duffy was strong-armed into paying back (with the help of PMO chief of staff Nigel Wright, of course) his $90,000 travel-and-living expense tab. Senator Brazeau, meanwhile, has never paid back anything, but similarly maintains he’s being “thrown under the bus” for non-existent crimes.