Once again, it seems that Stephen Harper is under the gun by the opposition. While this goes with the territory for any prime minister, the turns of events that have plagued this young government are especially damaging seeing that the subjects that are coming up are in contravention to the sworn claims that this government made while in election mode.
In the first few hours of their new mandate, the Conservatives appointed a Liberal and an un-elected member to their cabinet. While I truly don’t have a problem with either of these things, I do have a problem that they fly in the face of all that this government had claimed to loathe.
Now, with picking a battle with the ethics commissioner, they are placing another huge question mark in the minds of Canadians. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that Mr. Harper has a valid point about Mr. Shapiro. I believe the commissioner is disingenuous and has a political agenda, that being to smear the Conservative government.
While this is a serious charge, one only has to look at the fact that no serious examination of the Stronach affair was ever initiated. How any ethics commissioner can justify that and then decide to investigate the Emerson crossing is beyond me.
The reality is quite different, however. In politics as in many other areas of life, appearance is everything, especially to the voters of this country, and that is where Mr. Harper is dropping the ball.
By refusing to co-operate with Mr. Shapiro, Stephen Harper is not only giving the opposition parties something to run to the media with, he is also setting a dangerous precedent.
I believe that the party in power should co-operate fully with the ethics commissioner for the time being, that they should swallow the bitter pill so to speak. Mr. Shapiro’s record speaks for itself and any outcome wouldn’t have had as much damage potential as the refusal itself is having.
At the same time, the government could have begun to get the ball rolling to replace the obviously non-partial Mr. Shapiro. Some in the opposition have previously voiced their disapproval with Mr. Shapiro, which in itself would have made it an easy task to present the commission with a new face.
The government has made it clear that they want David Emerson in their cabinet, but the price for him being there continues to escalate. Indeed, Mr. Emerson may have driven the price up himself by offering to leave should the ethics commissioner deem that his stronaching was unethical. By making that promise, Mr. Emerson turned up the burner on which his own pot is resting.
There is no greater political folly than allowing the opposition parties to skewer you with your own words or to appear to be insincere. With the stand that the Conservatives made over ethics, I believe that the Canadian public is beginning to view them with the same disdain as the last party in power, and that says something. Again, while I understand the reasoning behind the recent decision to boycott Mr. Shapiro, that decision is actually lending him credibility, and that does not bode well for the future.