Friday, August 21, 2015

History of professional ethics

Of all the PMO staffers caught up in the Duffy affair, it seems Benjamin Perrin may the one to emerge with his reputation least tainted intact.  He seems to have made full disclosure from the start of who knew what and when, and seems not to have been much complicit in the PMO calculations as they were proceeding.

Is it significant that Perrin, a longtime Reform supporter, was also a lawyer and a law professor, and only on loan in the PMO?  One might surmise that he had an independent career and an independent set of ethical standards and constraints to maintain, and thus had counterweights to the "do it for the team" attitude. (Legal ethics, not a contradiction!) By contract, Ray Novak, who seems to be in the crosshairs nowhas had no career other than as a Harper acolyte. Never elected, never even a candidate for public office, his whole position has depended on Harper's support of him and his support for Harper.

So what about Nigel Wright, independently wealthy, with a thriving career in the finance industry? Could he not show some independent judgement? Well, Michael Lewis (Liar's Poker, Flash Boys, The Big Short, Boomerang) is here to tell us that the finance boys, like the tech boys, make so much money that they are above ethics and always get to do what they want.

What's really troubling is that no matter what party is in power, in Canadian politics real authority is almost always wielded by small armies of Ray Novaks, true believers in the leader's retinue without accountability or independence. The really telling revelation of all this may be Wright's casual assumption that the only problem with the Senate majority caucus was that it was not so completely under the control of the PMO as the Commons caucus was.

To fix the Senate, the place to start has to be the Commons.  If the Commons worked, the Senate wouldn't be a problem.
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