Five years ago thereabout, a thoroughly decent Canadian politician was stabbed in the back by an unethical television journalist. Two months and 13 days later the politician who won the election elevated that journalist to the Canadian Senate as a representative of the province in which he was born but in which he had not lived - other than as a summer visitor - for ~30 years.
Now it is a curiosity of the Canadian Constitution that Senators must reside in the province which they represent. And, as long as as that residence is >100 km from Ottawa they can claim as an expense the cost of their lodging in Ottawa.
And so our journalist-turned-Senator claimed for housing expenses, the house in which he had lived for so many years.
A small storm blew up last year about the expense accounts of Canadian Senators. An internal committee investigate became an external audit. All of a sudden four Senators were receiving unwelcome (at least from their perspective) attention. And, all of a sudden people noticed that funny old clause in the Constitution and wondered: was journalist-turned-Senator even legally appointed in the first place.
In the middle of the audit, journalist-turned-Senator announced - with some fanfare - that he had repaid some $90,000 in improperly billed expenses. What wasn't announced was that he then stopped cooperating with the auditors. Laughable claims were made that this was out of consideration for taxpayers and government MPs praised his "leadership".
The auditors wrote their report. It was noticed, however, that they were rather more lenient in their language as far as the case of journalist-turned-Senator was concerned. Questions were asked.
Had he still been a journalist, he would never have been satisfied with the report himself. And so it was, with some delicious irony, it must be said, that a journalist for his previous employer went a-digging.
Thus did we learn this week that the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff - a wealthy man - had gifted the journalist-turned-Senator $90,000 in the form of a personal cheque.
First, it was a gift. But Senators are not allowed to accept such gifts. Then it was to help out a "friend". Lots of Canadians would like friends with such deep pockets. Now, it has emerged that lawyers were involved. Was this "hush money"?
The shit has duly hit the fan.
Journalists were outraged. Even the normally docile Conservative friendly press have had harsh words to say. How could a man with the serious smarts of the Chief of Staff have done such a stupid thing, and how could he have expected to get away with it?
...paying a Senator under the table, for any reason, under any
circumstances, is serious business. But when the recipient is under
investigation by a Senate committee, when the purpose of the payment is
to relieve him of responsibility for the expenses for which he is at
that moment being audited, and when his benefactor is the most senior
unelected official in the government, “serious” does not begin to
Journalist-turned-Senator has been turfed out of his party, as has another whose audit was ongoing. The Chief of Staff has resigned; he had no choice, really.
The government will stonewall all questions and will, alas, survive. They were re-elected despite being found in contempt of Parliament. They crow about their transparency and accountability, but in reality they are a duplicitous bunch. The Nasty Party. This whole episode has been obfuscatory, one half-truth following another, and at no point has anyone admitted wrongdoing or taken responsibility. So much for accountability.
Schadenfreude does have its moment though. Journalist-turned-Senator is now so toxic that he hasn't a hope of being welcomed back to his party. He deserves the opprobrium. He displayed a shocking lack of ethical standards in his latter days as a journalist. He has shown no contrition whatsover in regards to the current scandal.
He deserves to be kicked out of the Senate at the very least on grounds of his appointment being unconstitutional. That finding would deservedly stick to the Prime Minister who appointed him.
We are 'celebrating' Queen Victoria's birthday here in Canada today. Unless you live in Québec in which case it is la Journée Nationale des Patriotes.
As with Memorial Day in the USA, the holiday serves as the marker between winter and summer. It's the beginning of the outdoor summer season of cabins (or cottages), fishing, and barbecues.
Of course, it makes no sense that Canada should mark this transition a full week before our neighbours to the south who, for the most part, can be assured of weather conducive to outdoor summer-like activities.
So spare a thought for the poor people of Gander, Newfoundland who woke up this morning to some 58 cm of fresh snow.
It's been quite a week for scandals in Canadian politics.
The 'lesser' (and much simpler to explain) of the two scandals involves the apparent existence of a video in which the current mayor of Toronto - North America's 4th largest city - is said to be seen to smoke crack. There have been denials, naturally, though they seem to be somewhat restrained as these things go.
The video is for sale for a rather princely sum. No one who has seen it so far has been willing to fork out that sum and, until or unless someone does, there will be questions about its authenticity.
In the meantime, one of those intrepid (?) Taiwanese studios have provided their own perspective:
I watched the Eurovision Song Contest yesterday evening. It was not a good night for Ireland. Hunky drummers notwithstanding, they finished last. That's only the second time that's happened. I don't think they deserved last place but voting blocs ensured that worse songs (Armenia, anyone?) fared better.
The winning song from Denmark sounds fine to me. I was more taken with the songs from the Netherlands and Hungary both of which went against the eurovision grain. The Netherlands finished 9th with a song that was in some sort of modal key. Very unusual. It had a haunting feeling. Hungary finished 10th with a nice catchy simplicity to their song.
But the star of the show without question was Petra Mede, the hostess.
In flawless English and French she moved the show along with good humour and fun. At one point she ad libbed to the men in the mosh pit that they shouldn't worry, that they just hadn't met the right woman yet.
She was only put at a loss once and that was when Eric Saade who was a useless interviewer in the green room passed the show back to her with the words "hashtag milf". The Guardian live-blogger didn't pick up on that but I've read since that the word was bleeped out in te UK feed. There are advantages to livestreams!
Petra's star turn came during the Intermission act in which she sang and sent up every possible Sedish cliché you might imagine from the Swedish Chef, the girl with the Dragon Tattoo, finding all the IKEA parts, to meatballs "seasoned with a hint of horse". Legendary Swedish Eurovision singer, Carola, participated in a send-up of her own fondness for wind-machines.
I'll embed two videos below. The first is a bit longer but has a hilarious send-up of Swedish egalitarianism in the Swedish Army and in the Prime Minister's Office. In case that gets pulled from the intertubes, the second is a "mirror" backup.
Song lyrics are below the jump 'cause I want to save them somewhere...
Every year now at eurovision time, I look forward to watching Terry Vision interview people connected with the show. Terry can lob insults or double entendres and as long as the celebrity interviewees are in on the act, the interviews are hilarious.
Commander Chris Hadfield has, without question, become a space sensation. Almost single-handedly, he's enthused the kids of the world about space. His farewell video to the space station was a work of inspired genius and it's a tribute not only to him but to David Bowie (who allowed it) and to his kids who played a big part in making their Dad a social media sensation.
Here, if you haven't seen it - and, if not, you really must watch it - is Space Oddity:
Just how many people, one has to wonder, knew that song by it's real name? I didn't. But I did know the line "space ground control to Major Tom".