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If ever there was an issue in which the public declared a pox on all houses, it is the Senate expenses scandal. The accused senators stand damned; the Senate itself stands damned and Stephen Harper stands damned most of all.
A new poll from Ipsos Reid Public Affairs, released Monday night, reveals the public is taking considerable interest in the affair: six in 10 Canadians say they are following it closely.
If so, they are bound to be agog at Monday's revelation by Mr. Duffy that a lawyer representing the Conservative Party reimbursed the senator for his legal expenses -- presumably part of the original deal to keep him quiet.
The news will only deepen the damning judgment that voters have already reached. Seventy-three per cent say senators Duffy, Patrick Brazeau and Pamela Wallin are guilty of cooking their expense books and should be tossed out of the Senate.
Public disgust with the Senate has reached the point where nine-in-ten Canadians now want the chamber either reformed (49 per cent) or abolished (42 per cent).
Most troubling for this government, 65 per cent of Canadians don't believe Stephen Harper's claim that he knew nothing about Mr. Wright's decision to write that check. A similar percentage don't approve of how he has handled the whole affair.
The Prime Minister, as predicted, is wearing this scandal, whatever he might claim.
He will continue to wear it this weekend, when the Conservative Party's most faithful gather in Calgary. Publically, the party will remain united behind its leader. Privately, delegates will want to know what in the name of all that's Tory is going on.
He will wear the disappearance of the free trade agreement with the European Union -- his proudest achievement -- from public view. It is clear that the NDP is torn internally over the deal, between political realists who want to support it and labour and social-activist militants who would oppose free trade with heaven. (Think of them as the NDP equivalent of the Tea Party.)
Mr. Harper should be tormenting Thomas Mulcair over the internal contradictions plaguing the official opposition. But no one is even mentioning CETA right now. The biggest trade deal in a generation has been consigned to the Internet equivalent of the truss ads by the scandal. Instead it is Mr. Mulcair who is tormenting Mr. Harper in the House over the Senate expenses affair.
What we don't know is how this will end. Will the Senate vote to effectively expel the senators, or will enough Tory senators rebel to defeat the motion? Or is the compromise that was mooted on the weekend still in the works?
Will the auditor general's report into all senators' expenses raise any other red flags? Will the police lay charges and against whom?
Most of all, if the Supreme Court concurs with a Quebec Court of Appeal ruling that the Conservatives' proposal to elect senators to fixed terms is unconstitutional, will Mr. Harper propose the abolition of the Senate? It certainly appears that the public would back him.
We can say only two things with confidence, in light of the polls and of Mr. Duffy's exuberant tossing of grenades into the government benches.
One: This is the worst issues-management job by any Prime Minister's Office since the sponsorship scandal. Two: we can look forward to an interesting Question Period Tuesday.