Bruce Anderson is the chairman of polling firm Abacus Data, a regular member of CBC The National's At Issue panel and a founding partner of i2 Ideas and Issues Advertising. He has done polls for Liberal and Conservative politicians in the past, but no longer does any partisan work. Other members of his family have worked for Conservative and Liberal politicians, and a daughter currently works for Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau. He writes a weekly digital column for The Globe and Mail.
"I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it any more."
"Gosh, there's really nothing to be done about it."
Would you want to be running for office on a platform that sounds like that?
The Auditor-General is revealing embarrassing spending by some members of the Red Chamber. Teeth are going to be grinding among voters, who have run out of patience for excuses.
As of this moment, only one of the main parties owns a position that will have any political sex appeal, and that's the NDP.
Long on the record favouring abolition of the Senate, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair will pounce on his opponents, ridiculing them for seeming unwilling or unable to defend the interests of riled-up taxpayers.
Of course, it's easy to say let's abolish the Senate – and probably impossible to do. Not to be unkind to the NDP, but in coming up with their position, they may not have spent much time figuring out how they could accomplish it, if elected.
The practicality of the idea, however, will be of scarcely passing interest for fed-up Canadians. Abolition is a blunt instrument, and people will like the sound of blunt.
For Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, this is an inflection point.
They can hope to ride things out holding their current position – to wait for the news cycle to turn again in hopes that voters' anger will subside and they will face no lasting injury.
Could work, but might not.
By most accounts, there are Liberals and Conservatives who will be called to account. The Liberal eviction of Senators from their caucus was a smart move, but might not feel like a sufficient degree of outrage from the Liberal leadership. Mr. Harper will be expected to bare his teeth as well.
Then there's the small matter of what's happening a few blocks away in an Ottawa courthouse.
There, suspended Senator Mike Duffy is defending himself against criminal charges involving abuse of tax dollars. His defence is that there were no rules against him spending the way he did. Even more, the people who appointed him knew what he was doing, and praised his style.
Mr. Duffy is probably going to be making his argument on the stand in the final stretch of this federal election campaign, to a national audience that will, no doubt, pay close attention.
Mr. Harper's former chief of staff Nigel Wright, the other marquee witness, may stipulate that his offer to pay Mr. Duffy $90,000 was based on a similar conclusion: that there were no rules against what Mr. Duffy was doing, and that at least some of Mr. Duffy's behaviour was at the behest of, rather than a mystery to, Conservative Party higher-ups.
If the NDP were still polling at 19 per cent (as they were just recently), their position on the Senate would be pretty irrelevant. But in today's three-way race, the other two parties will need to carefully consider their next move.
Neither Mr. Trudeau nor Mr. Harper will have anything good to say about the Senate in the weeks ahead. But will they want to argue that it can't be abolished? No one running for the highest office in the country wants to sound impotent in the face of public anger.
Liberal and Conservative message writers must be busy drafting responses. "It's an appealing idea but impractical." "It simply can't be done, no matter how tempting." "I'm for it but I doubt I could ever get the provinces to agree." "Let's concentrate on appointing better people and recognize the other priorities the country faces."
These are what the term "meh" was created for. Candidates will be reluctant to hit the hustings without a message that delivers more punch.
MPs may hesitate to criticize senators' spending habits, for fear of a "glass house" reaction. But few will line up to defend the Senate, especially given the recent foot dragging by senators on the House reform bill.
There's one other piece to this puzzle: how senators react, both those who may face charges and those who won't. This will become apparent in the next several days.
In recent weeks, Senate lawyers have been in court fighting prying eyes, making the case to conceal fudged audits and exchanges about residency claims. If this sorry approach is a prelude to what comes next, the senators may simply – and inadvertently – increase the risk of Liberals and Conservatives huddling closer to the NDP position – in favour of finding some way to shutter the place once and for all.