Who are the 6 per cent? Stand up and be counted. Let us know who you are, and why you think as you do. Bark out your reasons for telling polling firm Nanos Research that the Mike Duffy trial improved your opinion of the Harper government.
You, the 6-per-centers, must have seen or heard something from that trial that contradicts the 56 per cent of Nanos respondents who said the trial worsened their opinion of the government.
The 6-per-centers must represent the core of the core of the core of Conservative supporters in the country, people who would vote Conservative under any conceivable set of circumstances. After all, Conservative bedrock support is reckoned to be about 30 per cent, or maybe a trifle higher. So if only 6 per cent of respondents said the trial improved their opinion of the government, we're talking about only a fifth of the core. Yikes.
The Duffy trial turned reality on its head. The trial was supposed to be about him and his behaviour, and from the point of view of justice it so remains. But the media focus was on the Prime Minister's Office, whose staffers were cross-examined. What that focus revealed was profoundly disquieting and completely unflattering. No wonder by an almost 9-1 margin their evidence at the trial left negative rather than positive impressions of the government.
Let's remember that Mr. Duffy was placed in the Senate by the Conservatives because he would help them raise money and good cheer. Period. He would do their political bidding, happily and helpfully. He would shill. He was not there for policy expertise or sober second thought. He was like many senators: appointed to render faithful service to the party that made him a senator.
That Mr. Duffy – his residence declaration, his travels, his expenses and general use of public funds – became a liability so alarmed the PMO that the trial showed the lengths it would go to spin the story to minimize political damage, above all to protect the Prime Minister.
The majority of Canadians do not find credible the testimony that the Prime Minister remained completely ignorant of what has happening, when everyone around him knew. His chief of staff, his deputy chief of staff, his issues-management guy were all either involved in the scheme or knew about it.
According to sworn testimony, his current chief of staff, Ray Novak, did know about payments to Mr. Duffy, despite various assertions of his ignorance. Indeed, so many contradictions emerged from the evidence that it became almost impossible to know who was telling the truth.
But the story of who knew what, and who said what to whom, and the degree of Mr. Harper's direct or indirect knowledge, is less relevant than the overall picture of an office where people did not read messages they might find inconvenient, conspired together to make public misleading information, scrambled not to tell the truth but to conceal it, and were consumed 24/7 by spin, spin and more spin.
Mercifully for the government, the Duffy trial now pauses until November. (Who said the wheels of justice do not grind slowly?) No further testimony will be heard until after voting day, Oct. 19.
Presumably, opposition parties will try to remind voters during the rest of the campaign about the trial and what it revealed. Why wouldn't they, with public opinion running so heavily against the government on the trial? But unless there are leaks about forthcoming evidence – more damaging e-mails, for example – the trial will perforce fade somewhat in the public's memory.
Chances are that the public reaction to the trial is already "baked" into voting intentions. For people who were going to vote other than Conservative anyway, the trial confirmed their intentions. For those who intended to vote Conservative, a lot of them will rationalize the trial's bad revelations and vote Conservative anyway, thinking that the Duffy affair wasn't that important in the great scheme of things.
It could be argued that an affair involving one senator, $90,000 and an already tarnished institution (the Senate) hardly merits much consideration in the greater business of the country on which an election should turn.
That would be so had the trial not opened a small window on the closed world of the Prime Minister's Office and how it operates, for it is after all the nerve centre of the government.