In its own way, it was sickening. Upon arriving home from Ottawa late last night, the sadness of my wife’s face was evident. She told me of how Senator Mike Duffy had blustered his way through a CBC interview, opting to label NDP MP Peter Stoffer a fake and an actor. Subsequently watching the interview on the Internet, I was not only sad but embarrassed. I haven’t held out a lot of hope for civility in the House of Commons, but I never expected this.
The issue was concerning an NDP report pointing out that Stephen Harper has appointed more senators in one year than anyone else in Canadian history. It’s true; the facts are clear. It refers to the reality that the PM railed against the Senate even upon becoming leader of the nation and then proceeded to reward his cronies – true again. Something like this from the NDP isn’t new. The party and its leader have consistently held the view that the Senate is a huge waste of taxpayers’ expense and have even called for a public referendum on the matter, as has Conservative senator Hugh Segal. I don’t agree, but I acknowledge the NDP position has remained clear and unaltered.
Let me say something about Peter Stoffer. In the annual Maclean’s poll on MPs, Stoeffer repeatedly comes out on top as the most collegial of them all. He uses his influence to attempt to get MPs of all stripes to work together for various causes and events. Working in harmony with the Speaker of the House, each year he holds the “All Party Party” – a wildly popular evening in which MPs and their staffs all co-mingle and for a brief time put aside their party ideologies. It’s Stoffer that oversees the annual soccer game between MPs and the media. When I asked him to come to my riding in London and hold a rally for the troops, he readily agreed even though he was from another party. That’s the kind of MP he is. He’s a popular public servant and can often be found in the lobby sitting with members from other parties.
But he’s more than symbolic. I was especially irked when Duffy called Stoffer a faker, who pretends to support Canadian troops but votes against funding allocations for them. Let’s be clear. Peter Stoffer, as with Peter Mackay, is acknowledged in the House as being fully behind our men and women in uniform. Any MP, including Conservatives ones will tell you that. He was the one who led the charge in Parliament to protect soldiers medals that were otherwise being sold on eBay. The reason why he voted against the Conservative allocations on the military was because they offered embarrassing little support for the soldiers returned from active duty and who are having trouble moving on with their lives.
I’m not trying to be partisan here; I’m trying to be fair. Peter Stoffer gets elected each and every time by wide margins because he delivers for his constituents. Mike Duffy? Well, he spent years as a CTV interviewer often mocking the Senate as a bunch of old men who do little with their time but who cost the taxpayer a bundle. Interestingly, he has now joined their ranks and his presence has destabilized a side of Parliament that has provided some of the most serious and dedicated reports and analysis on everything from the military to foreign aid. I know a number of Conservative senators and even have coffee with them occasionally. The discussions have all been about public policy and the need to get it right. When they heard Mike Duffy was about to join their ranks, they could only shake their heads. Their fears have now been confirmed.
Peter Stoffer said he would run for Parliament and did. He won, as he has done repeatedly. He acted on his convictions. Mike Duffy railed against the Senate as a place of unelected stooges while a media commentator but then took an unelected appointment to the place the moment it was offered. Of the two, I can guarantee you that Peter Stoffer is not a fake.