...sometimes the prime minister's refusal to concede an inch just looks petulant. Example: his response to the vindication of Ralph Goodale last week. After 14 months, the RCMP finally concluded its investigation into an alleged leak from Goodale's office right after the former Liberal finance minister decided not to abolish income trusts. The RCMP laid one charge against a senior Finance Department bureaucrat with no ties to the Liberal party.
Instead of pulling French-language Tory attack ads that continue to link Goodale to what is no longer a political scandal, Harper reacted belligerently. He even had the audacity to claim that "Goodale owes Canadians an apology" for insisting no one in his office, or department, had done anything wrong -- as if Goodale could have known about one errant public servant. If, that is, anyone did err.
That is another troubling thing about Harper's response: The assumption that because the RCMP has charged someone, a crime has been committed. The Arar affair should have taught us to be circumspect about RCMP investigations -- especially this one, which sank an already badly listing Liberal ship when it was announced mid-election campaign.
And, even more startling, an editorial from today's Vancouver Sun:
But the Conservatives certainly should issue an apology and cease running the ad. After all, the scandal regarding the allegations likely had a significant impact on the last election since the RCMP investigation was announced during the middle of the campaign, and came on the heels of the sponsorship scandal. To keep this issue alive in case of another election, even after the RCMP has determined no criminal wrongdoing on the part of Liberal politicians, amounts to dirty politics.
Further, one certainly can't assume that the RCMP is somehow protecting the Liberals by failing to lay any other charges. After all, the Conservatives have cultivated a strong relationship with the RCMP -- so strong that the timing of the announcement of the criminal investigation led to a complaint being lodged with the RCMP commission for public complaints.
At this point, if the Conservatives fail to take the RCMP's word for it that it's not appropriate to charge any Liberal politicians, then the Conservatives are essentially saying they distrust the RCMP. This is certainly not a message the Conservatives want to send.
Make no mistake, the Sun and the Citizen are Conservative, not to say Ultra Conservative, newspapers. If they are advising Harper to dial back the venom, this is not from the goodness of their hearts. Rather, they see those cursed epithets coming back: scary...harsh... mean-spirited.
All of which makes me pretty blase about the Conservative Party financial advantage. To paraphrase Churchill: never has so much money spent by so many dummies to so little effect.