Innocent until proven guilty

The Senate scandal continues to be in Canadian news throughout the country. As of the publication of this piece, there has still not been any action taken against the three senators who stand accused of illegally claiming over a quarter of a million dollars in taxpayer money.

The big story of this whole scandal, though, is not the money nor the breach of public trust, but rather the alleged role of the prime minister in orchestrating it for political gain. Despite continual statements that he was unaware of the cheque cut by his then-Chief of Staff Nigel Wright and allegations from Mike Duffy claiming the involvement of Harper in the affair, the prime minister continues to be in the crosshairs of both the media and the opposition parties.

So why are we more willing to believe a disgraced senator over our own prime minister? Simply put, Canadians, even many Conservative voters, don’t like Stephen Harper. Polls often reflect Canadians polarized in loving or hating him; there doesn’t seem to be a middle ground.

Those who can’t stand him want to believe that he has committed some wrongdoing, simply so we can have a new election or see his resignation, and be done with him.

Why are we more willing to believe a disgraced senator over our own prime minister?

Another reason Canadians are unwilling to accept Harper’s innocence has to do with the continuous allegations — many from opposition parties — that Harper maintains dictatorial control over the Conservative party and caucus.

Members of the party and caucus are, allegedly, unable to do anything without his knowledge or approval. If this is the case, then it would seem logical that he would be aware of a cheque written by his chief of staff. However, some blindsides in the past from MPs, including an attempt last year to reopen the abortion debate against his wishes, suggest he maintains less than this level of control.

Canadian media is also responsible for the view we have of our prime minister. I recall that after winning the last election, Harper was repeatedly asked if this meant that he would be repealing same-sex marriage, the right to abortion, and healthcare. This was asked despite Harper having stated several times that this would not be the case.

Despite the claims of media, Harper has not pushed a religious agenda on Canadians and hasn’t forced Christian ideals on the country. He has upheld laws that the majority of the country accepts, even if he does not personally believe in them.

Even though more Canadians are inclined to believe that Harper orchestrated this affair, we need to keep in mind that, like opposition senators claim about their troubled colleagues, he is innocent until proven guilty. Canadians may just have to face the fact that Stephen Harper may be a victim, betrayed by his chief of staff and by three senators that he appointed.