Thursday, April 17, 2014

Michael Harris Under Theresa Spence's Cone of Silence

If I didn't know better, I'd swear that iPolitics columnist Michael Harris had been out to the scandal-engulfed Attawapiskat reserve and been threatened with arrest. Simply nothing else could explain the cone of silence he's placed himself in -- at least in regards to that subject -- since Chief Theresa Spence's commonlaw spouse, Clayton Kennedy, was charged with theft and fraud.

Strange, that. After all, Harris was so obsessed with the RCMP investigation into former PMO Chief of Staff Nigel Wright that, following the RCMP dropping the investigation, he took to Twitter to suggest -- to very nearly insist -- that the case showed that the national police force's independence was now in question.

Yet Kennedy is now facing charges stemming from alleged theft and fraud that took place under Spence's watch and... silence. Nothing to be said from the esteemed Mr Harris.

This would make it seem as if Harris, who previously was one of Spence's biggest boosters in the Canadian media, had only suddenly taken leave of this particular story. But the truth is rather different: he took leave of it long ago.

For example, let's take a look at what Harris wrote about Spence on January 3, 2013:

"...Last December 11, it was shocking to see someone actually want to talk to the prime minister as the country’s most important employee, not as an imperial figure who lives at the top of an unapproachable mountain shrouded in mist. Chief Spence had the audacity to think that she was important because her concerns were important. She was also sufficiently committed to the notion of democracy (however battered it may be in Canada) that she believed talking to the prime minister — nation to nation, as promised — might benefit everyone."

She was committed to the notion of democracy, was she? Well, it turns out that her devotion didn't last the year. In August, 2013 the Attawapiskat band held an election. Spence was reelected, but election had been run with a caveat: if you live off-reserve -- more than half of Attawapiskat band members do -- you were required to travel back to the reserve to vote. The move effectively disenfranchised any band members who wouldn't or couldn't.

Only 507 votes were cast. The Attawapiskat band has 3,351 members.

In a vote held on-reserve, the majority of band members voting approved a band election code that would give all band members a ballot, whether they lived on- or off-reserve. Under the leadership of Chief Spence, Michael Harris' model democrat, Attawapiskat band council refused to ratify it.

Quite the democrat, Theresa Spence is.

Yet even after having given her his official seal of approval, to to speak, Harris had clammed up on all matters Attawapiskat long before then. And now that thousands of dollars in fraud and theft have taken place under his model democrat's watch, Harris is silent again.

But not so silent on Nigel Wright. Harris took to Twitter to fume that the RCMP owes an explanation regarding who made the decision to clear Wright, and why. It's not at all hard to imagine that Harris imagines that he would be the one collecting such an explanation. In the absence of such an explanation, Harris seems quite content to impugn the independence of the RCMP -- quite the cavalier attitude towards the law if there ever was one!

There is something important that these three stories have in common: it's what they actually don't have in common. And that is Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Chief Theresa Spence, in faking a hunger strike, was making Harper look callous in the eyes of many. Because she was harming Harper's political image, Harris endorsed her not knowing that her common law husband had seemingly been stuffing his pockets with Attawapiskat band cash. (It seems fair to at least strongly suspect that Spence herself was a beneficiary of that larceny.)

The speculation by RCMP investigator Corporal Greg Horton that in giving now-suspended Senator Mike Duffy $90,000 to pay seemingly-improperly-claimed expenses back to the taxpayers Nigel Wright had committed fraud was ammo in the arsenal of the opposition for months. The story hurt Harper, so of course Harris mentioned it as often as he could.

But Clayton Kennedy being charged with theft and fraud? Well, that has nothing to do with Harper. So because the story doesn't harm Harper politically, Harris steers clear of it.

If I'm being unfair to Harris he can feel free to correct the record at his leisure by explaining his evident disinterest in the Kennedy story. It seems to be clear at this point that whatever got Harris' dander up about Wright, it wasn't the speculated -- never even alleged -- fraud. Remember: Kennedy (linked to Spence) has been charged and Wright (linked to Harper) was cleared.

So is Michael Harris huddled under a cone of silence? Or is it more of a code of silence -- a left-wing Omerta?

Only Harris knows for certain. And he may feel free to explain at his earliest convenience.

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