In the eyes of a substantial block of voters, there is only one type of Conservative. There is no difference between Mulroney Conservatives and Harper Conservatives. There is one Conservative party --and until recently Stephen Harper was happy with the association. The Mulroney-Schreiber affair when explored will damage the Conservative brand one way or another. It is surprising then that the Conservatives are offering no leadership on the issue.
Admittedly, the Conservative scandal is a bit of a lose-lose situation, having the public associate the Conservative party with secret hotel meetings where ambiguous amounts of untraceable cash traded hands cannot help but sound bad while on the other hand denying the association of Brian Mulroney with the Conservative party is somewhat preposterous. But Stephen Harper is falling out of the tree and he seems determined to hit every branch on the way.
At first, Harper said there was no need for a public inquiry. Then Mulroney said he wanted a public inquiry, then possibly as a consequence Stephen Harper said he also wanted an inquiry. Mulroney later changed his mind and said he did not want an inquiry. Harper also seemed to change his mind and suggested he longer thought an inquiry was necessary. The recommendations offered by the independent advisor, David Johnston, do not provide more clarity because they are not legally binding and do not settle the issue of whether or not there will be a public inquiry. Harper can ignore the suggestions. He could set in motion a full inquiry with a broad scope as of tomorrow or, as is more likely, he will keep stalling. Meanwhile, those in the public and especially those in the media who would gladly defend Harper’s stance --were he to take one-- are left twisting in the wind. Is Mulroney really one of us, a Conservative? Do we need an inquiry in any form? How does this relate to the Conservative party’s position on Accountability? By not deciding, Harper is ultimately jerking around his own supporters and you can only do that for so long.
By offering no leadership, the Conservatives are also green lighting the House of Commons Ethics committee to do anything they want with the issue which, in my opinion, is the bigger side of the lose-lose equation.
The Conservatives have shown no leadership on this ethical issue. But wishful thinking aside, the Mulroney scandal is not going to go away on its own.