This morning on the radio I heard a small clip from a Canadian senator being interviewed which made me very angry. This guy's name is Mike Duffy and he used to be a television journalist before being appointed to the Senate where the base salary starts at $130,000 per year and is an appointment for life. Well, this guy, along with several other senators are being audited for housing expenses they have claimed. You see, he claims to live primarily in the Canadian province of Prince Edward Island which enables him to claim over $20,000 per year housing allowance to cover the costs of maintaining a house in Ottawa, where he works. The problem is that he rarely uses his PEI cottage, has lived in Ottawa for decades and doesn't have a PEI health card or drivers license. So the facts certainly seem to show that his primary residence is in Ottawa and shouldn't be eligible for a housing allowance.
Today, he said he would pay back the allowance he has claimed....but not because he lied, simply because he made an accidental error in filling out a form and wants this attention to go away so that he can concentrate on his job.
In other words, he lied.
What really angers me is not this one situation of a public figure lying; it's the culture of lies that we see everyday. Let's think back about the various recent scandals which involve public figures telling bold faced lies.
Canadian Gov't and Public People
Peter McKay lying about the details of the army's helicopter pickup from his fishing trip.
Ontario Liberal gov't lying about why they cancelled the construction of gas plants to win seats.
Bev Oda denying wasting gov't money.
The Robocall election fraud scandal which the government has vehemently denied any wrongdoing.
The CEO of Orng air ambulance service claiming he did nothing wrong.
Every single person testifying in the Charbonneau commission investigating corruption in Montreal's construction business.
Conrad Black lying about bilking his company out of millions.
The greasy Rod Blagojevich denying he solicited bribes for making political appointments.
CIA Director denying he was having affair.
Look back at the news highlights and you'll find a similar story for a different person every week.
Lance Armstrong brazen lies about blood doping.
Tiger Woods' lies about affairs.
South African sprinter claiming he accidentally shot up his girlfriend.
It's all so predictable. A public figure gets caught doing something wrong, immoral or illegal. They vehemently deny wrongdoing, despite all evidence to the contrary. They go through a lengthy trial or public shaming and, in the end, sometimes admit they lied, but usually claim innocence the whole way through.
How can people do this? Does a person's word mean nothing any more? How can a person lie over and over again and live with themselves? It all seems so immoral and fake. How do you explain this behaviour to your family? Do you simply lie to them too?
I have always tried to teach our children that a person's word should be gold. And if your word means nothing, then what are you worth as a person? If you say you are going to do something, then do it. Tell the truth....always. Why do you need to lie about things? Lying turns your entire life into a game of memory, where the challenge is to keep track of which lies you've told to which people, and which future lies you'll need to tell to cover up previous lies. You also need to be prepared with fresh lies in case you are caught out, which requires some real fancy fabrication.
Why make your life so complicated? Life is complicated enough without a never ending stream of lies to keep track of.
I can say that I have never lied to my children or my wife (except maybe hiding a birthday surprise...). For example, the kids have asked me if Santa Claus exists. Well, I doubt it, but do I know for sure? Is it possible? I don't know, maybe it is, and that is what I tell them. I certainly like to believe magic may exist. In fact, the 90% of the worlds population who follow a religion believe that magic exists. If you can tell me to my face that when you die you are transported to an eternal paradise where you live in everlasting joy, as long as you followed a few rules when you were on earth....then I'm pretty comfortable telling you that it's possible there is a Santa Claus. In fact, I think my story is just as likely as yours. But that's another blog.
I wish that once, just once, when a public figure gets caught out, they would appear publicly and simply tell the truth, and ask forgiveness, suffer the consequences, then not do it again. Is that so hard? Better yet, don't steal or cheat in the first place.
So Mr. Duffy, try this line and see how it feels:
"I knowingly claimed false housing expenses to earn another twenty grand on top of my already generous salary and benefits. I did it because I was greedy and didn't think I'd get caught and felt okay doing it because lots of other Senators do it. Now that I'm caught I will pay the money back. If you want me to resign my seat in the Senate, I will, because I don't deserve your trust any more. But if you want me to stay, then I will never steal again and will strive to try and root out corruption in the Senate and prevent others from doing such things."
That wasn't so hard, was it?