I believe in giving criminals a second chance once they’ve paid their debt to society. Part of that belief comes from my basic belief that everybody makes mistakes, and everybody deserves a second chance. And part of my belief about giving criminals a second chance comes from the pragmatic recognition that if we don’t give them a second chance, if we don’t give them a chance to eventually get a good job, how can we expect them to turn their lives around and become productive members of society. So in general I don’t have a problem with somebody who has a criminal record working for the government (depending on the role). But regardless of the number of chances he’d had, or whether he had managed to turn his life around and become an honest and productive member of society, I don’t think Bruce Carson should ever have been hired to work in the PMO.
I think that voters expect the people who work in the upper levels of our government to be held to a higher standard. Certainly it’s clear that a lot of Canadians are less than happy to find out somebody with a criminal record was working in the Prime Minister’s Office. So regardless of how much or how little Harper knew about Carson’s criminal past, or how much or how little Harper had to do with getting him hired in the first place, I think Harper needs to admit to Canadians that a mistake was made. And as the PM I think Harper needs to apologize to Canadians and ensure us that if he remains the PM that this kind of mistake won’t happen again.
Unfortunately I don’t think we’re going to get that apology. In the warped world of politics, if a politician makes a mistake (they are human after all, they do make mistakes), apologizing can end up causing more harm politically than refusing to talk about it. As soon as a politician apologizes for something the opposing parties (and the media) immediately swarm the apologizer like a pack of rabid dogs, and it gets even worse around election time. I can just imagine the opposing politicians talking amongst themselves:
“Ah, they’ve admitted to making a mistake, we must publicly crucify them. The scale of the mistake is unimportant; the affects of the mistake, if any, are inconsequential. We will take advantage of their admission of failure to pound them into dirt.”
Because of all this political posturing, and because it doesn’t appear that Carson did anything wrong while working in the PMO, and because Harper immediately asked the RCMP to investigate when he became aware that Carson may have been influence peddling after leaving the PMO, I’m not going to be too upset if Harper doesn’t apologize.
But regardless of the political posturing and the poor judgment displayed in hiring somebody with a criminal record to work in the PMO, I think we need an independent investigation into how a repeat offender got a security clearance. Because surely working in the PMO requires some sort of security clearance. And if Bruce Carson had any kind of security clearance, then I think Canadians deserve to know how it happened.