Next month will see the beginning of the trial of suspended senator Mike Duffy. Duffy is to be tried for an astounding 31 charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.
Regardless of the outcome of that trial, Duffy is done, as far as politics goes. He is unlikely to regain the trust of the Canadian public. This is not one of those cases where, if convicted, the individual in question pays his fine, does his time, apologizes, and gets back into the game.
Indeed, even if not found guilty, one suspects that Duffy’s days in public office are over. Why? Because money. That is, the public will forgive sexual transgressions and drug habits, but are unforgiving when it comes to misuse of public funds.
This past fall, we at Ted Rogers Leadership Centre did research that bears this out. In an online survey conducted during October of 2014, we asked over 1,000 Canadians their views on a range of issues related to the ethics of political leadership. The results were stunning, going far beyond our own jaded expectations regarding the level of cynicism the public would display.
(Consider: our results showed that politicians are only half as trusted as CEOs " a group whose reputation is not exactly stellar these days. 63% of respondents said politics corrupts honest people. And more than a quarter of respondents said they think politicians take bribes “frequently.”)
Our survey also presented participants with a number of scenarios involving wrongdoing, in an effort to find out which kinds of unethical behaviour the public finds most worrisome. Drug addiction? Electoral manipulations? Influence peddling? The pattern was clear: if you mess with money, the public is unforgiving.