Now, most of the major national media outlets that have been watching his bribery trial have assumed that O'Brien fully intended to prove himself not guilty of the Crown's charges. That is, after all, conventional. Sadly, things have not gone well for the mayor.
For weeks, the court has been treated to testimony placing O'Brien at the heart of the "Conservative" machine in Ottawa. In fact, he was recruited and groomed personally by John Reynolds, ex-CPC M.P., influential party bag-man and rain-maker, and trusted Stephen Harper confidante. Reynolds wanted O'Brien to run federally, but O'Brien decided to carry the CPC flag in the 2006 mayoralty race instead--selflessly--just to bring a little of the Harper magic to us socialist, Northern European Ottawan barbarians. According to testimony, the O'Brien network is a Who's Who of the CPC's Ottawa nomenklatura: Baird operatives, Poilievre aides--they're all there, brokering (allegedly) some sort of deal between O'Brien and Terry Kilrea, the potentially vote-splitting right-wing candidate whom O'Brien is accused of buying off with an appointment to the Parole Board.
On Monday, after watching witness after witness effectively corroborate Kilrea's damning version of events, O'Brien's defence team performed a stunning volte face; it asked the presiding judge to render a directed verdict, something normally brought down in order to dismiss a Crown case for lack of evidence but which would, in this case, dismiss the charges for not fitting into the relevant provisions of the Criminal Code. In effect, the defence is arguing that O'Brien's alleged offence is not covered by the law and is thus perfectly legal.
Specifically, the defence contends that the law is meant to criminalise only the act of promising a monetary reward for doing someone a political favour; the promise of a political reward, they argue, is lawful. Thus, it would have been corrupt of O'Brien to have tempted Kilrea with an envelope full of cash, but, since he sought to have Kilrea whore himself for a seat on the Parole Board, O'Brien's in the clear. Lost in this mincing quibbling, apparently, is the obvious fact that a lucrative Parole Board position is, collaterally, a monetary reward.
Ottawa scribe Randall Denley puts the situation in perspective quite lucidly, I think:
According to the defence, offering someone a federal job as an inducement to drop out of a mayoral race is legally acceptable behaviour. The Crown contends that it's not, despite politicians' history of using Senate and cabinet appointments to politically benefit the party in power...If [the judge] determines that there is nothing illegal about what O'Brien is alleged to have done, he is putting a judicial stamp of approval on conduct that stinks...The political culture of senior levels of government has played a dominant role in what is actually a municipal issue...The defence is relying on Canadians' deep cynicism about the honesty of politicians...In the world described in court, unethical behaviour and even stuff that is technically illegal is the everyday fare of what is rather grandly referred to as "political discourse"...Our standards of political behaviour are certainly low. If his defence is successful, O'Brien will have done his bit to help move the bar even lower.
Stephen Harper's "Conservative" party has finally effected a profound reform of Canada's culture of governance, one entirely consistent with its tradition of grotesque political perversity. This party, that strode and swaggered across this country in strident presumed possession of a total monopoly of political integrity, that vowed to extinguish corruption and maintain the highest ethical standards of conduct, that made the "Accountability Act" the key element of its legislative agenda and the heart of the party's moral bona fides, has now outdone the mere passive betrayal of its ideals.
This party has requested, through its loyal Ottawa agent, that political bribery--the most egregious of all the forms of corruption that appal Canadians--be enshrined in Canadian case law as an acceptable, lawful practice. This precedent having been set, the "Conservative" Party will have succeeded in legally institutionalising the worst, most ignoble manifestation of the very corruption the eradication of which is ostensibly their raison d'etre.
The CPC has become the most avidly concupiscent carrier of the venereal disease that has been chancering our body politic for decades. The "Conservative" pretence to be anything else but the defalcating exploiters and enablers of what is worst about our society is the most offensive and least convincing piece of political quackery to be inflicted upon this country in living memory. This earnest appeal on behalf of the élite's right to scoff at the natural law, by the way, comes right on the heels of the CPC's attempt to force judges to impose harsh prison time on people caught growing a quantity of marijuana carrying an intoxicating effect roughly equal to that of a bottle of wine. Bribe an ideological co-militant to slime into City Hall, and walk away with the prize; grow some grass, and go to jail. That's "justice" in Stephen Harper's Canada.
In order to rinse out the bitter taste this case leaves in my mouth, I read this piece about Alex Munter, the young, bright and capable man whose mayoral aspirations were crushed by the demagogic smears of the smiling CPC simian who now begs us to shrug away his flippant debasement of normative civic standards. I read that Munter is not bitter; he seeks no vengeance; he is happy doing productive, necessary work with at-risk youth.
I reflect that, in Stephen Harper's Canada, it seems to be the doom of the good, the honest, and the virtuous to lose, and the fate of the scum to rise to the top. If legally codifying that civic dysfunction is not a crime against humanity, I don't know what is.