I always find it interesting to note which scandals stick to governments and which ones slide easily off of their backs. In the Canadian context, at any rate, it seems that governments can get away with an arbitrary amount of incompetent or terrible policy, but outright corruption is what ultimately brings them down. Case in point, our Mr. Harper has over the past seven years been given free passes by the electorate on gutting science, trashing the environment, doing away with oversight, making a mockery of parliament, shredding indigenous rights, waging a pointless and bloody campaign in Afghanistan and centralizing power in the PMO (amongst many, many other things). However, the Tories are now falling behind in public opinion. Why? Because of the Senate Expenses scandal.
It would seem that the population at large is remarkably forgiving of anything that doesn’t specifically involve members of the government directly stealing from them. Going back a decade or so, you could see the exact same pattern play-out with the Liberals. And with the PCs a decade before that (although the fact that the economy was shitty also didn’t help them).
Now, of course, this is not to minimize the significance of the recent Tory corruption*; however, if I were forced to choose between a government which had good, effective policies but tended to skim a little off the top** and a government which was terrible but clean as a whistle, I would without hesitation select the former.
*although insofar as this is concerned, I think that the recent court-confirmation of widespread electoral fraud is a much more heinous abuse than the loss(?) of $90 000.)
**And somehow the name “Jean Chretien” just lept unbidden to my mind.