Stephen Harper left Parliament, public in dark on Senate scandal: Editorial
RCMP investigation has shed light on
aspects of the Senate expenses scandal that Prime Minister Stephen
Harper wasn’t keen to share with Parliament and the public.
Minister Stephen Harper left Canadians in the dark when he was grilled
in Parliament about the festering Senate expense scandal before the
Commons rose for the summer. He could have told us more, much more, but
he didn’t. And what he did tell us turns out to be dubious, at best.
Now Harper is planning a cabinet shuffle that he hopes will restore some lustre to his discredited government.
But the truth will out. As the Star’s Joanna Smith reports from Ottawa,
a Royal Canadian Mounted Police criminal investigation has shed light
on matters that Harper wasn’t keen to share with Parliament and the
public. Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair’s New Democrats are saying that
Harper has “wilfully misled Canadians” in this affair, and it’s easy to
Harper told Parliament
that both he and his staff in the Prime Minister’s Office were out of
the loop when former chief of staff Nigel Wright decided to quietly cut
Sen. Mike Duffy a cheque for $90,172 to pay back improperly claimed
expenses. The decision was “not communicated to me or to members of my
office,” Harper said. Certainly, it would have been easy enough to find
out who in the PMO may have known, just by asking.
The RCMP reports that
Wright recalls telling three people in the PMO: David van Hemmen,
Wright’s executive assistant; Chris Woodcock, director of issues
management; and Benjamin Perrin, a former PMO lawyer. He also told Sen.
Irving Gerstein, who chairs the Conservative Fund Canada, the party’s
In Parliament Harper
also shrugged off demands that he produce the cheque and related
documents. Thanks to the RCMP we know that Wright sent money to Duffy’s
lawyer via a CIBC bank draft for $90,172.24 on March 25, on condition
that Duffy immediately pay back what he owed and stop talking to the
media about it.
Finally, Harper told
Parliament that Wright offered the money to spare the taxpayers. Wright
“wanted to see the taxpayers recompensed for expenses that we all
believed were inappropriate,” Harper told the Commons on May 29.
Earlier, his communications director Andrew MacDougall said “the
government believes that taxpayers should not be on the hook for
improper expense claims made by senators.” Repeatedly, Canadians were
told that no government or Conservative party funds went to Duffy.
But thanks to the RCMP we now know that the Conservative Fund Canada was prepared to repay
what Duffy owed when they thought it was $32,000, but $90,000 was
deemed too much to ask the fund to cover. That appears to shatter two
fictions: that Wright’s offer was a spontaneous act of personal
generosity, and that it was all about making sure taxpayers weren’t on