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Sunday, July 07, 2013 


Progressive Bloggers


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.

Prime 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 see why.

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 fundraising arm. 

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 the hook.

The Star

Bro-ther..who the heck made them the 'deciders' of "expenses that WE ALL believed were inappropriate"? That's what auditors, police, judges and juries are for. Of course, the Cons never met a verdict or a judge they agreed with. Time for the authorities and WE THE PEOPLE, to put the hammer down on them. (Figuratively speaking.)

I think there's a treasure trove of information to be had from former Harper PMO chief counsel, Benjamin Perrin, and Mike Duffy's lawyer, Janice Payne.

Perrin hightailed it out of Ottawa to his place at the U.B.C. law faculty a month after Wright wrote his cheque. Some accounts said Perrin wrote the "letter of understanding" that accompanied the cheque when it was delivered to the prominent Ottawa law firm of Nelligan Powers where Ms. Payne is a senior partner.

If, as the Criminal Code suggests, the payment was illegal, then what position does that place Ms. Payne and her firm in for handling the cheque, presumably processing it through the firm's trust accounts, and remitting the illegal benefit to the Receiver General to clear Duffy's tab? Very interesting and potentially serious problems for a senior Ottawa lawyer and her prominent law firm. I think they might have trouble sheltering behind solicitor-client privilege because that's intended to protect the client only, not the lawyer.

And what of Perrin and Wright. Perrin is a law professor. Wright holds a masters in law from Harvard. They really don't get the benefit of the "oopsie" defence.

Better yet, what of Perrin's solicitor-client relationship with the prime minister? As Harper's personal legal adviser it's absurd that Perrin would keep his best client ever in the dark about something so potentially expolosive. That's inconceivable. Perrin is boxed in in a couple of ways and will have some explaining to do. If it turns out he was a principal in transmitting Wright's cheque to Payne, then his problems are even worse.

My sense is that we're witnessing a situation that's rapidly getting out of the prime minister's and Team Harper's control. Sideshow Steve relies on being able to frame the narrative.

There are indications Wright is prepared to roll over on some of the others and there are plenty.

Who knew about this at the outset? There was Wright, obviously, and the three other senior PMO aides he's fingered. There was the Senator in charge of the Conservative Fund. In all likelihood there were at leas two other prominent Tory Senators. There was a leading Ottawa law firm and at least one of its senior partners (hard to imagine she wouldn't have cleared this with her law partners). Then there's Senator Mike Duffy and the half of Ottawa he e-mailed about the deal. Don't forget, Duffy told his e-mail confidantes 1) the fact he was getting bailed out by the PMO, 2) that he was under orders from the PMO not to cooperate with investigators, not to talk to anyone, and 3) he was promised that the senate report would "go easy on" him. Oh yeah, who else was in on this? Everyone who received that e-mail forwarded by the original recipients - people like CTV's Bob Fife.

I have come to appreciate that Harper has adversaries in the opposition but that his true enemies are inside the Conservative Party.

Months ago I was told there are Tory dissidents behind these leaks. That realization may have been a factor in Wright rolling over on his PMO colleagues. It may also be a factor in loosening other tongues before long.

Harper has painted himself into a corner. We should all be thankful for that. I really don't think it is inconceivable he might resign before Parliament returns in September.

Wow! Seems like Gormley's buddies just keep sinking deeper into their own excrement. 'Course that won't stop him from singing their praises. After all, like fundamentalist religion, fundamentalist politics is never to be questioned or challenged...just have to have faith.

Time for those of us who actually think and base our political decisions on fact rather than right-wing media spin and those black and white propaganda pieces we receive in the mail almost every week at our expense, to stand up and fight.

We all have to do whatever we can to get rid of this bunch of liars and crooks, both at the federal and the provincial level. Now!

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