By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - 0 Comments
Courtesy of the Canadian Press, the full transcript of the Prime Minister’s comments to reporters this afternoon about Nigel Wright and Mike Duffy.
Reporter: My question is about the resignation statement of your former chief of staff, which indicated that he merely did not tell you the means by which Sen. Mike Duffy got his money and, to date, neither he nor you have denied that you did know there was a deal. My question first is, what exactly did you know about the deal? Second, what were the terms of that deal? And third, what does it say about your leadership that your senior staff could even imagine this was ethical?
Stephen Harper: Just to correct that, I think we’ve been very clear that I did not know, but let me be very specific about this. I learned of this after stories appeared in the media last week speculating on the source of Mr. Duffy’s repayments.
Immediately upon learning that the source was indeed my chief of staff, Nigel Wright, I immediately asked that that information be released publicly. That is what I knew.
I think what’s more important about this is that, not simply that I did not know, but that I was not consulted. I was not asked to sign off on any such thing and had I obviously been consulted or known, I would not have agreed with it.
And it is obviously for those reasons that I accepted Mr. Wright’s resignation.
My belief, I should mention, my belief, of course, prior to all this was that Mr. Duffy had repaid. When I heard that Mr. Duffy had repaid, my assumption was that Mr. Duffy had repaid from his own resources and that’s how it should have been, in my judgment.
Reporter: You’re known for running a very tight ship in government. How do you expect Canadians to believe that you knew nothing about the cheque that was written to Sen. Duffy? And what in particular do you plan to do? What actions in particular do you plan to take to address this scandal? Could there be further resignations?
Stephen Harper: Look, I think my belief here was reasonable, what, I think, anybody would have expected, that when it was said that Mr. Duffy had repaid his expenses, that indeed he, and not someone else, had repaid his expenses. I know Mr. Wright assisted him or did this for him, because he wanted to see the taxpayers reimbursed. That’s the right motive, but nevertheless it was obviously not correct for that decision to be made and executed without my knowledge or without public transparency.
That is why, as I say, I have accepted the resignation of my chief of staff. As you know we’ve had a couple of senators also leave our caucus. My point is on this that there is accountability when things like this happen. We’ve also put in place the various authorities and mechanisms that will further look into these matters to see if any additional action has to be taken on any particular individuals.
I can assure you that we will certainly look at our systems, see what we have to do to better manage or, better yet, prevent any of these kinds of things in the future. Obviously, I am very sorry that this has occurred. I am not only sorry, I’ve been through the range of emotions. I’m sorry, I’m frustrated, I’m extremely angry about it. But that is the reality and I think we’ve dealt with it promptly.
I’m frustrated and sorry and angry about all of this. I don’t think there’s any better way to put it. In terms of my own office, it was Mr. Wright’s money, it was his personal money that he was repaying to the taxpayers on behalf of Mr. Duffy, it was his personal decision and he did this is his capacity as chief of staff, so he is solely responsible and that is why he has resigned.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 at 3:52 PM - 0 Comments
A Liberal member of the Senate’s internal economy committee alleges political interference in the investigation of Mike Duffy and the Ottawa Citizen has a copy of the pre-edited report on Mr. Duffy’s expenses.
Stephen Harper says he’s “sorry” and “upset” and “extremely angry,” but, in a written statement, Mr. Duffy seems relatively at peace with things.
Yesterday, the Senate referred the issue of my expenses to the Senate Board of Internal Economy.
I welcome this development. Canadians deserve to know all of the facts. I am confident that when they do they will conclude, as Deloitte has already concluded, that my actions regarding expenses do not merit criticism.
I intend to co-operate fully with the Board and with all other authorities. and will have no further public comments until those processes are complete.
The Senate’s conflict of interest committee, meanwhile, releases a statement that suggests the Senate Ethics Officer is now engaged with “matters currently of public interest.”
The Standing Committee on Conflict of Interest for Senators met last evening.
The Committee is exercising its oversight role of the process under the Conflict of Interest Code for Senators. As part of its work, the Committee met with the Senate Ethics Officer. The Committee is satisfied, at this stage, that the Senate Ethics Officer is reviewing matters currently of public interest.
The Committee will await the next steps from the Senate Ethics Officer and will act accordingly as provided by the Code.
By Nick Taylor-Vaisey - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 at 7:57 AM - 0 Comments
The prime minister is in South America, on a trade mission. The foreign minister is in the House of Commons, engaging in damage control. The Senate’s internal economy committee is down the hall, investigating Senator Mike Duffy‘s improperly claimed expenses. The federal ethics commissioner is in her office, investigating the conduct of Nigel Wright, who was Harper’s chief of staff until last Sunday.
So, while Harper shakes hands and Baird deflects and Senators re-open books and the ethics commissioner pores over the rules, everyone else waits. The slow-moving train that is the ongoing Senate expenses scandal, where only the reporting of CTV’s Robert Fife shovels coal into the engine, lumbers on.
John Ibbitson, writing in The Globe and Mail, explains this hurry-up-and-wait approach to crisis management. The government, as it has done before, can “punt the issue to a neutral third party and then refuse to answer any further questions, claiming officials must be allowed to do their jobs.” The thing that the government must remember, and it’s something Toronto Mayor Rob Ford knows all too well, is that when a scandal is too big to just disappear, the harshest of critics are willing to wait. And wait. And wait for answers.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 5:11 PM - 0 Comments
A statement from Benjamin Perrin, former legal advisor to the Prime Minister, in regards to last night’s story from CTV.
Last night’s CTV story in relation to me, which is based on unattributed sources, is false.
I was not consulted on, and did not participate in, Nigel Wright’s decision to write a personal cheque to reimburse Senator Duffy’s expenses.
I have never communicated with the Prime Minister on this matter.
In all my work, I have been committed to making our country a better place and I hope my record of service speaks for itself.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 5:04 PM - 0 Comments
A statement from Liberal MP Scott Andrews.
“The revelations about ethical misconduct in the Prime Minister’s Office are truly outrageous to Canadians. That is why today I gave notice of motion at the House of Commons Ethics committee calling for a thorough investigation into this matter.
The Liberal Party will be calling on the Ethics committee to invite as witnesses the Prime Minister, former and current senior PMO staffers, as well as Conservative Senate leaders and Senator Mike Duffy.
It is of paramount importance that Canadians be assured of transparency and full disclosure by this government, and thus far, Mr. Harper has failed to answer Canadians’ very valid questions.
We trust we will receive the support of all parties – including Conservative MPs – in order to get to the bottom of this troubling scandal. While Mr. Harper may call it a ‘distraction’, Canadians expect real answers and the truth, and Liberals will continue to work on their behalf.”
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 11:30 AM - 0 Comments
The Prime Minister arrived to the stage with a slight smile, an acknowledgement perhaps of his caucus’ willingness to stand and applaud his presence at this particular moment. He quickly turned serious.
“Good morning, everyone. Colleagues, obviously the reason I’m speaking to you this morning is I want to talk about some events that have transpired recently. And I don’t think any of you are going to be very surprised to hear that I’m not happy,” he said. “I’m very upset…”
So upset that he would commit here and now to release any and all relevant documents and correspondence in the possession of his office? So upset that he would submit to a news conference today to address the allegations concerning his former top aide? So upset that he would detail precisely what he knows about the arrangement between Nigel Wright and Mike Duffy? So upset that he would offer any kind of explanation here now with all these cameras summoned to transmit his remarks to the nation?
No, no, not that upset. Just upset enough to feel it necessary to tell everyone that he was indeed upset. A revelation that even he conceded was not much of a surprise.
“… about some conduct we have witnessed, the conduct of some parliamentarians and the conduct of my own office.”
In fact, we have not witnessed anything except the spectacle of a government attempting to slowly explain how one of the Prime Minister’s appointees in the Senate had come to pay back some unfortunately claimed expenses and how the Prime Minister’s chief of staff had come to be involved in the return of those funds. The actual events in question occurred entirely in secret.
Now though we would witness self-congratulation paraded for all to see. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, May 20, 2013 at 10:33 PM - 0 Comments
CTV reports tonight that the Prime Minister’s legal advisor was involved in drafting the agreement between Nigel Wright and Mike Duffy.
Sources told CTV’s Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife that back in February, Benjamin Perrin helped draft the letter of understanding that called for Duffy to publicly declare that he would repay the money. In return, sources say, Wright would give a personal cheque to Duffy to cover the $90,000. Sources say the agreement also stipulated that a Senate investigation into expense claims would go easy on Duffy.
So will the Prime Minister’s Office now release the terms of that agreement? Apparently not.
The PMO also declined to release the letter of agreement, saying it is now in the hands of Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson, who is investigating Wright’s $90,000 cheque to Duffy.
What the Prime Minister’s Office has done is invite reporters to watch the Prime Minister deliver a speech to the Conservative caucus tomorrow morning. If Mr. Harper is later going to entertain questions from reporters, the PMO has yet to say so. But perhaps the Prime Minister’s remarks could involve reading aloud the agreement between Nigel Wright and Mike Duffy.
Meanwhile, the Globe has video of Mike Duffy declining to explain himself as he’s chased through the Ottawa airport.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, May 20, 2013 at 2:35 PM - 0 Comments
Our govt has the highest ethical standards demonstrated by 3 resignations: 2 from Senate caucus & the PM chief of staff.
It’s a clear demo of accountability folks from some other parties could emulate.
Indeed. It is by precisely that measure that the Nixon administration is widely considered to be the most ethical in American history.
How might the Harper government demonstrate even higher ethical standards this week? The Prime Minister could start tomorrow by convening a news conference, at which he could stand and face at least a dozen questions from reporters. The Prime Minister’s Office could release any and all paperwork related to the agreement between Nigel Wright and Mike Duffy. The government’s leadership in the Senate could also appear publicly to face questions about their knowledge of the situation.
Conservative MPs could aid the government they support by demanding that Nigel Wright appear before a parliamentary committee and inviting Mike Duffy to do likewise.
Ms. Crockatt is right, in a way. Ensuring that certain consequences follow from questionable actions is part of being accountable. But so is fully and completely explaining the events in questions and opening oneself to public scrutiny.
Update 10:36pm. Ms. Crockatt would like to explain herself.
After a deluge of sarcastic comments from Twitter users — such as, “That’s like a criminal saying he has the highest ethical standards because he went to jail” — Crockatt told the Herald that her comment has been misinterpreted. When asked to clarify what she meant, Crockatt said, “That accepting the resignations was the right thing to do.”
By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, May 19, 2013 at 12:40 PM - 0 Comments
Two hours after Nigel Wright resigned, The West Block aired an interview with Brent Rathgeber, the noticeably independent-minded Conservative MP. It seems this mess is not going over well with Conservative supporters.
Tom Clark: Is this hurting the Conservative brand in your area?
Brent Rathgeber: Well it is to a certain extent. I think the irony of this situation to some extent is, I hear from constituents all the time; daily, weekly and individuals for the most part that are calling or e-mailing me with respect to recent stories that are coming out of the Senate are not the normal people that are critical of the government or critical of me. These are actually more people that I consider to be our supporters, that they expect public officials to hold themselves up to an exceptionally high standard of conduct and it’s those individuals … Who I mean I identify with because I’m one of them. I do advocate for respect for taxpayers and for treating public resources effectively and legally, and respectfully. So, it’s among individuals who I consider to be my supporters who seem to be the most upset as this story continues to roll out.
And then there is this from Mr. Rathgeber.
Tom Clark: You’re going to be back here in Ottawa next week when the House resumes, you’re going to have an opportunity to speak to the leaders of the party, to the prime minister. What do you want to ask Stephen Harper about this whole situation?
Brent Rathgeber: Well my biggest concern and it has been my concern for some time, even before this story broke in the last few weeks, and that’s what I see as an inadequate degree of separation between the legislative and executive branches of government. The senators in question and myself, we are parliamentarians. We are legislators and our job is to vet and ultimately vote on, yay or nay on legislation that’s before the respective houses. And most of that legislation is government sponsored and government drafted legislation. And when there’s inadequate separation I would suggest between the executive and of course the prime minister’s office is at the very apex of the executive. When there’s inadequate separation between those two institutions, it appears to me that both are compromised. I mean I don’t … as a legislator I don’t want to be beholden or indebted to individuals from the executive at any level.
By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, May 19, 2013 at 12:07 PM - 0 Comments
For the eternal record, here is the statement of Nigel Wright this morning.
“In light of the controversy surrounding my handling of matters involving Senator Duffy, the Prime Minister has accepted my resignation as Chief of Staff.
“My actions were intended solely to secure the repayment of funds, which I considered to be in the public interest, and I accept sole responsibility. I did not advise the Prime Minister of the means by which Sen. Duffy’s expenses were repaid, either before or after the fact.
“I regret the impact of this matter on the Government, our Caucus, and all of my colleagues, for whom I have the highest regard. I came to Ottawa to do my part in providing good government for Canada, and that is all that I ever wanted and worked for in this role.”
And here is the statement of the Prime Minister.
“It is with great regret that I have accepted the resignation of Nigel Wright as my Chief of Staff. I accept that Nigel believed he was acting in the public interest, but I understand the decision he has taken to resign. I want to thank Nigel for his tremendous contribution to our Government over the past two and a half years.
“Our Government’s top priority is, and will continue to be, securing jobs and economic growth for Canada. This is the focus of all our efforts and attention.”
That last sentence of the Prime Minister’s is a bit silly given everything that has been the focus of his office’s effort and attention this past week, but perhaps he can’t be blamed for trying to conclude on a positive note.
It would be interesting to know whether Mr. Wright had offered his resignation before this morning. As of Thursday, the Prime Minister’s director of communications was refusing to say whether such an offer had been made and the Prime Minister was said to have full confidence in his chief of staff. (Update 12:40pm. An insider offers one version of events to the Globe.)
It has only gotten worse since then.
Mr. Wright has been reported to have been involved in a deal to whitewash the Senate investigation of Mike Duffy. Pamela Wallin has departed the Conservative caucus amid questions about her spending. Patrick Brazeau has produced an email that he says is evidence he did nothing wrong in claiming a housing allowance. And an anonymous Conservative MP has claimed to be “full of rage” over the whole thing. CTV’s Robert Fife is apparently reporting that Conservative MPs wanted Mr. Wright to depart.
Rob Walsh, former parliamentary law clerk, gave an interview last week to CBC radio’s The House, in which he used the phrase “unbelievable” to describe Mr. Wright’s cheque for Mr. Duffy. Here are four of the five.
This, to me, is unbelievable, frankly. It just simply is unbelievable. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. It is unbelievable, to my judgement, at that level something like this could have happened.
Where did they think they were going with this? It’s just simply unbelievable. That’s why it begs for explanation [...] a credible explanation, ostensibly by some third party, not the Senate doing its explanation and the Prime Minister’s Office doing their explanation, which should be forthcoming, no question. They need some referee to step in and look at the facts and examine it and report to Canadians whether there was anything that puts into question the integrity of the government or the Senate.
Unbelievable, of course, has a couple meanings, but either might be applied here. It is an adjective that all sides might agree to apply to this mess. But it is something that must be accounted for, regardless of whether Mr. Wright was to be working now for the Prime Minister or Gerry Schwartz or whoever. What were the terms of his deal with Mike Duffy? At the very least there should be House committee hearings, perhaps as early as this week (perhaps encouraged by the government backbenchers who have lately sought to demonstrate their interest in the principles of parliamentary democracy?), to begin to investigate this matter. Mr. Wright should be called for. Mr. Duffy should be invited.
This government has always seemed to have a keen understanding of what it could get away with or at least an ability to get away with things. No one had to resign over in-and-out and the government won a promotion after being found in contempt of Parliament. Maybe all governments possess such resiliency, up until the point that they don’t. Maybe this government has finally done something that it cannot so easily get away with. For now, it is simply unbelievable that it is Mike Duffy’s housing allowance that should shake this government like nothing else since the late fall of 2008.
By Paul Wells - Sunday, May 19, 2013 at 11:21 AM - 0 Comments
From the Harper profile John Geddes and I wrote two years ago:
Someone who was there paraphrased Harper’s message to his ministers at his first cabinet meeting in 2006: “I am the kingpin. So whatever you do around me, you have to know that I am sacrosanct.” Harper was telling his ministers that they were expendable but that he wasn’t. If they had to go so that his credibility and his ability to get things done were protected, so be it.
“It wasn’t personal,” this source said. “It was his office.”
The doctoring of a Senate internal economy committee report to erase some references to Mike Duffy’s conduct was perfectly consistent with Stephen Harper’s long-standing preference for making questions go away rather than answering them. Nigel Wright’s resignation is an expression of Harper’s style, not a repudiation of it.
By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, May 19, 2013 at 10:48 AM - 0 Comments
And so suddenly Ray Novak is the Prime Minister’s chief of staff.
Full disclosure to be applied from this point forward: Mr. Novak and I first crossed paths in university, he as a student politician, me as a student journalist covering student politics. He ran for student council president and lost. But he seems to have done all right since then.
Here is the profile I wrote of Mr. Novak two years ago. He is the Prime Minister’s longest-serving aide, an individual who once slept in the bunk above the garage at Stornoway when Mr. Harper was leader of the opposition.
Now it is Mr. Novak to whom Mr. Harper turns at one of the most critical moments in his premiership.
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, May 18, 2013 at 3:12 PM - 0 Comments
First, CTV says Pamela Wallin was forced out amid concerns about the audit of her expenses. Next, CTV says the Senate’s report on Mike Duffy was edited as part of a deal with Nigel Wright. Via Twitter, the Prime Minister’s director of communications denies CTV’s report that the Prime Minister might prorogue Parliament in early June.
The weekly meeting of the Conservative caucus, which normally occurs on Wednesday, has been rescheduled for Tuesday morning before the Prime Minister departs for Peru. The Star describes this as an emergency caucus meeting at which the Prime Minister is expected to set out a zero tolerance policy on spending transgressions.
Jason Fekete notes that Mr. Duffy, Ms. Wallin and Patrick Brazeau were all nominated for the Senate on the same day—December 22, 2008—along with 15 other Conservative appointees. But that date is particularly interesting for everything that occurred in the month preceding it.
In the 2006 election, the Conservatives promised to not appoint to the Senate anyone who hadn’t won a mandate to do so from voters. And up until December 22, 2008, Stephen Harper had only appointed two senators—Michael Fortier, shortly after the 2006 election, so that Mr. Fortier might serve in cabinet, and Bert Brown in 2007 with Mr. Brown having won a Senate election in Alberta.
Then Stephen Harper almost lost his government.
Four weeks before those 18 appointees were announced, the Conservative government tabled its fall economic update (the last such economic update to be tabled in the House, actually). The measures contained therein, including the elimination of the public subsidy for political parties, had precipitated coalition talks between the Liberals and New Democrats. On December 1, the Liberals, New Democrats and Bloc Quebecois announced their accord. Facing an imminent vote of non-confidence and the possible replacement of his government with a coalition government led by Stephane Dion, Mr. Harper asked the Governor General, Michaelle Jean at the time, to prorogue Parliament. After some consideration, she agreed to do so.
The coalition’s moment might have thus passed, but it was not yet officially dead. The Liberals quickly installed Michael Ignatieff as leader and he maintained that the coalition was an option. Not until Parliament reconvened in late January and a new budget was tabled, did Mr. Ignatieff effectively kill the coalition.
Just as Mr. Ignatieff was taking over the Liberal caucus, the Prime Minister’s Office revealed that Mr. Harper would fill 18 Senate vacancies before Christmas. A debate about the legitimacy of doing so ensued. Mr. Harper claimed to be in a difficult spot that compelled him to do something. And then, on December 22, Mr. Harper named his 18 appointees, asserting that the appointments were important both in the pursuit of Senate reform and in the interests of opposing the coalition.
“Our government will continue to push for a more democratic, accountable and effective Senate,” said the Prime Minister. “If Senate vacancies are to be filled, however, they should be filled by the government that Canadians elected rather than by a coalition that no one voted for.”
The incoming Senators have all pledged to support eight-year term limits and other Senate reform legislation. Each incoming Senator has also declared his or her unwavering commitment to support Canadian unity and oppose the coalition.
This did not go over terribly well with Mr. Harper’s opponents.
“Mr. Harper knows that he does not have the confidence of the House of Commons,” Ignatieff said in a statement. “Appointing senators when he lacks a mandate from Parliament is not acceptable.”
It’s possible that the coalition was less a cause of the appointments than an excuse to make them. And possibly Mr. Harper was going to have to appoint senators at some point anyway (he’d hinted at such a possibility in October 2008). But December 22, 2008 does now seem like the plot point of a bad political thriller.
Four and a half years later, the Harper government’s Senate reform legislation is collecting dust while the Supreme Court prepares to hear a reference on the matter and three of the December 2008 appointees have either been removed or removed themselves from the Conservative caucus.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, May 17, 2013 at 7:35 PM - 0 Comments
This might otherwise have been the week that a government with a notable aversion to the legislature was reelected in a vote that included the ballots of just 52% of eligible voters. This might otherwise have been the week that Peter Penashue, he of the disputed campaign finances and boasting of holding up public projects in Newfoundland for the sake of a highway in Labrador, was soundly defeated in a by-election. Instead this was the week of Mike Duffy. At least in those places where it was not the week of Rob Ford. Or the mayor of Laval’s envelopes.
This was more specifically, at least in Ottawa and at least where people care about how public officials are behaving in regards to public funds, the week of Mr. Duffy’s housing allowance. Something like $90,172.24, including interest and some disputed per diems, spread over a few years.
Could this possibly have been worth that much? Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, May 17, 2013 at 12:17 PM - 0 Comments
According to a Conservative Senate source, Conservative senators will be asking on Tuesday that the internal economy committee’s report on Mike Duffy be referred back to the committee so that the committee can investigate yesterday’s reports about Mr. Duffy’s expense claims during the 2011 election.
The Elections Canada guide for parties explains the rules around “expenses of senators and elected members” thusly.
Where a senator, or a person who is an elected member of the House of Commons or any provincial legislature, campaigns on behalf of a party, the expenses related to that person’s involvement in the campaign are campaign expenses of the party and must be authorized beforehand by a registered agent.
For example, if a minister or other member of Parliament travels from Ottawa to assist in the party’s campaign, the costs of travelling to the district, and the costs of accommodation and transportation within the district, are considered campaign expenses of the party.
However, if the minister’s trip is carried out in conjunction with an official government function, using government‑paid transportation, then the chief agent must allocate a proportionate share of the transportation, and accommodation and any other expenses to the party as an election expense. This allocation should be made on the basis of the proportion of time spent on each activity.
Elections Canada will accept the basis of allocation used by the chief agent, provided that it is reasonable, in the opinion of the Chief Electoral Officer, and provided that the auditor agrees that the allocation is reasonable and in keeping with this handbook.
The chief agent or registered agent must pay the expenses of senators and elected members incurred while campaigning for a party because senators and elected members of Parliament are not eligible contributors to a party’s campaign other than as individuals.
The handbook for candidates has similar language.
If a senator, a minister or another candidate campaigns on behalf of the candidate, the expenses related to that person’s involvement in the campaign are election expenses and have to be authorized in advance by the official agent, the candidate or a person authorized in writing by the official agent. Any travel expense has to be reimbursed using campaign funds or accepted as a non-monetary contribution if paid by an eligible contributor.
The Prime Minister’s director of communications spoke with reporters this morning. John Geddes looks at what he had to say.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister is scheduled to depart for Peru on Tuesday afternoon and return on Friday evening. He’ll presumably take questions from reporters during the trip to the Pacific Alliance Leaders’ Summit—perhaps on Wednesday—but he’ll be away from the House all next week.
Scott Reid, former director of communications to Paul Martin, says Nigel Wright “will have to go.”
Update 1:06pm. NDP MP Craig Scott has written to the Commissioner of Canada Elections to ask that he investigate Mr. Duffy’s actions during the last campaign. The full letter is here.
In terms of Mike Duffy, audits performed by Deloitte indicate that Senator Duffy was listed as being on Senate business at an “other location” during six days of the month of April, wholly during the writ period. There is also evidence of Senator Duffy campaigning for the Conservative Party of Canada and for various local Conservative candidates throughout the writ period. Some of these local campaigns have stated in their financial reports that they reimbursed the Senator directly for his trip expenses. Given that the Senator claimed taxpayer-funded Senate per diems on several occasions during the month of April, it raises the question of whether Mr. Duffy claimed both expenses on the same days.
This also raises concerns over whether Senator Duffy charged Conservative campaigns for the full cost of his travel, or whether part of these costs were unfairly born by the taxpayer and possibly constitute an unclaimed campaign expense. I note that the Elections Canada Act specifically prohibits the concealment of donations under the “Contributions” section of the act…
Given that Senator Duffy apparently refused to co-operate with the Deloitte auditors and reportedly failed to fully disclose details regarding his whereabouts and activities during the 2011 election campaign, we are asking that you initiate an investigation to determine whether any money was improperly used or concealed by Senator Duffy, the Conservative Party of Canada or any of the local campaigns involved.
Mr. Scott also cites several other senators whose expenses he would like to see scrutinized.
Update 3:58pm. Via email, a comment from Senator Grant Mitchell, who is referenced in Craig Scott’s letter.
While the paper files are archived and we are getting them asap, all the electronic info my office and the Senate Admin have confirmed that I claimed absolutely nothing for the writ period from the Senate. It was certainly my policy and recollection, confirmed by the data I have right now, that I claimed nothing from the Senate. I even shut down my Senate web site. I am pushing to get the archived files.
It might be that the NDP have checked the election expense reports submitted by campaigns which may have included expenses attributed to my visit to a constituency(s) to campaign(s), for example. This is done so there is clear reporting on that spending is within election limits. I recollect that I got no direct reimbursement from any campaign either.
Update 5:40pm. The NDP’s director of fundraising has just sent out a note, entitled “90,000 reasons to abolish the Senate.”
Enough is enough. It’s time to abolish the Senate. Make a special one-time donation to our Senate campaign today…
Donate to our Senate campaign right now. Your donation of $5, $10 or $50 will help pay for websites, emails and online advertising – all the tools we need to send Stephen Harper and Mike Duffy a message they can’t ignore.
Update 5:55pm. And now Pamela Wallin has left the Conservative caucus.
By The Canadian Press - Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 5:51 PM - 0 Comments
NEW YORK, N.Y. – Global warming will only be brought under control by deep…
NEW YORK, N.Y. – Global warming will only be brought under control by deep international collaboration and intense investment in technology — not yelling on street corners, Prime Minister Stephen Harper says.
Harper was in New York all day Thursday, addressing an influential group of American academics at the Council on Foreign Relations and meeting separately with a tight-knit group of business leaders.
With several dozen protesters outside the venue and a couple of probing questions from the floor about Canada’s environmental record, Harper defended his regulatory approach to emissions reductions as the most effective, practical way to achieve concrete results.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 at 12:07 PM - 0 Comments
Back in February, Mike Duffy announced that, in order to turn the page, he would be repaying the housing allowance he had claimed as a senator.
Last night, CTV reported that there was some kind of deal between Mr. Duffy and Nigel Wright, the Prime Minister’s chief of staff. This morning, CTV reports that Mr. Wright wrote a cheque for the $90,172 in question, apparently as a gift from Mr. Wright to Mr. Duffy. The Canadian Press reports that the Prime Minister was not aware of the gift.
Here is the official statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.
The Government believes that taxpayers should not be on the hook for improper expense claims made by Senators.
Mr. Duffy agreed to repay the expenses because it was the right thing to do. However, Mr. Duffy was unable to make a timely repayment.
Mr. Wright therefore wrote a cheque from his personal account for the full amount owing so that Mr. Duffy could repay the outstanding amount.
The independent external audit by Deloitte looking into Senate expenses was completed and the results tabled.
Mr. Duffy has reimbursed taxpayers for his impugned claims. Mr. Harb and Mr. Brazeau should pay taxpayers back immediately.
Update 1:35pm. The NDP wants an “independent investigation” into this entire matter and they allege “unethical behaviour” inside the Prime Minister’s Office, but it’s not yet entirely clear how the Conflict of Interest Act or the Senate’s Conflict of Interest Code should be applied in a situation such as this. I’ve asked the Ethics Commissioner and the Senate Ethics Officer for comment.
Update 2:33pm. The ethics commissioner’s office corrects me: the Conflict of Interest Act doesn’t apply to Mike Duffy. As a Senator, he is covered by the Senate’s Conflict of Interest Code. Mr. Wright is covered, as a public office holder, by the Act, but there’s no indication that he received a gift here. Otherwise, I’m told “Commissioner Dawson is reviewing this matter in order to determine how the other provisions of the Act might apply, and is following up with Mr. Wright.”
Senator Duffy has not yet commented, but CTV’s Robert Fife’s has referred to “financial problems” and concerns that, because of health issues, Mr. Duffy’s wife might left with a debt to pay. The Canadian Press adds similar context.
A government source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said Wright and Duffy are friends and that Wright offered the money as a gift rather than a loan. Duffy had been experiencing financial difficulties, the source said.
Update 4:59pm. A statement from Senator David Tkachuk, chair of the Senate’s internal economy committee.
There have been inquiries in the press recently about untoward influence on the Senate Committee on Internal Economy’s conduct of its work involving Senator Mike Duffy’s living expense claims. The Steering Committee of Internal Economy referred Senator Duffy to independent auditors. This was supported by leadership on both sides, the point being that in the interest of propriety the issue should be dealt with at arm’s length. We on the committee conducted ourselves appropriately throughout this whole process. We made available to Deloitte all documents in the hands of our Finance Directorate pertaining to Senator Duffy’s expense claims for the entire period of the audit. We had no control – nor did we wish to have control – over what Deloitte would conclude.
The Star has reviewed some of the concerns raised about the Senate’s investigation.
Meanwhile, the Canadian Press reviews Senator Duffy’s role as a Conservative fundraiser.
Update 5:32pm. The Sun seems to have the only comment, such as it is, from Senator Duffy today.
The former television host wouldn’t comment Wednesday. “I can’t talk and I’m not talking,” he said when reached by phone.
Update 5:57pm. John Geddes considers Nigel Wright, Mike Duffy and the Senate’s Conflict of Interest Code. Here is what Section 17 of the Code states.
Prohibition: gifts and other benefits
17. (1) Neither a Senator, nor a family member, shall accept, directly or indirectly, any gift or other benefit, except compensation authorized by law, that could reasonably be considered to relate to the Senator’s position.
(2) A Senator, and a family member, may, however, accept gifts or other benefits received as a normal expression of courtesy or protocol, or within the customary standards of hospitality that normally accompany the Senator’s position.
Statement: gift or other benefit
(3) If a gift or other benefit that is accepted under subsection (2) by a Senator or his or her family members exceeds $500 in value, or if the total value of all such gifts or benefits received from one source in a 12-month period exceeds $500, the Senator shall, within 30 days after the gift or benefit is received or after that total value is exceeded, as the case may be, file with the Senate Ethics Officer a statement disclosing the nature and value of the gifts or other benefits, their source and the circumstances under which they were given.
Update 6:20pm. Kady O’Malley offers her thoughts on Section 17 and whether Mr. Wright’s gift constitutes a violation of the Code.
Update 8:33pm. Global adds some context on the relationship between Mr. Wright and Mr. Duffy.
An official speaking on background said Wright and Duffy go back to the 1980s during the Brian Mulroney days.
The Globe notes that Mr. Wright worked in Mr. Mulroney’s PMO.
What this amounts to seems, to me, to depend on whether Mr. Wright’s cheque was inappropriate or merely odd. That’s at least the question I’m still trying to sort out.
Update 11:19pm. CTV has now posted the latest report from Robert Fife—click on the video—including Senator Duffy’s denial last night that Mr. Wright was involved and Conservative sources who say Mr. Duffy and Mr. Wright were not close friends.
By Paul Wells - Monday, May 13, 2013 at 3:50 PM - 0 Comments
Congratulations, National Research Council: Just about the only international coverage for your recent change in approach is this article in Slate tearing you a new one.
“…I was thinking that no one could possibly utter such colossally ignorant statements. But no, I was reading it correctly. These two men—leaders in the Canadian scientific research community—were saying, out loud and clearly, that the only science worth doing is what lines the pocket of business.
This is monumentally backwards thinking….”
I’ve been in Ottawa so long I’m well trained: My first instinct was to check whether the article’s author is a Canadian with a long history of donations to the Liberal party. But no: Phil Plait is one of the more prominent science bloggers in the U.S. He didn’t write this because he’s a Canadian looking for bigger bang outside our borders. He wrote it because he believed it. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, May 11, 2013 at 1:16 PM - 0 Comments
Doug Finley, the Conservative campaign manager and senator and husband of Human Resources Minister Diane Finley, has passed away at the age of 66.
Here is the statement from Ms. Finley.
“Doug fought a hard and very public battle with cancer. His death is a loss to our family, our friends – and to the entire country. Although further details will soon be announced, I do ask that our family have some privacy as we prepare to formally bid farewell to a great man.”
And here is the statement from the Prime Minister.
“It was with great sadness that Laureen and I learned of the death of Senator Doug Finley. Our Government has lost a trusted adviser and strategist. Canada has lost a fine public servant. I have lost a dear and valued friend.
“Senator Finley came to Canada as an immigrant and in a long and remarkable career he helped build a better country. In the business world, he rose to prominence in several important enterprises, notably Rolls-Royce Canada. He also expressed the love he felt for his adopted country through his work in the democratic process. Here his skills, style and passion were legend.
“When he learned he had cancer, Senator Finley faced this vicious opponent like the fighter he was. He continued to participate in Senate debates almost to the end, and shared information about his diagnosis and treatment with the public.
“A great Canadian has been taken from us, before his time. Laureen and I join with so many men and women from across the political spectrum, in extending our condolences to Doug’s wife Diane, his daughter Siobhan, and all their family. You are in our thoughts and prayers.”
John Geddes spoke with Mr. Finley in February 2011 about the Conservative party’s hopes for a majority. Laura Stone spoke with Mr. Finley last November about politics and death. Kady O’Malley notes that he gave his last speech in the Senate on Wednesday.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 6:41 PM - 0 Comments
And so we return to the existential question of Mike Duffy’s place in this world.
“Even the bogus investigation by his hand-picked cronies in the Senate,” Thomas Mulcair charged, rather audaciously and perhaps imprudently, in the Prime Minister’s direction this afternoon, “found that Mike Duffy does not maintain a primary residence on Prince Edward Island. The Constitution requires that a senator ‘be a resident of the province for which he is appointed.’ The Conservatives now admit, through their own bogus investigation, that Mr. Duffy is not a resident of PEI, yet still say that he is qualified to be a senator from PEI. Why is the Prime Minister allowing this continuous fraud by the Conservatives in the Senate?”
The Prime Minister’s interpretation of the day’s news differed somewhat.
“Mr. Speaker, on the contrary, an independent external auditor was brought in to examine all of these expenses,” Mr. Harper explained. “He looked obviously at the expenses of three particular senators who have had some difficulty.”
Let us from this day forward remember this moment in Senate history as the Great Difficulty. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, May 8, 2013 at 6:24 PM - 0 Comments
And so it has been nearly three years since we, the previously vulnerable people of this vast land, were freed from the tyranny of the most-accurate data. Nearly three years since Tony Clement took a stand against all those interested in a particularly reliable basis for understanding the demographics of this country. Nearly three years since the Harper government vowed that Canadians should not be made to answer questions that no one seems to have been interested in asking.
And yet, oddly, with the release today of the results of the National Household Survey, that tribute to personal freedom and individual rights, Thomas Mulcair seemed rather uncelebratory.
“Mr. Speaker, today we have begun to see the consequences of the Conservatives’ backward decision to kill the mandatory long form census,” the NDP leader declared this afternoon. “Experts at StatsCan have confirmed that the data in the Conservatives’ new survey is deeply flawed. It contains contradictory information and 30% of Canadian families did not even bother filling it out. That is five times more than the last census.”
It seemed here that Mr. Mulcair had decided to hate freedom.
“The Prime Minister is not just satisfied to make public policy based on flawed information, that is his goal,” Mr. Mulcair ventured. “We have been calling on the Conservatives to reinstate the mandatory long form census for over three years. Will the Prime Minister finally listen?”
To listen, of course, is one thing. To heed is quite another. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, May 8, 2013 at 4:16 PM - 0 Comments
The New Democrats will ask the House of Commons on Thursday to demand documentation related to the $3.1 billion in anti-terrorism funding that the Auditor General has questioned.
That, in light of $3.1 billion of missing funds outlined in Chapter Eight of the 2013 Spring Report of the Auditor General of Canada, an order of the House do issue for the following documents from 2001 to the present, allowing for redaction based on national security: (a) all Public Security and Anti-Terrorism annual reports submitted to the Treasury Board Secretariat; (b) all Treasury Board submissions made as part of the Initiative; (c) all departmental evaluations of the Initiative; (d) the Treasury Board corporate database established to monitor funding; that these records be provided to the House in both official languages by June 17, 2013; that the Speaker make arrangements for these records to be made available online; and that the Auditor-General be given all necessary resources to perform an in-depth forensic audit until the missing $3.1 billion is found and accounted for.
In terms of the vote on that motion, I wonder for now what argument the government could make for opposing this motion.
Thomas Mulcair asked the Prime Minister during QP this afternoon if the government would support the NDP motion, but the Prime Minister offered no direct response. I’ve asked Tony Clement’s office if the government will be supporting the motion, but have not yet received a response.
By Bruce Cheadle, The Canadian Press - Tuesday, May 7, 2013 at 7:54 PM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – Prime Minister Stephen Harper is justifying the more than $100 million his…
OTTAWA – Prime Minister Stephen Harper is justifying the more than $100 million his government has spent on economic advertising by pointing to Canadians’ confidence in the economy.
Taxpayer-funded government ads are supposed to inform citizens about programs and services, according to Treasury Board guidelines.
But when the Conservatives recently put out a tender for a major new ad agency contract that could see the feel-good “economic action plan” brand continued until 2016, they highlighted consumer confidence and the direction of the country as key objectives.
The government acknowledged Tuesday that “action plan” TV ads currently blanketing broadcasts of the NHL playoffs don’t contain any actual measures from this spring’s federal budget — although the ads are tagged with the budget’s #eap2013 handle.
By Paul Wells - Friday, May 3, 2013 at 12:00 PM - 0 Comments
Paul Wells on why Tom Mulcair sounds a lot like Jean Charest
Turns out the leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition is some guy named Tom Mulcair, and apparently his “New Democratic Party” has nearly three times as many MPs as Justin Trudeau’s Liberals. Who knew? You can read all about the NDP leader in the new Maclean’s ebook, Justin!: Justin Justin Trudeau Trudeau Trudeau. We’re sure there’s something about old what’s-his-name in there somewhere.
My press gallery colleagues were reminded of Mulcair’s existence this week when the NDP leader denounced the Supreme Court’s cursory investigation into its own behaviour 33 years ago. A new book by a Quebec historian, Frédéric Bastien, quotes archival documents from the United Kingdom to assert that two former Supremes, then-chief justice Bora Laskin and his colleague Willard Estey, discussed the Constitution’s repatriation with Canadian and British officials in 1980. Bastien sees this as proof of collusion across the wall that should separate judges from legislators, and therefore as proof that Canada’s Constitution is illegitimate. He notes that the paperwork he received from Canada’s government was heavily edited. More proof!
In reality, the top court’s patriation reference opinion did not say what Pierre Trudeau wanted it to say. If Laskin and Trudeau were conspiring, they were really bad at it. But details like that are not enough to shake off a dedicated conspiracy theorist.
By Jonathon Gatehouse - Friday, May 3, 2013 at 5:00 AM - 0 Comments
With the muzzling of scientists, Harper’s obsession with controlling the message verges on the Orwellian
As far as the government scientist was concerned, it was a bit of fluff: an early morning interview about great white sharks last summer with Canada AM, the kind of innocuous and totally apolitical media commentary the man used to deliver 30 times or more each year as the resident shark expert in the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO). So he sent an email off to Ottawa notifying department flaks about the request, and when no response had been received by the next morning, just went ahead and did it.
After all, in the past such initiative was rewarded. His superiors were happy to have him grab some limelight for the department and its research, so much so they once gave him an award as the DFO’s spokesperson of the year. But as he found out, things have changed under Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. Soon after arriving at his offices, the scientist was called before his regional director and given a formal verbal reprimand: talk to the media again without the explicit permission of the minister’s office, he was warned, and there would be serious consequences—like a suspension without pay, or even dismissal.