Harper’s Chief of Staff and CPC Senator Mike Duffy made secret deal
According to private emails extracted by CTV News, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s chief of staff Nigel Wright and Conservative Senator Mike Duffy made a secret deal during the audit to repay $90,172 in fraudulent housing expenses. The intent was to calm public outrage over the abuses of taxpayers’ money but has only raised more questions in a scandal that continues to dig deeper into the Harper government’s integrity.
Secret emails reveal a plan to have the government go easy on embattled Conservative Senator Mike Duffy for a repayment, two months before the audit into fraudulent housing expenses claims was tabled.
Sources told CTV Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s right-hand man and chief of staff Nigel Wright had a PMO lawyer work on a letter of understanding with Duffy’s legal council to have him repay the money in turn for financial assistance and for the government to go easy on him.
At one point, Duffy expected the PMO to cover his $90,172 bill. In an email from February 20, Duffy and Wright agreed to a “scenario” where a repayment arrangement was made, including “cash for the repayment.”
Two days later, Duffy came out to the public, announcing he “may have been mistaken” for claiming his cottage house in Prince Edward Island was his primary residence when in fact he lives in a house in Ottawa, which happens to have a $370,000 mortgage.
A senior official wouldn’t comment on where the money came from, including a loan from the royal bank, but one thing is certain, it didn’t come from the Conservative Party.
Both Duffy and the PMO have actively tried to assure no taxpayer money was used to repay Duffy’s expenses in an identical statement: “Mr. Duffy had paid back the expenses in question – and no taxpayer resources were used.”
The opposition weighed in, and as expected, were not impressed with the developments.
“If there is some kind of agreement that somehow Senator Duffy is going to be compensated, then I think Canadians would be appalled,” Liberal Deputy Leader Ralph Goodale said.
“It doesn’t pass the smell test and the Prime Minister’s Office needs to come clean.”
NDP MP Mathieu Ravignat said, “This is supposed to be an independent forensic audit. There shouldn’t be interference.”
The scandal comes amid a forensic audit into the use of the Housing Expenses program by senators which found Conservative Senators Mike Duffy ($90,172) and Patrick Brazeau ($48,744) and Liberal Senator Marc Herb ($51,482) abused the program and consequently owes Canadians. Of them, Duffy owed the most and repaid the amount which we learned today was met with some kind of re-compensation plan where the source of this money is unknown.
A man of Duffy’s stature, however, shouldn’t need any financial aid, owning two properties and sitting on a cozy senator job should easily paint its own picture of financial management on Duffy’s part. Outside of the realm of entitlements, a person in financial despair would be forced to sell off excess assets and if taxpayers defrauded the government, the Canada Revenue Agency would have a field day.
It goes to show any ounce of integrity this government had left is gone. The top ranks actively bailed out a rich senator who defrauded taxpayers.
If a bargain being made by Harper’s right hand man to help Duffy pay his owings and interfering before the audit was tabled was bad enough, imagine the political spin the Conservatives tried to place behind Duffy’s actions. On Friday, the Harper government praised Duffy’s “leadership” for repaying the $90,172 he fraudulently claimed from taxpayers.
On Friday, NDP MP Elaine Michaud accused Conservative chairman of the internal economy committee, Senator David Tkachuk of tipping off Duffy and said in the House of Commons it demonstrates the government “will move heaven and earth to protect its fraudster senators.”
Government House leader Peter Van Loan fought back saying Duffy repaid his dues in March, “well before” the conversation with Tkachuk.
“In fact, he showed the kind of leadership that we would like to see from Liberal Sen. Mac Harb, who instead is taking up arms against the Senate, saying that he should not have to pay back inappropriate funds,” Van Loan said.
Leadership? Does Van Loan really call manipulating and bribing Duffy like a puppet to serve political spin when things go rough for your party leadership? This is, at best, a makeshift attempt at diverting scrutiny and using the scandal to spin Conservatives as being good guys. Simply since Brazeau is now an independent senator and because the only other senator implicated happens to be a Liberal. In short, the entire ordeal is pathetic and shows the great disdain and disrespect the Conservatives have for taxpayers. Leadership is not blaming the opposition when you’re wrong, or trying to spin a situation as only being bad on the other side by aiding a guilty party to fit a certain story line.
This arrangement is an example of the back-room political deals that have been happening for years and what will surprise most is a scandal so conveniently contained in the senate has now reached Stephen Harper’s right-hand man.
While Government Majority leader Marjory LeBreton said she wouldn’t refer the Deloitte audit to the RCMP, the RCMP has confirmed to CTV last week it is poised to launch a probe into the illegal spending which seemingly will develop into a much bigger scandal given how fast the scandal has reached the near-top of the ladder of power.
Fraud, deceit, spin, politics, cover-up, interference and scandal are all words that easily describe and sum up the ordeal. What do you think of the Chief of Staff’s deal with embattled Senator Mike Duffy? Do you think the ordeal will evolve into a major and damaging scandal?