This piece was originally published on Nov 21, 2013. The story is back in the news and there have been “interesting” developments around the Senate expenses scandal, most of which support the thesis that “Harper is guilty of corruption”. For example, three of Harper’s prominent Senate appointees now face serious criminal allegations that could land them all in jail.
The RCMP announced Monday that Sen. Pamela Wallin “committed the offences of breach of trust and fraud by submitting fraudulent expense claims to the Senate of Canada.” When the expenses scandal first broke out in 2013, Harper defended Wallin. In the House of Commons, Harper said, “I have looked at the numbers. Her travel costs are comparable to any parliamentarian travelling from that particular area of the country over that period of time.”
Patrick Brazeau, Harper’s star Aboriginal appointee, faces charges of breach of trust and fraud relating to his claims. The RCMP recently laid 31 criminal charges relating to fraud, bribery and breach of trust against Mike Duffy, another Harper appointee. A half-dozen people, including Conservative representatives and former and current PMO staffers, are expected to testify at Duffy’s trial, which begins in April.
The problem is: the corporate media decided to water down the scandal and eliminate the thesis that Harper needs to be held accountable. The mainstream media also decided not to cry foul (as it needs to, in a real democracy) after the RCMP said they would not charge Nigel Wright for trying to make Duffy’s corruption quietly go away.
Back to the original story:
New documents released by the RCMP suggest that the Senate expenses scandal is closing in on Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservatives. Here’s the link to the documents, posted to the DocumentCloud portal: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/837418-rcmp-mike-duffy-nigel-wright-nov.html#document/p70/a132946.
For Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, the documents show that Harper, who came to office in 2006 promising to clean up Ottawa, is “guilty of corruption.”
The documents, filed in court on Wednesday, allege that Harper’s former chief of staff, Nigel Wright, violated the Criminal Code when he cut a $90,172 cheque to cover up Sen. Mike Duffy’s fraudulent Senate expense claims. The documents allege that Wright committed several offences relating to fraud, bribery, and breach of trust.
Most importantly, the RCMP documents suggest that Harper and a whole busload of senior Conservatives knew a lot more than the PM has publicly admitted. CTV news reports that “PMO staff worked with Duffy to make his politically inconvenient expense problems go away.”
In essence, when Harper said he knew nothing of the deal, he lied to Canadians. There was a high-profile cover-up and he was aware of it.
And while Wright is quoted in the RCMP documents saying that the prime minister was not aware of his plan to cut a $90,000 cheque from his personal funds to assist Duffy – a point on which Harper is also adamant – other parts of the RCMP records suggest Harper had more knowledge of Duffy’s woes and the widening scandal than the prime minister has publicly spoken about. The documents also suggest Harper may have known at a key point in the affair that the party was willing to pick up the tab for Duffy’s housing expenses.
One email, which is part of the RCMP documents, suggests that Wright’s decision to cut the cheque wasn’t his alone. That he either consulted with or sought Harper’s signature before he acted.
“We are good to go from the PM,” Wright says in the email, dated February 22, 2012.
In another email, Wright seems to suggest that the Conservatives in the Senate weren’t doing enough to contain the scandal as efficiently as the PM expected.
“We cannot rely on the Senate leadership,” he writes in the February 15 email. “We have to do this in a way that does not lead to the Chinese water torture of new facts in the public domain that the PM does not want.”
The RCMP documents also speak of an “agreement” around the dirty deal.
“That agreement, to give and accept money in exchange for something to be done or omitted to be done, constitutes the bribery offence,” the documents say. “They used their offices for a dishonest purpose, other than the public good.”
The documents also reveal that the following senior Conservatives knew about the deal:
Sen. Marjory LeBreton, Government Leader in the Senate
Sen. David Tkachuk, Chair of the Senate Standing Committee
Sen. Carolyn Stewart Olsen, Member of the Senate Standing Committee
Andrew MacDougall, Director of Communications, Prime Minister’s Office
Benjamin Perrin, Legal Counsel to the Prime Minister
Ray Novak, Harper’s Deputy Chief of Staff
Carl Vallee, Press Secretary, Prime Minister’s Office
Arthur Hamilton, Legal Counsel, Conservative Party of Canada
Chris Woodcock, Director of Issues Management, Prime Minister’s Office
I’d no idea. That’s because the Conservatives didn’t wan’t us to know.
But most insulting is this: before the newest revelations, Harper’s official response has read like a page from a dictator’s operational manual. Denial. Finger-pointing. Smearing. Character assassination. The works.
Soon after the scandal broke out, the PM expressed confidence in Wright. In May, Harper told us Wright had acted “in the public interest” when he cut the Duffy cheque. He even “fought to keep Nigel Wright”.
“The prime minister had full confidence in Mr. Wright and Mr. Wright is staying on,” said Andrew MacDougall, Harper’s director of communications then.
Then the scandal refused to go away, threatened to engulf the Conservatives, and the smear campaign began. Harper made both Wright and Duffy the fall guys. He blamed them. Then he publicly trashed them.
In the House of Commons in October, Harper depicted Wright as a crooked political operator who actively engaged in a deception that duped his boss along with all Canadians.
Harper recently also painted Sen. Duffy as “a duplicitous crook”. That’s soon after Duffy told us “the prime minister wasn’t interested in explanations or the truth.”
In a speech delivered to the Senate in October, Duffy alleged Harper told him to repay the fraudulently claimed expenses. He claimed that he met both Harper and Wright.
This is how the Toronto Star’s Tim Harper characterizes the stubborn scandal and its inevitable impact on Harper:
It is an indictment of his leadership and an indelible stain on his office, its bully-boy tactics and its apparent view that it can bulldoze through any problem with a wink, a payoff and a carefully rehearsed narrative.
Canadians deserve the truth. Now!