Nigel Wright Trips Over Duffygate

“When I refer to the government as an elected dictatorship it’s not personal in any way to the Prime Minister nor to his party, it’s a reference to what’s happened, a creeping growth, an unhealthy growth of power in the Prime Minister’s Office—Elizabeth May, Leaders Debate      

Less than one week after Elizabeth May made that damning statement Nigel Wright, Harper’s former Chief-of-Staff, proved her right.

Duffygate

Conservative senator Mike Duffy is facing 31 criminal charges, including three for fraud, breach of trust and bribery in connection with his acceptance of a $90,000 cheque from Nigel Wright, Harper’s former chief-of-staff, to repay improperly claimed housing expenses.

Wright, a Harvard educated lawyer and multi-millionaire businessman, floated two storylines to explain his generosity:

  1. He made a moral decision to repay Duffy’s debt and wanted the public to believe the payment came from Duffy because one doesn’t boast about one’s good deeds. Wright is an Anglican and quoted Matthew 6:3 (when you give to the needy you shouldn’t trumpet it from the rooftops).
  2. The Conservatives are touchy about expense claim scandals (remember Bev Oda’s $16 glass of OJ) because they’re harmful to The Brand.

Wright tied himself into knots trying to justify these two storylines.

Moral decision or political decision

Wright was comfortable with the Conservative Party paying Duffy’s expense claim when it was $30,000 saying it was similar to the Party covering a politician’s legal expenses. The fact that legal expenses are legitimate expenses while improperly claimed personal expenses are not doesn’t seem to have crossed his Harvard educated legal mind.

Mike Duffy

Wright became angry when he discovered Duffy’s claim was for $90,000 not $30,000, saying the per diem housing expense was “qualitatively different”. Why? Fraud is fraud whether it’s a $30,000 fraud or three times bigger.

Nevertheless Wright found a way to observe Matthew 6:3 and protect The Brand:  he used the resources of the Prime Ministers Office (PMO) to run Duffygate.

He told Duffy to say he’d made a mistake (a lie) and that he’d repaid the improperly claimed expenses (another lie).

In return Wright agreed to:

  • Pay $90,000 to Duffy
  • Get Senator Gerstein, the chair of the Conservative Fund, to use his “channel” at Deloitte’s to stop scrutinizing Duffy’s expenses (interference with an independent auditing firm)
  • Get Senator LeBreton, the Conservative senate leader, to urge her Conservative colleagues to vote against removing Duffy and to push the Senate to stop investigating Duffy (subvert legitimate Senate business)
  • Make Conservative senators and MPs follow the PMO’s “media lines” when asked about Duffy (cripple the independence of senators and MPs)

Did the PM know?

Harper and Wright are adamant that the PM knew nothing about Wright’s machinations.

Apparently the PM (a control freak) was cut out of the loop by his chief-of-staff, his principal secretary, his director of communications, his manager of parliamentary affairs, the PMO’s special legal advisor, the PMO’s spokesman, the PMO’s issues management director and three high ranking Conservative senators, one of whom chaired the Conservative Party Fund.

Duffy’s lawyer suggested that Harper was well aware of Duffygate and that Wright used Harper’s personal secretary, Ray Novak, as a conduit to the PM in order to give his boss “plausible deniability.” Wright denied it.

Nigel Wright

In any event one thing is clear. Wright and the PMO willfully deceived the public and Harper is sticking to the explanation that he was duped by those closest to him…which begs the question: how can Canadians trust Harper to run the country when he can’t  control the Prime Minister’s Office?

Why did Wright do it?

Wright says he pushed the PMO into Duffygate because “we thought [Duffy] owed the money on a moral or principled basis.”

He says “I was happy to have people believe that [Duffy] had repaid. I don’t think it made it meaningfully different that I contributed.”

Who paid may not be “meaningfully different” to Wright but the fact that Wright’s bargain with Duffy required Duffy to lie to the public and Wright used every resource available to him at the PMO to cover up the lie is “meaningfully different” to Canadians who expect the PMO to observe the principles of democracy; not operate in a moral vacuum.

Perhaps the question of Wright’s motivation boils down to this: Wright would protect the Prime Minister and The Brand at all costs because he is loyal to the boss.

In a recent interview with the Globe and Mail, Arthur Hamilton, the Conservative Party’s top lawyer and an evangelical Christian, said “If you’re a Christian, you believe that God owns your next breath.” Then he described his relationship with Harper and said, “I’m here at the pleasure of the Prime Minister. So to renounce my statement from earlier this day: He owns my next breath.”

Stephen Harper may own the next breath of his lawyer, his chief of staff, the PMO staffers, Conservative senators and high level Conservatives bureaucrats, but he doesn’t own my next breath or yours.

On Oct 19 use your next breath to replace an elected dictatorship with an elected democracy.  Throw Harper out of office.

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20 Responses to Nigel Wright Trips Over Duffygate

  1. Elaine Fleming says:

    There is a troubling web of lies around this whole matter, originating from PM Harper’s office. The hypocrisy is stunning: the oath-taking by Nigel Wright, followed by his Christian “biblical quotations”, and not least, Harper’s past and current arrogant criticisms of previous federal Liberal governments. And now, with unprecedented and inappropriate and attacks on the provincial governments of Ontario, Alberta and Manitoba, he is trying desperately to divert the Canadian public’s attention away from the deceptions and corruption emanating from his office.

    This is the man to lead our country, and bring about the unity our confederation requires to meet our present and imminent challenges?

    The untoward influence on Canadians’ lives by Harper’s unelected, unaccountable inner circle (including his Senators), his corrupted use of “omnibus bills”, proroguing of Parliament, and thwarting of voter access in federal elections, and so on and so forth makes a mockery of our elected Parliament. You are right, Susan. It’s time to replace this government.

    • Elaine, Duffy’s lawyer is doing an excellent job of demonstrating there were no constraints (other than the PM) on what Nigel Wright and the Prime Minister’s Office could do. It came out during the trial that Wright wanted to create a special Senate subcommittee to rewrite the rules governing the eligibility of senators to represent the provinces in which they “reside”. Wright was going to ensure that this subcommittee included the “right senators” so no Conservatives would be disqualified from sitting in the Senate. Apparently the PM killed this idea because it went beyond the scope of the immediate problem which was the repayment of the $90,000 Duffy owed. It looks like he was OK with the PMO manipulating the subcommittee to get the desired result. This would be consistent with what he said in the Leaders Debate about telling the Conservative senators on how to vote.

  2. Anna Beaulieu says:

    Sooooo……an intelligent, Christian lawyer’s breath is owned by Harper, the Almighty!

  3. linda pushor says:

    When did Hamilton take over as the CPC lawyer? Wasn’t Guy Giorno, former Harper Chief of Staff, just appointed in 2014 at as the #CPC council?

    • Linda, according to the Globe (Aug 8, 2015) Hamilton joined Cassels, Brock & Blackwell right after law school and became a partner within 6 years. The Globe says that in addition to his practice at Cassels, he is the CPC’s “front line of defence”. He approves attack ads, advises on media-sensitive files, and helps politicians on behalf of the CPC and this “…is how he ended up cutting Mike Duffy a cheque for $90,000”. He is effusive in his praise of Harper saying “I can’t explain to you what a congenial, funny, warm person Stephen Harper is…He never misses a chance to ask how things are going…and he cares about the answer…I’ve never worked for another client like him. I’ve never seen another leader in Canada like him.” I guess congeniality, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

  4. anonymous says:

    Who knew that all this time Steve, Nigel, Ray, Arthur and the rest of the gang were really on a mission from God.

  5. Leila Keith says:

    Why is there so little coverage of this from CBC?It should mean only one thing..HEAVE STEVE!

    • Leila, the coverage is scattered across so many media outlets, it’s hard to put it all together, but I think it’s finally beginning to dawn on people that the $90,000 cheque is chump change. The real focus of the Duffy trial should be on the PMO’s role in the coverup.

      • Leila Keith says:

        Yes I think that there is more that is not being said than just the $90,000. In the end we have to ask..was the PM lying?I think he was.

      • Leila, this story gets more interesting with each passing day. Today we learned that the cast of thousands who knew about Wright paying the $90,000 included Harper’s principal secretary Ray Novak. Harper is in the position of having to admit he lied or that he was duped but those closest to him. Not a pretty picture.

  6. burrowsj@telusplanet.net says:

    Is there any policy or idea that our federal Government has done in the last nine years makes sense to You?  

  7. Carlos Beca says:

    Stephen Harper wanted to crucify Jean Chretien during the famous Liberal scandal and now wants refugee status. Where is this man from? I feel that I am in Zimbabwe rather than Canada with the old decrepit Mugabe preparing his own daughter to become president.
    I just read on the weekend that Nigel Wright is a very devoted religious person. Devoted to what? Money?
    This is scandalous and it is one more embarrassing Canadian moment. The world is astounded with the changes that have happened in this country since the devoted, financially responsible, crime watchers, market fundamentalists took over. It is like the Canadian ISIS.
    The spin is winning though and the Conservatives still have enough support for a minority government which makes me wonder if the Conservatives are a Cult rather than a political party.

    • Carlos, I was a guest panelist with Thomas Lukaszuk on Danielle Smith’s radio talk show last Friday. Lukaszuk and I don’t agree on much, but we agreed on this: the Duffy trial is about more than the $90,000 cheque. The cheque is just the tip of the iceberg. As Duffy’s lawyer continues to reveal all the things that Nigel Wright and the Conservatives did and why they did them (protect the Brand), it should become obvious to the public that the government that they trusted (or perhaps paid no attention to when times were good) is running amok. Your comment about Harper wanting to crucify Chretien is bang on. If ever there was a time when the idiom “what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander” should apply, it’s now. Anything less is hypocrisy.

  8. Zarina Kassam says:

    Hi Susan,

    I sure hope Harper does not get re-elected!!

  9. memorebroke says:

    Who gives a crap about who paid back the money, it got paid back end of story. Now I want to how much this three ringed circus is costing the taxpayers. Is this turning into another gas plant fiasco??? As it stands now I’m not interested in voting for any of them because the still don’t get it that we are tired of them wasting the tax money we intrust to them.

    • Yes, the money has been repaid, but the question of why Wright and others lied about it and why they thought it was a good idea to mislead the PM about it (assuming they really didn’t tell him) remains unanswered. It’s all about trust.

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