What the Wright-Duffy documents reveal about key players in scandal

New details in trail of emails, legal bills and ‘media lines’


Sean Kilpatrick/CP

New documents police filed with an Ontario court are providing fresh insights into behaviour of a high-powered cast of characters involved in the bizarre case of the prime minister’s former top aide paying off Sen. Mike Duffy’s disputed expenses.

The RCMP filed the information as part of a bid to gain the court’s permission to obtain still more documents in their ongoing investigation into how Nigel Wright, the Prime Minister’s former chief of staff, ended up cutting a $90,000 cheque in a bid to make the Duffy expenses controversy go away.

The Mounties are trying to build a case that Wright and Duffy “did commit breach of trust in connection with the duties of their offices,” contrary to a section of the Criminal Code. Through his lawyer, Wright denies any wrongdoing.

Depending on how far the police go with their investigation, that might eventually have to be decided by the courts. Regardless of the outcome, though, today’s fresh material—including many emails obtained by the RCMP—fill in a picture of top-level Conservatives frantically trying to contain the damage of Senate spending allegations early this year.

The key events unfolded behind closed doors last February and March. It all revolves around Duffy’s expenses, especially that he collected a housing allowance as if he lived mainly in Prince Edward Island, while in fact his primary residence was in an Ottawa suburb. Wright finally decided on March 22 to pay back, out of his own deep pockets, the money Duffy should never have claimed.

It’s a complicated saga, but today’s documents cast some key players in a new light:

Nigel Wright: 

He’s been cast in some versions of this story as Duffy’s sympathetic would-be saviour, but the RCMP uncovered evidence that Wright was often enormously frustrated with Duffy. On Feb. 20, for instance, Duffy sent an email to PMO officials saying: “Nigel says his analysis is I am in violation of the housing allowance policy…” Wright responds: “I did not say that, and if you continue to misquote me, then we will be speaking only through lawyers going forward.”

Stephen Harper: 

The Prime Minister has repeatedly said he knew nothing about Wright’s unusual decision to personally provide $90,000 so Duffy, who said he didn’t have enough money to repay it himself, could make good the disputed expenses. But in an email exchange on May 14, involving the Prime Minister’s communications director and press secretary, Wright suggests Harper was not entirely in the dark. Wright sent an email to the PMO’s top media managers, saying: “The PM knows, in broad terms only, that I personally assisted Duffy when I was getting him to repay the expenses.”

Irving Gerstein:

As the head of Conservative fundraising, the senator was involved in discussions about whether the party might cough up the money Duffy needed. Gerstein told the party’s convention in Calgary early this month that, while the party paid Duffy’s $12,000 legal bill, he also “made it absolutely clear to Nigel Wright that the Conservative Fund of Canada would not pay for Sen. Duffy’s disputed expenses, and it never did.” However, today’s RCMP documents suggest Gerstein told police investigators that he was considering paying Duffy’s expenses when they were thought to be around $30,000, although he was worried about “the optics,” and only turned Wright down when it turned out Duffy’s bill was $90,000, at which point Gerstein “was emphatic that there would be no more consideration to repay on behalf of Senator Duffy.”

Benjamin Perrin:

The Prime Minister’s Office’s lawyer at the time of the Wright-Duffy deal, who has since left the PMO, has previously said he “was not consulted on, and did not participate in, Nigel Wright’s decision to write a personal cheque to reimburse Senator Duffy’s expenses.” The RCMP’s summary of what it’s investigation uncovered describes Perrin’s role in implementing Wright’s decision: “Nigel Wright decided that he would personally cover the cost of reimbursing Senator Duffy. After back and forth negotiations between [Duffy’s lawyer] Janice Payne and Benjamin Perrin (legal council within the PMO) terms of the agreement were set.” During these talks, the lawyers became involved in all sorts of nuances, including agreeing on “media lines” everyone involved would use in public.

The documents:

1.Mike Duffy-Nigel Wright documents by Maclean’s Magazine


What the Wright-Duffy documents reveal about key players in scandal

  1. “The PM knows, in broad terms only, that I personally assisted Duffy when I was getting him to repay the expenses.” is not quite the same as if he would have written: “The PM knew at the time, in broad terms only, that I personally assisted Duffy when I was getting him to repay the expenses.”

  2. Gotta love Harper saying the RCMP cleared him
    Stevie when they said “they have no evidence implicating you,” that does not mean the same as “they have cleared you.” The investigation is on-going and if you continue chucking everyone under the bus someone will squeal.

    • I think the Scots would call it ” not proven ” …

      • Indeed they do
        And the Fiscal and the Sheriff would have had the lot of them in the Bar-L by now.

    • Yes that is why when a jury find a person “not guilty”, they don’t announce that the person is “innocent” instead. Obviously there was some suspicion, but there was no evidence found to support charges being laid. Harper won’t have to throw anyone else under the bus. The only person who can link him to the payment is Wright. If Wright steadfastly continues to insist he didn’t tell Harper he was giving Duffy the money, Harper will be in the clear. Duffy would sink Harper if he could but he obviously can’t. All he can say is that Harper told him to pay back the money.

      • True, but we were discussing what Harper said in the house and what he said the RCMP said was not in fact what the RCMP said. Again he not truthful in the House of Commons.

        • Yes but the RCMP said they have found no evidence that the Prime Minister was aware. They also said that they found evidence others in the PMO were aware. Being aware and being party to the offering of the money are two different things. It is unlikely that any charges will be laid against anyone but Wright and Duffy.

          • I wouldn’t bet on that, the RCMP seem to be a little more tenacious than I must admit I thought they’d be.

            The two lawyers involved negotiated the deal which was fraudulent. The Bar Association might also have something to say too.

            The Senior Con Senators were also advised that the whole thing would place their impartiality as Senators in jeopardy.

            Gerstein lied to the party conference.

            All of them were party to the alleged fraud.

            If the fraud charges against Duffy and Wright stick they will do a deal and then watch as the rolling snow ball captures them all.

          • You doubted the tenacity of the RCMP? Why? Governments come and go but the RCMP sticks around. It isn’t in the best interest of a career officer to show favoritism to a politician who might have a short shelf life.

          • Given the antics of this government in gagging the RCMP and how they’ve gone about appointing those to the top job, it wouldn’t surprise me if there was “culture change” within the organisation. Senior officers have to get permission to meet with opposition politicians and that kind of pressure send a message that is not too easy to ignore.
            But now the king has stumbled maybe the horsemen can breathe a bit now that the grip on the leash has relaxed.

  3. I don’t understand how Wright can even look in a mirror knowing that his secretive, unilateral deal making has landed the PM in such hot water.
    Why doesn’t Wright step forward and end this witch hunt? Why doesn’t he clear the PM’s good name by hosting an open press conference during which he unequivocally reaffirms that he and he alone is to blame?
    C’mon Nigel. For once in your life “man up.”

    • Nigel is working for Jason now…. things are going rather well.

      • Nigel is still working for the party….hence McKay AND Jason laying on the praise at the convention.

        • Well, if young Nigel says he’s happy, he must be happy.

          He must be happy.

          He must be happy in his world.

          • Hmmm…I wonder if Harper is singing that other line to himself…”We’re only making plans for Nigel…”

        • Do you think Harper has noted that Nigel, McKay, Jason & the party are all headed one way & he the other?

          • No matter what else Stephen Harper is (and he is PLENTY), he’s a damned smart man. Oh yes, he knows. What I want to know is whether McKay and Kenney are doing what they’re doing with Harper’s approval and according to Harper’s plan, or if it’s a genuine instance of rebellion in the ranks…

  4. I feel sorry for Nigel Wright. The person I depise in all this is Mike Duffy… he does wrong (althought I guess he didn’t think he had), and then cries and whines that he doesn’t have the money. Nigel thinks (possibly), that if he just gives him the money, the mess will be cleaned up. It shows lack of sophisticaion on Mr. Wright’s part. I believe him when he says he was interested only in getting the tax-payer paid back. He wasn’t used to dealing with such a low character as Mike Duffy.
    Mike Duffy apparently begged Jean Chretien to make him a Senator… then when he became one, he wanted more, for instance limo service. Mike doesn’t care whom he steps on so long as he is living the good and high life. He is a snake. Look at the damage he has done to good people, and he doesn’t care… only cares about himself!

    • Yeah, poor Wright. How was such an naive, unworldly farm boy to know there was anything wrong with slipping a Senator 90 grand? I’m sure the only reason he wasn’t making sure Wallin and Brazeau didn’t also stiff taxpayers was that he had already cut his annual giantchequetocovertaxcheats to Revenue Canada and he only had enough left to cover the new muffler he needed for his Hyundai.

    • Like Mr. Harper.

    • Chretien looks pretty good for not appointing Duffy to the senate. Betcha Harper has wished he hadn’t.

      • Murray — for sure

  5. There is no way Wright is not going to talk if he gets charged. The guy is a multimillionaire. You think he’s going to throw it all away to bail out a PM who obviously thinks he’s a sucker?

    • Nigel Wright strikes me so far as an honourable and personally loyal human being. Working with the HarperCons, this is not really an asset. I hope to heaven that if he IS charged, his sense of loyalty doesn’t force him to allow himself to be thrown under the bus.
      Wright has a get-out-of-jail-free card in his back pocket. It has five words on it: Tell the whole truth, Nigel! I just hope he uses it if the time comes.

  6. Lying liars and the lying lies that they tell.
    The truth about our current government.

  7. Nigel Wright is OK and really did nothing wrong along with his party. Nigel had a problem with some senators, mainly three from their party (don’t forget the ones from the Liberal party). The NDP party doesn’t have any because they have never been there before. Some senators over indulged in their expenses, big time, the main player being Mike Duffy, some of: putting personal expenses on the Govn’t tab>>>eg: personal holiday trips along with food and tips and what ever else he could muster up along with claiming a cottage he hardly lived at miles away as his living expense. When confronted with it he had a thousand excuses why he should be able to claim it and it was his right. When told that he over extended his rights and since the other parties are starting to question the fact about him and others and indeed it was wrong, show face and admit same and pay back. Duffy again had a hundred excuses as to why he was entitled to the abuse of his position ( tax payers money paying his every whim ); who does this man think he is. Since Duffy’s stupidity and creed over powers any reasonable thoughts or morals he has, Nigel Wright took the bull by the horns and said he would PERSONNELLY LOAN him (Duffy) the money to pay back the abuse and he could straighten it up later and the party could forge on with it’s duty to Canada. GOOD FOR YOU NIGAL! Oh by the way Nigel wasn’t going to use public monies he was going to use his own personal monies, so where is the charge, there is none. one can do with their own personal money what they will; even if it is to help bail out an idiot who doesn’t even appreciate what life has handed him and the people who have helped him. Harper had to do what he had to under the circumstances because that’s the way it is in that situation. Nigel hang in there. We have lost some good people in the government over this, I hope no more. One could carry on and on but it is as it stands, hopefully it will work out for the best of Canada.

  8. Personally I don’t get all the fuss. If Duffy was getting his expenses reimbursed the problem lies with the person who cut that cheque in the first place. Most well run businesses you make your expense claims, the accountant or bookkeeper goes over it, they have questions over the claim you will hear about it. Some expenses require pre approval. If they reimburse you you assume your claim was good and you keep doing it. If the accountant figures out there has been a mistake, that’s the simple answer you reimburse the company for the expenditures. You don’t need costly police investigations which IN THE END COST THE CANADIAN TAX PAYERS MORE MONEY THAN THE AMOUNT CLAIMED. WAY WAY MORE. IT’S A NICE SIDE SHOW BUT SERIOUSLY? NOW GOING AFTER THE ONTARIO LIBERALS FOR A BILLION DOLLLARS SOUNDS LIKE TIME BETTER SPENT.

  9. I’m not a liar until you can prove I was lying in a court of law? Wasn’t it Hitler who said “If you’re going to tell a lie, tell a big one”? The “sponsorship scandal” was a hiccup compared to this government’s deceipt…

  10. Mike Duffy is a real piece of work . How did we get a loaf like that laid on us ?

  11. Lmao, how can such an incompetent be put in that position in the PMO? Wright is naive and over his head in the political arena.

  12. Duffy should go stick his head in the sand and die. He’s done in politics.

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