QP Live: Rarely questioned documents fuel Wright-Duffy allegations

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by Nick Taylor-Vaisey

Documents, if they’re the right kind, are sacrosanct in Ottawa. When allegations swirl, documents tell their stories, and those stories are gospel to anyone hoping to gain political advantage. Stephen Harper’s opposition regularly latches on to two cast-iron troves of documentary evidence: an audit, and its number-crunched conclusions; and a sworn affidavit, known as an Information to Obtain, and its investigated claims. These documents come to light and launch a million questions, but they rarely face public scrutiny.

Documents are the driving force behind the Wright-Duffy affair, the ongoing mess of emails and audits that forced the suspension of Sen. Mike Duffy and the resignation of ex-Harper chief of Staff Nigel Wright. RCMP investigators believe both men broke the law when Wright paid Duffy’s improperly claimed expenses, and a judge approved the public release of the ITO—with the consent of Cpl. Greg Horton, the investigating officer—outlining the Mounties’ claims. The ITO’s many details have informed relentless opposition attacks in the Commons for weeks. Ottawa Citizen reporter Glen McGregor wrote about the circumstances of the ITO’s public release, about which some questions linger. “The RCMP claims it was only following court procedures but Horton’s consent to release the ITO could raise concerns about the fairness of making unproven allegations public in such a politically-charged case,” he reported.

Earlier this year, the Senate asked an auditing firm to comb through Duffy’s expenses. Deloitte, the chosen firm, did the job and calculated the total amount of improperly claimed expenses. That’s how Wright knew what number should grace his cheque to Duffy. Last week, a Senate committee called a trio of Deloitte auditors to defend the soundness of their Duffy audit. They admitted that a senior partner at their firm called them up and started asking questions about their work, and reassured senators that they hung up the phone abruptly. For the first time in recent memory, an audit was given a second look.

Now, someone’s actually questioning the heretofore (mostly) unquestioned ITO. Today, The Hill Times quotes an outspoken defence lawyer in Ottawa, Lawrence Greenspon, as saying the document should be taken with “more than a grain of salt.” There’s more to the truth than an RCMP investigator’s opinion, he says. “The ITO is not evidence.” Simply, it’s the truth as an investigator sees it, and the basis for further investigation. Greenspon’s opinion won’t put a damper on opposition efforts to embarrass the government, but it’s worth considering. Documents are important, but they’re not by definition the final word.

Maclean’s is your home for the daily political theatre that is Question Period, when MPs trade barbs and take names for 45 minutes every day. If you’ve never watched, check out our primer, which we produced with J-Source. Today, QP runs from 2:15 p.m. until just past 3. We tell you who to watch, we stream it live, and we liveblog all the action. The whole thing only matters if you participate. Chime in on Twitter with #QP.

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Expect more questions on the Wright-Duffy affair, but perhaps a lower-octane session because of the predictable absence of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who’s in South Africa for Nelson Mandela’s funeral.

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QP Live: Rarely questioned documents fuel Wright-Duffy allegations

  1. The dippers are looking for emails while the libs are following the money(Gerstein).

    • The Liberals are looking at a repaid expense with a microscope, the NDP are searching dumptsers for emails of a single senator… and the conservatives are running one of the most financially stable countries in the Western World right now. Keep believing your leftist “political experts” in the media that the dumpster diving is what the public will really care about come election time. I’m sure that family of four cares far more about inside Ottawa gotcha games than their own well being. Just like prorogue.

  2. I see the nose bleed section of the government is going after Trudeau again. I wonder does the member himself from the Yukon even know where the true north pole is ? I doubt it !

    • Yes no need to focus on Trudeau. We can pretend a little longer that the next election won’t be a very stark choice between Harper, who is arguably the most successful steward of Canada’s economy in our nation’s history, and Trudeau who taught a couple of years, skiid and dropped in and out of a few University programs before seeking to lead this great land.

      • For some real fun compare what a job interview for the position of Prime Minister would look like for each. I’m personally having difficulty imagining Trudeau getting through a convenience store manager interview…”soooo after teaching a couple of years you quit that and were in and out school….. and……???.OK thank you very much, someone from 7-11 head office will call you if you get a second interview”.

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