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Stephen Harper pleads ignorance and claims clarity

Twenty-four questions for the Prime Minister


 

Thomas Mulcair stood, folded his hands in front of him at his waist, paused, turned to look directly at the Prime Minister and stated his question.

“Mr. Speaker,” the NDP leader asked, “on what date and at what time was the Prime Minister informed that Nigel Wright had made a payment to Conservative Senator Mike Duffy?”

The Prime Minister stood and ventured that he had already been “very clear” on this matter, but, for the record, he explained himself again here.  “This matter came to my attention two weeks ago after speculation appeared in the media,” he said. “On Wednesday, May 15, I was told about it. At that very moment, I demanded that my office ensure that the public was informed, and they were informed appropriately.”

Of “this matter,” there would be 24 questions this afternoon for the Prime Minister. He would stand and respond to 22 of those questions. He would directly answer maybe nine or ten.

“Mr. Speaker,” Mr. Mulcair asked with his second opportunity, “when did the Prime Minister first speak with Nigel Wright about Mike Duffy’s expenses?”

Mr. Harper did not seem to directly answer this, so Mr. Mulcair restated the question and added a third. “How many times,” he wondered of the Prime Minister, “did he speak with Nigel Wright in the week preceding his resignation?”

Mr. Harper seemed to hear an insinuation that displeased him. “Mr. Speaker, if the leader of the NDP is suggesting that I had any information to the contrary from Mr. Wright prior to this, that is completely false,” the Prime Minister declared. “I learned of this on May 15 and immediately made this information public, as I have said many times.”

Mr. Mulcair leaned forward and attempted to clarify for the Prime Minister what was occurring here. “Mr. Speaker, we are asking very simple, straightforward questions and the Prime Minister is not answering them. That is the problem. Canadians want answers.”

In fairness to the Prime Minister, this is not generally what Question Period is used for.

Mr. Mulcair wondered what instructions Mr. Harper had given to Mr. Wright or the members of his cabinet as it pertained to Mr. Duffy’s expenses. Mr. Harper said that he had given no such instructions.

Now Mr. Trudeau picked up the questioning. “Will the Prime Minister,” the Liberal leader wondered, “commit to releasing all records, emails, documents and correspondence relating to any arrangement between Mr. Wright and Mr. Duffy?”

The Prime Minister now responded as if this question had not just been asked. “Mr. Speaker, the arrangement in question that the leader speaks to was of course between Mr. Wright and Mr. Duffy,” Mr. Harper explained. “It is a matter of examination by the ethics commissioners in each chamber of this Parliament, and obviously, should we be asked to produce any kind of information, we would be happy to do so.”

Mr. Trudeau helpfully clarified the words he had spoken a moment earlier—”Mr. Speaker, we are asking for that information”—then restated his question and added a request that Mr. Wright’s cheque be tabled too. Mr. Harper did not respond directly, but deferred again to the ethics commissioner and the Senate ethics officer.

“Will the Prime Minister commit,” Mr. Trudeau asked, “to having everyone involved in this affair, including himself, testify about their involvement in a public forum, under oath?”

Mr. Harper did not directly answer. “Mr. Speaker, the facts here are very straightforward,” the Prime Minister claimed before pronouncing shame on Mr. Trudeau’s open acknowledgement of the current seat distribution in the Senate.

Back then to Mr. Mulcair who wondered if Mr. Harper had ever spoken to Senator Carolyn Stewart Olsen about this matter?  “As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, no, I did not,” Mr. Harper said.

Did the Prime Minister, Mr. Mulcair wondered, ever discuss this matter with his cabinet? Mr. Harper shook his head, grimaced and declined to answer directly.

Mr. Mulcair restated his question. Mr. Harper did not directly answer.

When, Mr. Mulcair wondered, did the Prime Minister become aware of an agreement with Mr. Wright? Mr. Harper explained that it was May 15.

Who, Mr. Mulcair wondered, had spoken with Mr. Duffy about withholding information from auditors? Mr. Harper shrugged and shook his head. “Mr. Speaker, I have no information to that effect,” he pleaded.

Mr. Mulcair turned more specific. “Mr. Speaker, Mike Duffy wrote in an email that after being paid $90,000, he ‘stayed silent on the orders of the Prime Minister’s Office.’ Who told Mike Duffy to remain silent?”

Mr. Harper shook his head, turned up his palms and again pleaded ignorance. “Mr. Speaker, these are not matters that I am privy to.”

Mr. Mulcair stood for his 12th question. “Mr. Speaker, once Mike Duffy received the $90,000 from the Prime Minister’s Office, he stopped co-operating with Deloitte, which was the auditor in the file,” he reviewed. “Was that part of the deal with Mike Duffy?”

Mr. Harper now quibbled with Mr. Mulcair’s premise—the cheque in question had not transferred money from the Prime Minister’s Office, but from Mr. Wright, Mr. Harper explained. “Get your facts straight!” a voice from the Conservative side heckled in Mr. Mulcair’s direction.

Mr. Mulcair then quibbled with Mr. Harper’s distinction before adding two new questions. “Do they have a copy of the cheque? Has the Prime Minister or anyone in his office seen that cheque?”

Mr. Harper returned to the matter over which he and Mr. Mulcair were quibbling, failing to answer directly the questions now asked. Apparently taking that as a no to both of his questions, Mr. Mulcair piled on as the Conservatives moaned and groaned. “Mr. Speaker, if he has never seen the cheque, how can the Prime Minister rise in this House and tell us that it is a personal cheque? How does he know that it is not from a trust account? How does he know that if he has never seen the cheque?”

Mr. Harper deferred to Mr. Wright. “Mr. Speaker, this is a matter of public record, as Mr. Wright himself has said. I can certainly assure the member there is no such money that has gone out of our office or out of PMO budget.”

Back to Mr. Trudeau. Of the Prime Minister’s insistence that he had known nothing of a deal between Mr. Wright and Mr. Duffy before May 15, the Liberal leader noted that CTV had reported the existence of a deal on the night of May 14 and that the Prime Minister’s Office. Mr. Harper again asserted that he knew nothing of a cheque until the morning of May 15.

Why then, Mr. Trudeau wondered, had it taken Mr. Harper another five days to dismiss his chief of staff?

“Mr. Speaker, by his own admission, Mr. Wright made a very serious error. For that, he has accepted full, sole responsibility,” Mr. Harper reviewed. “He has agreed to resign. He is subject to an investigation and examination by the Ethics Commissioner, on which I anticipate he will be fully co-operative.”

Mr. Trudeau, apparently unconvinced by the official timeline, now conveyed his indignation. Mr. Harper then attempted a remarkable claim of simplicity and clarity. “Mr. Speaker, the facts here are reasonably simple whether or not the opposition or anybody else particularly likes them,” he declared. “The facts are simple and they are clear.”

Except for the fact that so many of the facts about whatever happened here remain unclear, this much might actually be true. Mr. Wright, as Mr. Harper explained, assisted in the repayment of Mr. Duffy’s expenses. That repayment, Mr. Harper maintained, was not something of which he was aware until May 15. Those might well be actual facts. But it is still everything else about this affair that has yet to be explained, every other question that remains to be answered.

After two more questions from Mr. Mulcair—one about the involvement of a PMO lawyer, the other about the matter of Pamela Wallin—the New Democrats sent up Nathan Cullen to, once again, play the part of Lt. Daniel Kaffee.

“Let me remind the Prime Minister of what he said when he was in opposition,” Mr. Cullen graciously offered before proceeding with a dramatic reading. “He said, “The Prime Minister personally ordered adscam done and chose the people who executed the plan. At the very least he fostered an attitude within the party, chose the managers who committed these crimes and completely and utterly failed to exercise any oversight, supervision or leadership. In the end it does not really matter. He is the leader and a leader is responsible for the actions of the people he leads.’ ”

Mr. Cullen took a step forward and put the question. “Does he still agree with these comments?”

The New Democrats stood and cheered. Mr. Harper remained seated. Instead, it was James Moore who stood, the Heritage Minister now apparently seeing a chance to audition for a cabinet promotion before this summer’s shuffle.

“Mr. Speaker, we certainly agree that Canadians expect and deserve accountability. That is why the Prime Minister, both in his entire term as prime minister and again here today, has shown accountability and leadership that Canadians have come to expect,” Mr. Moore proclaimed, pointing with both index fingers. “The Leader of the Opposition asked questions. The Prime Minister has answered.”

Huzzah. By that most basic standard of accountability—and excluding those questions which the Prime Minister did not directly answer—everything here is finally fine.


 

Stephen Harper pleads ignorance and claims clarity

  1. Must be nice being Prime Minister. Who exactly is he accountable to again? Sink the hook and learn more. Thanks for the article.

    • He answers to his riding – Calgary SW: luxury single dwelling homes, expensive condos and townhouses – Mount Royal, Elbow Park, Bel Aire – you know, places where average Canadians can not afford to live …

  2. Isn’t there anything better to report on from Ottawa these days? The “scandal” was over with a week ago and a high-profile staffer lost his job over it. Mulclair and Trudeau got their pound of flesh now shouldn’t they be working on more important issues for the people they represent? I am quickly loosing faith in the “journalism” profession.

    • I agree. I would rather hear more about robocalls and the conservative party’s employees refusals to cooperate with the chief electoral officer – and cooperate with the federal court, as judge Mosley referred to in his judgment. Don’t these employees have a boss?

      • The largest ever spending boondoggle in Canadian history has also been pushed aside merely because the prime minister and his chief of staff played Canadians for chumps. And Mike Duffy played Canadians PLUS the chief of staff and prime minister.

        • The $3.1 billion between 2001-2009? Odd that the Liberals aren’t demanding an inquiry on that. Wonder why.

          • That is certainly the years the LPC were in power, though some have stated there is a report in 2004 that says everything is looking pretty good as of then (the later report may have superseded that one, however). No matter who is responsible for what amount, it something that should not be ignored.

          • bill…harper and the conservative party took over in 2006 and didn’t mention anything about missing money, so it’s the conservative party that “misplaced” it….

          • Really Jessie? If they didn’t say anything then it’s them that did it? Is that your fine example of rational thinking?

          • Well, given the alternative is that they willingly hid the Liberals not being able to account for that much money, it seems pretty reasonable.

          • Nice try to put this on the Libs when in fact it is the Cons who lost this money, much like the Billion dollar fiasco commonly called the G-8 summit, or should we simply call it the Gravenhurst border security expenditures whereby Deerfiled Inn got a tax-payer funded refurbishing in order that it be more attractive for its sell-off, among other expenditures. .

        • Duffy is NOT the ringleader here: he is the catch. Harper, Wright, CPC: these are the culprits corrupting our system and its institutions. Duffy is an old, pompous, arrogant, entitled SOB, but he’s not the one in charge of anything — and he’s the one whose reputation is most-damaged by these revelations.

      • I’m pretty sure the conservatives referred to in the EC robocalls are volunteers from the ridings, not employees.
        EC can raid the CPC headquarters and take any documents they want, reporters in tow, but they are not a police force that can force a volunteer into an interrogation.
        EC is likely frustrated that the only thing they found so far is 165,000 irregularities in the way EC employees handled the 2011 election.

        • you’re babbling.

        • I’m pretty sure the Conservatives don’t let any old volunteer get their hands on the CIMS database and place bulk calling orders to Racknine.

      • “Don’t these employees have a boss?”

        Apparently not. Harper seems to have totally lost control over every single person who works for him. Perhaps he is no longer competent to run his own office if his employees do not trust him with what they are doing.

        Alternatively, he is lying through his teeth.

        Either way, he needs to go.

      • So I took your advice and started paying attention to the robocall scandal. What you didn’t tell me was that Marc Garneau (Liberal) and the NDP party were both charged by the CRTC for using automated calling systems during the last election. But just last week, Federal Court Judge Mosley also ruled that he could not find enough (any?) evidence that the Conservative party of Canada or any of its candidates could be implicated in the “scandal” but they were fined anyway. In fact, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair was quoted saying, “The team made a mistake in one case, this is technology that we use literally every day,” What kind of boss admits to defrauding the people of Canada everyday then throws his team under the bus to save himself? Mulcair and Trudeau need to take responsibility for this fraudulant behaviour and step own immediately.

        • They are very different cases. Saying “every robocall infraction is exactly the same in every case” is pretty silly.

          • I can’t believe you actually just said that. Your comparison is like being a little bit pregnant. If the NDP and Liberals committed fraud against the people of Canada, their leaders MUST be held accountable. Trudeau and Mulcair MUST resign immediately or else they are hypocrites.

          • You should really read the CRTC reports. They are vastly different crimes. It’s like comparing genocide to jaywalking.

          • Oh I think I understand now, kind of like comparing fraud and reimbursing someone’s expenses with your own personal funds. They are vastly different.

          • You mispelled “trying to impede an audit” there, but that’s the gist, yes.

    • You apparently have little interest in watching the government of the day implode under the weight of its own web of lies.

      So run along. The rest of us will watch without you.

      • Too busy watching the Liberal government in Ontario implode than to pay attention to the silly antics of the opposition in Ottawa. You seriously need to find a hobby.

        • Thanks for your concern about my leisure pursuits. However, following the Kon Klown Show is a thoroughly absorbing hobby in itself, with many enthusiasts from coast-to-coast-to-coast.

          As for watching the Ontario Liberals “implode”, that must be as eventful as listening to the fridge. They appear to be in business at least ’til the fall, probably well beyond. If that’s an “implosion” in your little universe, you must be very easily amused, indeed.

          • Chris Bentley, prorogued legislature, vote buying scandel, billion dollar gas plant cancellation, public teachers union strike, massive metrolinks tax increases, crippling unemployment, WTO green energy defeat and one self-styled education premier resignation. Sounds like business as usual for your liberals. Hope you really get to the bottom on that massive Nigel Wright scandal though…..the future of the Country and generations to follow are counting on you.

          • Counting on me?? A lowly, anonymous commenter on a blog? My gawd, the nation’s in far worse shape than I’d imagined.

            And you’re right about the litany of sins committed by the Libs in Ontario. But they’re hardly “imploding”. The prospect of the pathetic Hudak as alternative is keeping them up in the polls. Check for yourself.

    • harpo hasn’t answered for squat yet. Until he does, this will not go away, it will not die down.

    • I have something to add. I would like to know where $38 Billion dollars of our money has gone. Harper and his band of thieves came to power with, thanks to Paul Martin and the Liberals, a $13 Billion dollar surplus and we now have a $25 Billion dollar deficit.

      As finance minister, Paul Martin was spectacular. He is also a businessman and self made millionaire. He knows how to manage money and use it wisely.

      By contrast Jim Flaherty is an abject failure. At best he is an ambulance chasing lawyer and he definitely should NOT be our finance minister, especially after losing so much of our tax dollars. If he was CEO of any private company, he would’ve been fired long ago.

      HARPER! WHERE IS OUR DAMN MONEY?!?!?!?!?!

      • When the economic downturn hit, there was no money in the EI fund, court ruled that Chretien/Martin had illegally raided the fund of $54B from 2001-05, so that was a big chunk of the deficit.
        And the Coalition of Losers threatened to take over govt if Harper didn’t spend billions on stimulous, I think he ear marked $30B.
        Not to worry, the budget will be balanced in 2015

      • It was 3.1 billion missing,
        “lost” up until 2009.

        Now it’s got to be more like 5
        billion missing.

        Snip snip: Ferguson’s audit of the PSAT program stops in
        2009. So when we say that $12 billion was spent under PSAT and $3 billion has
        gone missing, what we actually mean is that’s what was spent, and what went
        missing, as of 2009. And what about after that?

        http://sixthestate.net/?p=8152

      • Please note, ims, that the PM did not want to go into a deficit. It was at the constant harping and harrassment of the the Liberal Professor and the minions in the national media that the Conservatives were pushed into it. And dispite the left’s constant attempts to manufacture so-called scandals and “affronts on democracy” of the week, we are still on track to kill the deficit and the country remains the most highly regarded country in the world.
        IMS63! CHECK YOUR FACTS!!!!!!!!!

        • You might want to check your own facts. We were in a structural deficit position before the recession ever hit.

        • does ims mean “I make s***” up?

          Because as pointed out above, the deficit preceded the recession.

    • Bringing transparency and accountability to Senate expense claims was long overdue. So too was getting rid of MPs’ gold-plated pensions. The Liberals were in power for 12 years, but they didn’t take the initiative, because they didn’t care one iota about ordinary taxpaying Canadians.

    • When The Harp labelled all Liberals as corrupt he was throwing stones that are now being returned. Corruption in the highest office in the land is clearly demonstrable and he consequently must bear the label of being corrupt himself. The irony of it all is that the Harp has been dealing with criminals for years yet it is only now that criminal behavior can be directly attributed to his office. And then there is the Harper bagman himself that is coming into play: Porter-gate is at hand. Neat!!!!

      • Along with Porter, it is time for corporatism itself to come under scrutiny. Lavalin is only the tip of the iceberg, and there are a thousand icebergs of similar proportions floating in our sealanes. Corporations large and small, along with independently wealthy individuals have been in the bribery and corruption economy for several administrations now, so the real problem is the extent to which they are now welcomed with open arms… to the extent that the government has become their de-facto agents.

        • The oil patch has been contributing to one party for many years and now that this party is in control it has taken steps to eliminate all foes and all environmental safeguards in order to facilitate their expansion. Go figure.

      • What’s the criminal offence? Be specific.

  3. Nothing to be seen here. Move along. Is that what you are saying, jellowarlord? Except there is something that doesn’t pass the smell test. I say we keep digging. Good for the opposition for grilling the PM. Now don’t stop.

  4. The emperor’s new suit appears to be yellow.

  5. I thought that was a great article. Question period is coming up on CPAC, i think i will record it just to see PM Harper squirm as he gets some of the stuff he loves to dish out. And to see if Mr Mulcair has a ghost of a chance against Mr Trudeau in 2015.

  6. Just watched the QP video on CPAC up until Cullen’s question. Absolutely riveting to watch. Two comments:
    1) I hope Mulcair and Trudeau keep up this new style, I.e dropping the rhetoric. To watch Mulcair today, it was as if he were Jack McKoy.
    2) That was easily the most rattled I’ve seen Harper in seven years of governing. I think the questioning style played a big part in this. I hope the opposition keeps it up.

  7. It was the best QP I’ve ever seen, Harper and Mulcair performed well.
    PMSH was not squirming, he was calm and concise.
    It did seem he gritted his teeth when Mulcair repeatedly asked about what was said in Cabinet,
    as Greg Weston pointed out, Mulcair knowing full well no PM can or will break cabinet confidence. But that’s the way the political game was played.
    Not being a Trudeau fan, I’ll relay what CTVs (Power Play) media guru said about his QP performance
    ‘read his questions’ called him ‘a junior version’ with too much ‘theatrics’ ….ouch

    • Wells probably had the best take. Certainly the funniest.

      • But Trudeau caught that the May 14 broadcast that Harper says he first heard of this includes a response from the PMO.

        • Why are you telling me this? You do realize that I haven’t offered a single defense of the CPC or Harper on this issue right? That I’ve called for both Duffy and Wright’s resignations, and an explanation from Harper (which I’ve yet to see)?

          • JanBC seems to be tempering your subtle criticism of Justin Trudeau, who actually performed quite well yesterday. The tact taken by the conservative supporters lately — those who claim to be disgusted by the “clusterduff” activities — is to keep bringing up Trudeau. As if he is the biggest problem facing our country today. Some of you are more subtle than others — ie you are much better at it than your colleagues Francien and the intrepid “healthcare insider.” But nvertheless, you are doing the same thing. I suppose it’s possible to give you the benefit of the doubt and think maybe you have just been swayed by the nuanced comments of FV.

          • Please. I have no use whatsoever for Francien. For Francien, Emily, and a few others here, Maclean’s should look into implementing Hellbanning

            I haven’t brought Trudeau up at all on this one, other than to point out Wells’ hilarious tweet. God knows I could, with the issue of his missing sitting days to collect speaking fees from registered charities still out there.

            But Trudeau is a big problem. He’s unserious, extremely divisive, naive, and shallow. He is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a PM in waiting because he’s got a famous name and cool hair. And every serious journalist (Coyne, Wells, etc.) knows it and can see it, while the unserious ones like Wherry here continue to try and hide what Wells and Coyne have already figured out; that he’s a political dilettante and a lightweight who is out of his league.

          • Ah, well, good thing you aren’t bringing up Trudeau then. Or repeating talking points and pseudo-facts about him.

            Let’s bash Trudeau once we have something solid to bash about him — give him a chance to be bashable. Meanwhile, since we already have a bona fide scandal on our hands, let’s look a little further past Ol’ Duff and see where that money went, and what happened during the now-infamous “Five Days in May” — that brief, gaudy period when, we are told, poor Harper was only just discovering how unacceptable his smart, successful, ethical chief of staff actually was, that snake in the grass.

    • Or he didn’t want to answer the question because Senator LeBreton is in the Cabinet. And hasn’t she admitted she discussed the Duffy issue with the PMO?

    • He definitely looked evasive.

  8. “The Prime Minister personally ordered adscam done and chose the people who executed the plan. At the very least he fostered an attitude within the party, chose the managers who committed these crimes and completely and utterly failed to exercise any oversight, supervision or leadership. In the end it does not really matter. He is the leader and a leader is responsible for the actions of the people he leads.’ ”

    Every Canadian angry about the way this Harper government has handled this corruption needs to take his own words and put them in an email to him. Asking “Does the PM still believe this comment?

    • You are right of course, but for some reason the Ottawa media have bought into the fiction that he gave Duff HIS OWN MONEY. Crazy.

  9. So much for objective reporting. Wherry writes as if he is just adding to NDP and Liberal talking points. He is condemning the PM without ANY proof whatsoever except the ramblings of Angry Tom and T2. Could it be that Aaron Wherry is trying out for a job with the Toronto Star?

    • no.

    • I think his condemnation is that the PM refuses to provide any evidence.

  10. A very useful ‘scandal’ if the PMO is clever enough to exploit it.

  11. The PMO looks guilty and Harper fails to answer all the questions. Why can’t he be open and honest about the whole affair?

  12. Did anyone ask what discussions Senator Tkachuk had with the PM/PMO prior to the Senate report being tabled? That seems like an important piece of the scandal, and the opposition(s) are pretty much ignoring that angle. Tkachuk seemed more concerned that this was a political issue for the Conservatives than a case of Senatorial fraud, from the interviews I’ve read.

  13. It will come as no surprise to regular readers that I’m not a fan of Thomas Mulcair. That said, his questioning style did a credit to QP yesterday.

    More like this please.

  14. Having just watched the question period, two observations and some style predictions. (This article is a fair – balanced, accurate – account of the question period on content. It may have missed a bit on the style component.)

    1. Sitting beside Mulcair is Murray Rankin, the newly elected NDP member for Victoria. Very smart man and an acquaintance. Rankin is also a very good lawyer. It appears that the line of questioning is being prepared by Rankin. Incisive rather than bombastic.

    2. Trudeau has been criticized as being a lightweight in this debate. Perhaps he has no adviser with the smarts of Rankin setting up his questions. After watching several questions, it dawned on me that Trudeau has quite a different role model – he gives me just a faint vibe of Rick Mercer.

    The battle lines in the next election may be drawn between one leader sounding like a smart lawyer, one sounding like a very funny Canadian icon, and one ex reformer who hates the federal government and is doing his best to destroy all federal institutions.

    Each approach appeals to a different audience.

    Harper has a tried and true set of loyal fans who vote in large numbers, but whose numbers are declining.

    Mulcair (actually Layton) got votes the last time around from an audience that ignored content and went for style. Will they go for the smart lawyer approach? Is there an audience for the smart lawyer approach?

    Trudeau will appeal to the Mercer crowd. Will they vote?

    Will those persona persist until the next election? If so, which persona wins?

  15. Well, he is ignorant, that’s for sure. He’s ignorant about alot of things

  16. How can anyone ever believe that Harper and his conforce have been accountable except with words of deceit? Imagine, Harper’s world is actually embarrassing Canada on the world stage -poor leadership!

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