The Commons: John Baird tries to explain what he understands to be true

The opposition is not appeased by the Prime Minister’s acknowledgement of unhappiness

by Aaron Wherry

Thomas Mulcair stood to a hearty cheer from his caucus and, when the applause had quieted, he attempted a joke.

“Mr. Speaker, when the going gets tough, the tough get going, to Peru apparently,” he quipped.

There were grumbles and complaints from the government side—it being unparliamentary to refer to the presence, or at least the lack thereof, of anyone in the House of Commons. Mr. Mulcair hadn’t quite done that here, but the Speaker was compelled to intervene here anyway and call for order.

The floor was returned to Mr. Mulcair and the NDP leader now proceeded to recap the story so far, a mix of the acknowledged, the alleged and the reported.

“Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister’s chief of staff gave Mike Duffy a $90,000 cheque,” he said. “In exchange, Duffy paid off illegal expenses, stopped co-operating with auditors and the PMO said in writing that they would go easy on him. In his own words Senator Duffy ‘stayed silent on the orders of the Prime Minister’s Office.’ A secret cash payment from the Prime Minister’s chief of staff negotiated by the Prime Minister’s own lawyer.”

The Prime Minister’s Office does admit that Mr. Wright wrote a cheque in the amount of $90,000 for Mike Duffy. The rest is the stuff of nightly dispatches from CTV’s Robert Fife. The Prime Minister would like to assure you that he is “very upset.” (About what? All of it? Some of it?) And John Baird would now stand to assure everyone that the Prime Minister was entirely unaware that the Prime Minister’s chief of staff had written that cheque.

“Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has been very clear that he was not aware of the payment until last week after it had been reported publicly in the media,” Mr. Baird explained. “The Prime Minister spoke very loudly and very clearly this morning.”

The Prime Minister did speak this morning. His relative clarity and his practical volume are perhaps subject to debate.

“Furthermore, this matter has been referred to two independent bodies for review,” Mr. Baird continued. “We look forward to the results of these reviews.”

Beyond these assurances, Mr. Baird had arrived at Question Period this afternoon with at least enough information to answer two questions.

Was Ray Novak, the current chief of staff, aware of the previous chief of staff’s payment to Mr. Duffy? He was not, Mr. Baird told the House.

Would the government now table the document that apparently put in writing the agreement between Mr. Duffy and Mr. Wright? “Our understanding is there is no document,” Mr. Baird explained.

So what about the reported involvement of the Prime Minister’s legal advisor?

“Mr. Speaker, Mike Duffy agreed to ‘stay silent on the orders of the PMO.’ In exchange the Prime Minister’s Office agreed to cover the cost of the senator’s fraudulent expenses. Why were taxpayer-funded lawyers used to negotiate this secret backroom deal between the Prime Minister’s chief of staff and Senator Duffy?” Mr. Mulcair asked. “Was taxpayers’ money used to bankroll “senategate”, yes or no?”

Mr. Baird did not have a clear answer to this, except to assure everyone of his clarity. “Mr. Speaker, it will come as no surprise to the Leader of the Opposition that I reject much of the premise of his question,” the Foreign Affairs Minister declared. “I have been very clear and the government has been very clear that the Prime Minister was not aware of this payment until media reports surfaced last week. Let me be very clear on that point.”

A response from the lawyer in question would come a couple hours later.

Here the questions kept coming.

“The Prime Minister called in the cops on Helena Guergis and Bruce Carson,” the NDP’s Charlie Angus recalled. “Given the seriousness of these allegations, will he call in the cops against Nigel Wright and Mike Duffy?”

“Mr. Speaker, let me once again be very clear,” Mr. Baird pleaded. “This issue has already been referred to two independent authorities that will look into this matter appropriately and be able to report back to Parliament and to Canadians. This government looks forward to the findings of those two independent reports.”

Unfortunately, Mr. Baird could not then explain himself some moments later when the NDP’s Nathan Cullen stood and wondered aloud to which two independent authorities the minister was referring. The Prime Minister’s Office explains that Mr. Baird was referring to the ethics commissioner and the possibility of a renewed investigation by the Senate’s internal economy committee—the same committee that is presently accused of whitewashing the original investigation of Mr. Duffy as part of the deal between the senator and Mr. Wright.

The NDP’s Craig Scott stood and wondered if the Justice Minister was of the belief that Mr. Wright might have breached Section 16 of the Parliament of Canada Act or Section 119 of the Criminal Code. Rob Nicholson stayed seated as Mr. Baird rejected Mr. Scott’s premises.

Ralph Goodale stood and demanded, almost as an afterthought, all emails related to this matter.

“Mr. Speaker, ordinary Canadians do not have access to rich Conservative friends to pay their debts,” he suggested. “A week ago the government was calling Mike Duffy an ‘honourable man,’ showing ‘leadership’ and doing ‘the right thing.’ The Prime Minister knows that a secret payment of $90,000 was made by his most senior official to shut down a forensic audit of Duffy’s illegal expenses, to pervert the Senate’s official report on those expenses, and to block any further investigation. With whom and when did this corruption begin and will the government table all emails pertaining to this insidious scheme?”

Mr. Baird stood to reject the preamble and ignore the question.

“Let me say this,” Mr. Baird offered. “A committee in the other place that was looking into this brought in some outside auditors. The conclusion of that report was that these claims never should have been made. No one in the government, certainly no one in this place, rejects that conclusion. I understand in the report it was mentioned that these expenses had been reimbursed, as is what had happened.”

Oh for the good ole days of that Thursday nearly two weeks ago when that was all that was known to have happened. It was a simpler time. An easier time. A time long after Mr. Wright wrote that cheque, but a few days before we—and apparently the Prime Minister—were to find out that he’d written it. Alas, there’s no going back for us—or the Prime Minister—now.




Browse

The Commons: John Baird tries to explain what he understands to be true

  1. He lied in the people’s house. Social contract broken.

    • where is the lie? – I haven’t heard one yet?

      • Duffy certainly lied.
        He and his wife made the decision to pay back the loan, the RBC loan, resident of PEI or did you miss that?

      • By calling the Duff’s method of payment an honorable gesture, you don’t think this is a lie? Harper and the rest of the gang are all creeps. Typical Con!!!!

  2. I wonder : If Nigel and his lawyer buddy cooked this up with Duffy’s lawyer – then maybe there is nothing illegal here and if such is the case – what happens – my bet is that haters get madder and web forums go all a twiiter :) outsdie of that where is this going – in fact the madder the opponents get the more likely harper will be re-elected becuase the question then becomes who are people going to vote for to get rid of harper – I wonder?

    • Could you repeat that please.

      • I doubt he could. Such convoluted twisted words seldom bear repeating. I could paraphrase though… ‘Boy, I sure hope something comes out of the woodwork to save my beloved harpers arse!’

      • No need for him to repeat; the clear of mind will easily understand what Wayne has just said!

        • You two can hear the whistle – the rest of us can’t.

          • So glad to hear that you have finally accepted, JanBC, that some people can understand what is not being said. Some people have it and others do not. It’s called common sense. A disappearing sense.

            Wayne and I will keep you in the loop when we feel the need.

          • Wow… gee… thanks your Eminence. How very big of you to um. keep us in the loop lol

            Your arrogance speaks volumes.

          • Wow, smug AND arrogant. You just know they must be harpercons. Francien you might want to do Wayne a favour and teach him how to spell. Or put together a cohesive sentence. The haters get madder so harper wins? Good job.

      • He’s living in a make believe world alongside the deluded Francien.
        Apparently if you don’t like laws being broken you are a hater, if you run, deny, hide and lie and finally only admit to the illegal activity when caught then that means you are part of the party of law and order.
        The Canada haters are those who don’t value our laws, our tax money and our institutions and never think they apply to them – the CPoC is their gang name.

        • I know either you are conservative or a hater. Most governments end up in polemics sooner or later. This one happens to highly problematic and their response is more the scandal than the original problem. I don’t normally look at comments, but I have and discovered Francien to be a major troll.

          • Thank you Brian Finch for finding my comments interesting enough for reading and for responding to. I appreciate it.

    • Wright has a moral conscience. He would do neither.

      • Make that HAD a moral conscience — until he was dumped into the mixer on the Hill.

      • This is not the first time this Wright fellow is involved in these types of imbroglios. He is a corporate creep who tries to clear his conscience by giving to charitable groups after screwing investors. Why do you think he was hired on by Harper?

        • Really? Can you give us some examples of these “imbroglios” and some sources? I did quite a bit of research and I couldn’t find anything that was substantive. I would be happy to read something that was not just innuendo. So you are claiming that Nigel Wright gives a lot of money to charity so he can assuage his conscience when “steals” a lot of money? Hmm, interesting theory.

          • Onyx acquisitions and mergers have not always been beneficial for all concerned. As for stealing money, I never made such a statement. And by the way, as a lawyer, he knew the laws concerning ‘so-called gifts and loans ‘ to political figures and consequently if charged risks loosing his legal priviledges.

          • Again, it would be good to have some specific examples of how Nigel Wright is a “corporate creep” and how he “screwed investors”. Like I say, the research presented him as pretty much clean. There weren’t examples of how he plays dirty in business. Can you provide instances where he did?

      • Perhaps Nigel Wright convinced himself that he was doing a good thing (giving the taxpayers’ their money back) so it wasn’t so bad that he was doing bad things (break rules regarding giving senator’s money). Regardless, what he needs to now is what is in the best interest of Canada. That is to talk to the RCMP, the ethics commissioner and whoever else necessary to get to the bottom of this entire story. We need the real story to come out here.

    • Nothing spells truthiness like a number of lawyers cooking up a deal.

    • So the Criminal code is not applicable when it clearly states that a Senator accepting money is a criminal act as is the action of someone who gives money to a Senator. HUMMMM!!!! This is the ‘Tough On Crime’ agenda that the Cons have been HARPing about!!!!

  3. I’d like to say that every scandal the illegitimate Harper government has faced, and there are too many to mention here, Harper has claimed ignorance. Why do we want an ignorant PM? The guy is self admitting he’s clueless. Why do we want him? He’s admitting with his behaviour that he’s abusing the public office he told his believers they would get the boot for doing the same thing.http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/Remove_Stephen_Harper_as_Prime_Minister_of_Canada/?aediIbb>

  4. John Baird = LIAR!

    • Justin Trudeau=LIAR!

      He stands up in the House to criticize the TFWP but behind the scenes he writes letters to the government asking for more foreign workers coming into his Papineau riding. Shame on you, Justin the hypocrite!

      • Francien please put your partisan politics off to the side and try to stay focused on the scandal at hand. Certainly Canadians are more concerned about this Senate scandal then your pathetic attempts to derail the quest for truth in this most serious situation.

        • Is that true about Justin Trudeau asking for more foreign workers in his riding? Is no one in Ottawa, honest and I don’t mean, “he is more honest, than he is?” I am not talking about degrees of honesty. I am talking about real honesty.

      • You’re completely confused, and that whole issue is so last month anyway. The issue at hand here is why the PM’s Chief of Staff gave $90,000 to a Senator.

        • “that issue was last month”…. Gawd we’re having a scandal a month. No wonder the public is numb.

      • Francien +Liar and attacking JT proves it. Worried about JT in 2015? You should because he will wipe the floor with Harper if Harper even lasts that far.

        • Hey Irene, we have two years to go…at the rate we are going with a scandal a month….the Libs coming off a big one 7 years ago, the Conservatives mired in scandal for the last 7 years, Mulclair gearing up Laval and Justin???…who KNOWS where country will be in two years. We might have a few NEW political parties born out of the disgust of taxpayers for what’s currently on offer or we might all be holding our noses come election time in 2015.

    • John Baird sees himself as the guy who keeps his head when all about (him) are losing theirs. This is where he makes his move.

      His eye is not on the stunned and bleeding Harper: it’s on Trudeau as an opponent in the next election.

  5. Forget John Baird, let’s hear what Skippy (Pierre Poilievre) has to say

  6. “Someone who was there paraphrased Harper’s message to his ministers at his first cabinet meeting in 2006: “I am the kingpin. So whatever you do around me, you have to know that I am sacrosanct.” Harper was telling his ministers that they were expendable but that he wasn’t. If they had to go so that his credibility and his ability to get things done were protected, so be it.”

    I imagine the PM regrets these words, paraphrased or not.

    You’ll forgive us if we reject your rejection of the premise of the question now JB. You blew your credibility long ago.

    • Trouble with Harper’s I-am-the-sun-king position is that John Baird is sharpening his knife.

      • If that’s the case, i wonder what Kenney is up to? This party could conceivably fall apart again. Right now the reformers have the choke hold. I’d like to see the PCers regain some influence. Harperism has been a bust. The little god that failed – as Harper would say.

    • I know you don’t feel for John Baird but he could dumped into a lot of crap and I don’t know what people think…do you guys believe he was part of this deal too? It is a shame that they can’t get things together pronto and get Nigel Wright and Duffy in front of a committee answering questions. What the hell can John Baird tell anybody?!

      • All i see is Baird doing what Baird does best – shilling for his PM and his party. I can’t imagine he could stand up there and do that if he had serious doubts. Let Harper answer those questions, not Baird. The sight of him speaking for a PM who wont talk t the press is beyond bizarre.

        • Sadly kcm2, if the opposition asks the questions and Harper isn’t in the house, someone has to answer. In this case, all Baird can answer is what he purports to know, which ain’t much. He doesn’t even have the authority to ensure that Nigel Wright and Duffy are called before a committee or that the RCMP investigate the whole saga. He can only repeat what was said in the caucas meeting, which was not much.

          • Sorry, but Harper had spent days avoiding the press until today. Baird shouldn’t have to cover for him. It makes both of them look ridiculous.

          • I am not making an excuse for anyone. I am just pointing out that John Baird likely doesn’t have the answers.

          • Probably true.

  7. And there is the question of Nigel Wright’s severance payment for loyal and outstanding service as the chief of staff over the last two years. Ah, that’s none of our business, right?

    • Will Mac Harb’s lawyer work for free now that Harb has decided to fight the allegations in court? Ah, none of our business, right?

      Perhaps Harb will charge his lawyer fees, if he has to pay them, to his senate expense account. Ah, that will be none of our business.

      • Here she is, the Royal Mistress of the Irrelevant Interrogatory…

        • Thank you for reading and responding to my post. I appreciate it. Please feel free to read my posts any time.

    • Now that supposition is unfounded and not based in any kind of reality as anyone knows it. Nigel Wright took a pay cut from the $2 million per diem he was making to work in the PMO on a TEMPORARY basis for 2 years. He was NEVER staying longer than 2 years. Any person who would take a pay cut THAT substantial ISN’T LOOKING FOR MONEY!!!! Yes, this whole scandal is corrupt and ugly but get it straight. The guy PAID the taxpayer back what Duffy stole. He didn’t steal from the taxpayer. Nigel Wright has deep pockets and he gives a lot to charity.

  8. Interesting that they’ve now apparently furloughed the lightly armed footsoldiers (the preternaturally callow Pierre Poilievre and ever earnest Michelle Rempel) in favour of seasoned, elite troops like the inestimably bombastic John Baird.

    Looks like they’re gonna’ fight until they have no choice but to self-immolate.

    • Nope. Baird’s watching for the right bus for Harper to meet a convenient accident.

      • That could definitely be the truth.

    • Isn’t this what usually happens in Canadian politics….Gladiator fight to the death? How many Canadian PM’s have done a “Nixon?” I don’t think the precedent is there? Unless the PM gets arrested, this party will cut the rotting flesh and drag itself forth with whatever it has left.

  9. It does make me wonder who the source is and if perhaps, the Rule of Two is at play here.

    *rule of two – only two siths may exist at one time. The apprentice shall dispose of the master.

  10. This is getting ridiculous, the Conservatives have no justification for being at the trough and then covering it up, and they need to admit it!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *