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The Commons: Stephen Harper answers at least one question

So at least we know that Nigel Wright said he made no offer to any other senator


 

With the 13th question of the fourth day of the cross-examination of Stephen Harper, lead prosecutor Thomas Mulcair wondered if Pamela Wallin had been offered the “same deal” that Nigel Wright had offered to Mike Duffy.

Various Conservatives scoffed at this question, but it was apparently something that the Prime Minister himself had wondered.

“Mr. Speaker, Mr. Wright informed me of his payment to senator Duffy on May 15,” Mr. Harper now explained. “I immediately required that matter to be disclosed, both to the Ethics Commissioner and to the public. At the same time, I did ask Mr. Wright whether he had any similar arrangements or discussed any similar arrangements or had any similar arrangements with other senators and he said ‘no.’ ”

Mr. Mulcair now patronized.

“See,” he said to the Prime Minister, “it is not that hard to answer.”

The New Democrats chuckled and applauded. The Conservatives howled indignation, government members still quite insistent that the NDP leader should be the one accounting for himself.

So there was at least one answer this day. Perhaps two. Maybe even three. Or four. Depending on how one measures these things.

Mr. Mulcair’s first question had to do with the recently disclosed conversation between Mr. Duffy and Mr. Harper on February 13. “Mr. Speaker,” the NDP leader recalled, “yesterday the Prime Minister said, ‘Mr. Duffy approached me to seek some clarification.’ What kind of clarification did Mike Duffy seek?”

Mr. Harper stood to explained. “Mr. Speaker,” he said, “our view from the outset is that all expenses, obviously, must be appropriate when they are claimed. If they are not appropriate, they should be reimbursed to the taxpayers. I have made this view known to, obviously, a range of our caucus and also my staff. Mr. Duffy was seeking clarification on remarks I had made to this effect in caucus and, of course, I was adamant that any inappropriate expenses had to be reimbursed by him.”

So apparently Mr. Duffy approached Mr. Harper after that caucus meeting and asked the Prime Minister to clarify whether, when the Prime Minister said inappropriate expenses should be paid back, he believed Mr. Duffy should pay back any inappropriately claimed expenses and Mr. Harper told Mr. Duffy that yes, he believed Mr. Duffy should pay back any inappropriately claimed expenses and that was that.

Mr. Mulcair later proceeded through the PMO staff list.

“Would the Prime Minister tell us if his lawyer, Ben Perrin, was involved in any way, shape or form in this transaction with Mike Duffy?”

Mr. Harper’s response was something of a curlicue.

“Mr. Speaker, Mr. Perrin, who is now a private citizen, speaks for himself on these matters,” the Prime Minister offered. “I believe, in fact, he has answered these questions and, obviously, would be prepared to answer the questions from anybody else, just as I have done here.”

Mr. Perrin’s statement thus remains to be parsed.

“I would like to ask the Prime Minister, clearly, now, was Ray Novak involved in any way, shape or form in these discussions concerning Mike Duffy?” Mr. Mulcair wondered of the Prime Minister’s current chief of staff. “Yes or no?”

Mr. Harper appealed to clarity. “Mr. Speaker, once again, the facts here are very clear,” he ventured. “Mr. Wright decided to take an action on his own initiative, using his own funds. These actions are his sole responsibility. I have no information before me to suggest they are anyone else’s responsibility.”

Mr. Mulcair wondered about the involvement of Prime Minister’s director of communications (Andrew MacDougall) and press secretary (Carl Vallee). Mr. Harper again said that only one person was responsible.

The NDP leader wondered finally how the Prime Minister’s spokesmen could thus comment on this matter if they were not involved.

Mr. Harper now at least clarified the extent of his staff’s ignorance.

“Mr. Speaker, as I have said repeatedly, it was Mr. Wright who made the decision to take his personal funds and give those to Mr. Duffy so that Mr. Duffy could reimburse the taxpayers,” the Prime Minister reviewed. “Those were his decisions. They were not communicated to me or to members of my office.”

So what might we now know? That Mr. Duffy spoke with the Prime Minister on February 13, apparently to clarify the Prime Minister’s views on inappropriately claimed expenses. That by February 20, at least according to CTV, Mr. Duffy and Mr. Wright had some sort of arrangement. That Mr. Wright somehow provided something like $90,000 to Mr. Duffy. That Mr. Wright did not communicate as much to any member of the Prime Minister’s Office and Mr. Harper was not made aware until the morning of May 15. And that Mr. Harper then accepted Mr. Wright’s resignation on the morning of May 19.

And what else might we want to know? Perhaps the terms, if there were any, of the arrangement between Mr. Duffy and Mr. Wright. Or whether there is any correspondence that might explain their discussions. Or if Mr. Duffy is in financial difficulty and whether he took out a loan. And whether Mr. Wright was aware that Mr. Duffy was not (or would not be) cooperating with the Senate’s auditors. And what, in lieu of any personal knowledge of such things, has Mr. Harper done to ascertain such details over the last three weeks.

Of what this amounts to, that remains to be decided by some authority or another.

Mr. Mulcair deviated from his achingly specific questions only twice—with his sixth and seventh queries, immediately after Justin Trudeau had offered his three.

“Mr. Speaker, something does not add up,” Mr. Mulcair declared. “The Prime Minister just said that Nigel Wright’s motive in cutting the $90,000 cheque was to protect the taxpayers. Mike Duffy is a wealthy man. He owns two houses, and he is earning a six-figure salary. The Senate could have obliged him to reimburse. There is no way the taxpayer could have been on the hook for that money. How can he believe that that is a motive? It does not even make sense.”

Mr. Harper was unswayed.

“Mr. Speaker, the facts of the matter are this, that Mr. Wright spent his own money. He assured that that money went back to the Receiver General of Canada, to the taxpayers of Canada,” the Prime Minister reviewed. “He wanted the taxpayers reimbursed, and he is prepared to be accountable before the Ethics Commissioner and others for his decision in that matter which he admits was an error in judgment.”

Back came Mr. Mulcair, leaning forward and chopping both hands in the Prime Minister’s direction. “Mr. Speaker, it is clear that the Senate could have forced Mike Duffy to pay,” he ventured. “Is it not also clear that Nigel Wright’s real motive was to get this problem out of the Prime Minister’s Office as he had ordered during the meeting of his caucus where Nigel Wright was present?”

This was a guess. And Mr. Harper dismissed it.

“Mr. Speaker, I have been very clear. I never gave any such order, any suggestion nor had any idea that Mr. Wright was using his personal money to make sure the taxpayers were reimbursed,” the Prime Minister explained. “That is a decision he took on his own, that he choose not to inform me about. He admits that was an error in judgment, and he will be accountable to the Ethics Commissioner for that decision.”

After 22 questions last Tuesday, 17 questions last Wednesday and 20 questions yesterday, Mr. Harper took another 17 questions this afternoon. And we are perhaps only slightly more aware of what the hell happened than we were on the morning of May 15.

It is to wish that before he’d accepted his chief of staff’s resignation, Mr. Harper had made Mr. Wright stand in the foyer until every query that could be asked had been shouted at him.


 

The Commons: Stephen Harper answers at least one question

  1. More BS from the pm.

    • Awwww. Are you sad that this is turning into a minor transgression rather than the epic scandal you were hoping for? Don’t worry, by fall Trust Fund Trudeau will have said many more idiotic and offensive things, and you’ll be able to spin and defend his idiocy here all winter long.

      • Just for clarification, Rick, what you are talking about here is spinning and being defensive of idiotic and offensive things?

      • In Rick’s defense, against the backdrop of established transgressions that this government has on the go, this one could be considered minor. That, of course, can only be the case if other transgressions are somewhere between major and extreme.

        Thanks, Rick!

        • Liberal MP`s were in court against EC but were allowed to remain in the House and were allowed to vote.

          Today, Liberal MP Marc Garneau wanted two CPC MP`s out of the House because THEY too are in court against EC.

          Garneau must come clean when he lies in the House.

          • And people here give me thumbs down on that! I must be really irking some minds here on the Macleans site if the truth must now be thumbed down.

          • Francien, get down to specifics, please. I suspect that you are again raising violations of CRTC regulations regarding robo-calls, and hoping the ignorant will mistake them as election fraud charges. Speaking as an opponent of the Liberal party, I’d just mention four points in that regard. First, the Liberal MP involved accepted the charge and paid the fine. Second, although the call in question was to do with the election, that was not an elections violation. The call was one that the candidate would benefit from identifying himself, but had failed to do so. This is quite the opposite of deliberately mis-identifying the caller in order to defraud the voter. Thirdly, the CRTC has recently identified the exact same violation on the part of all of the parties. It appears that to date, the Liberal was the only one who has paid the price of that CRTC violation. And fourthly, the two PCP MPs you refer to, are in violation of EC rules, and those rules specifically require that if they are not satisfied, they must be barred from the house. To quote Harpo, the case is very clear. I wonder why you are equating being in court, with being in violation of EC rules…

      • And now Garneau is doing some heavy duty lying. Not that Macleans will ever dare to report on Garneau`s lies when he delivers them in the House. Much better to keep the Liberal stuff hidden to prolong the CPC mini scandal. We understand how it works.

      • Keep on dreaming, bub. The investigation into the senate’s crimes has yet to begin. You got to stop hanging off of every word harpo says, like it’s gospel. he already tried to talk up duffy, wallin and wright and we all know how that’s ended up. And we haven’t even gotten to wallin. porter has yet to face Canadian justice. del mastro and his cousin are still being investigated. We’re slowly getting into the election fraud/robocalls. And lets not forget the most recent scandal, involving EC asking that two con mps, be suspended. I’m not the one who’s sad, here. Though I would encourage all Canadians to be enraged at the crimes of our politicians.

        • Oh, it will begin when all senators will be thoroughly investigated.

          But Justin wants none of that, of course. Justin wants to start anew with a clean slate. And he thinks the voters will fall for that one. Yeah, right. If Justin could take back all that has happened in the past, he would be the happiest man on earth right now.

    • Keep telling yourself that…

    • You cons tried to say that last year, when harpo said he personally viewed his senators’ expenses. By next week you’ll either be back peddling your comments, or trying to lie to cover them up, just like dear leader.

    • Another anti-democratic person who needs to gtfo of canada.

      • Wow, how democratic of you, wanting to kick everybody out of the country who doesn’t agree with you. I think you need to learn what the word “democracy” means, and it doesn’t mean everything goes your way.

        • I didn’t say anything about kicking them out. You just made an assumption. I think MPs in caucus should be allowed to have their voices heard, rather than stifled by Harper’s fascist ways.

  2. And when will Aaron Wherry answer at least one question in regards of EC doing a partisan job.

    EC speaking out publicly against two CPC mp`s while their disagreement with EC is before the courts, but not speaking out against the Liberal MP`s when several of THEM were in the courts against EC. EC stayed silent then and made several agreements with the Liberal MP`s. A punishment was never delivered by EC towards those sitting Liberal MPs`.

    And we must put trust in our media……………………………..why………….

    • I, for one, have a lot of trust in Elections Canada. You don’t seem to share that sentiment. I trust them because I have not ever seen anything that could be viewed as partisan sentiment, let alone action, from them.

      Maybe you’d be happy if it Elections Canada were outsourced to the lowest bidder.

      • Hey, if Liberals cannot raise enough money to be in the leadership race 2006, then why should EC help them out with extension after extension.

        Never mind. When Liberals do something is must be good. I get the picture the media is trying to paint for us by number. Paint by number journalism. That`s what we`ve got and YOU are ok with that.

        That tells me enough, name changer. Always hiding. Always being afraid of the real thing! And it is people like you who pretend to want to make the world a better one for our children and grandchildren. I puke when I hear that one more time coming from cowards like you, never daring to post under a real name but babbling non sense all day long.

        When will you grow up and respond to real events taking place.

    • Francien, get down to specifics please. The case is not of MPs being in the courts, but rather of them being in violation of EC rules, and refusing to meet those rules. The rules are quite specific, requiring them to be barred from the house. I would suspect that a far more reasonable argument would be to wonder why they have been allowed to vote in the house for two years and more. Now, please explain which Liberal MPs you are referring to, which EC rules they are in violation of, and the specific remedy that EC rules require in their specific cases.

      Also, please don’t try to substitute violations of CRTC rules again, as for one thing they are not EC violations, and further, CRTC has recently pointed out that all parties have violated the same CRTC rules (with the probable exception of the Greens.)

  3. Stephen Harper would never admit to discussing the money transfer in question period if he thinks he can get away with it. Wright is an intelligent person and I find it incredibly hard to believe he handed this money over without telling anybody and without considering the potential of this payment being found out. Mulcair’s short questions are 100 times more effective than the partisan questions and answers that you typically hear in question period. The questions often contain so many barbs that responding to them directly would automatically be a kin to calling yourself a moron and vice versa to the responses. Intelligent, direct questions are being asked in question period and your criticising Mulcair? Too boring, not enough dramatic theatrical flare? You have a lot of Conservative caucus members that have heard the PM say on record that he didn’t discuss the Senate expense scandal in caucus meetings which I highly doubt didn’t happen in his caucus meeting, And if my assumption is true Thomas Mulcair has planted a seed in the Conservative MP’s who may know things that contradict the responses the PM has made to Harpers questions. In addition, it gives reporters ample opportunity to prove Harper’s responses wrong in the future. Maybe misleading people in question period will be more serious an offence to the Canadian public in comparison to saying on the campaign trail that Harper would not appoint un-elected Senators.

  4. Duffy should not have claimed his PEI house as his main residence.
    He probably told Wright that the CPC owed him $90000 to pay for his campaigning.
    Wright gave him the $90000 to pay back to the taxpayer what was owed.

    Liberals use taxpayer money to pay their debts—Conservatives use their own money—that`s what people will see.

    No matter about the hysterics of Mulcair, or Trudeau or other liberals around here, as far as the public is concerned that`s the end of the story—-this story will sway voters in the next election as much as wafers, and census forms, and prorogation, and orange juice did in the last election.

    Time to move on to the next fake scandal—-your chicken little routine is boring Canadians—–I never cease to be amazed by the stupidity of you guys.

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