The mystery of the February 20 email

The most intriguing document in the Duffy-Wright affair


On Tuesday night, CTV’s sources said the Prime Minister’s Office was withholding from the RCMP an email dated February 20 that describes the arrangement between Mike Duffy and Nigel Wright. On Wednesday, the Prime Minister’s Office said the RCMP had not asked for the email.

“Contrary to CTV’s reporting, our office has not been asked for this email,” spokesperson Julie Vaux said in an email statement. “As we have always said, we will assist investigations into this matter.”

The RCMP might not have asked for this email, but the opposition has.

Here is Justin Trudeau’s fifth question on May 22.

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the minister said that no document exists about the secret payoff between the PMO and Senator Duffy. Let me rephrase that. An email, which in fact does exist, describes the secret agreement. To help the government find it, I will say it was dated February 20, 2013, and it is currently in the possession of the Prime Minister’s Office. Let me cover all the bases here. Will the government commit to releasing this and any other email or document, electronic or otherwise, that relates to the secret deal between the PMO and Senator Duffy?

The NDP’s Francoise Boivin picked up on the February 20 email the next day.

Mr. Speaker, in just one week, the Prime Minister went from having full confidence in his former chief of staff to being “not happy”. That is quite an about-face. The Conservatives are quite specific in their denial. They deny the existence of any legal documents, but they have nothing to say about the February 20 email. Does the Prime Minister’s Office have any document—a memo, a handwritten or electronic note, an email, a PIN, a BBM, a fax, anything—regarding Nigel Wright’s $90,000 payment to Mike Duffy?

In his response, James Moore said the government was “not aware of any kind of legal document or agreement.”

Two questions later, Ralph Goodale gave it a try.

Mr. Speaker, any payment to anyone to influence the conduct of a senator is an indictable offence carrying jail time as a penalty under both the Parliament of Canada Act and the Criminal Code. It should not take a week to figure that out. Throwing Wright and Duffy under the bus does not make the corruption go away. The whole illicit scheme is outlined in an email, dated February 20. The Prime Minister’s Office has that email. Will they table it today?

In his response, Mr. Moore said the government was “not aware of any legal agreement … whatsoever, in any format whatsoever.”

Thomas Mulcair’s first question on the matter asked the government to “release all documents related to this secret backroom deal.” Mr. Trudeau opened with a general demand of “Show us the documents.” A week later, Mr. Mulcair asked the Prime Minister whether a search of Nigel Wright’s emails had been conducted. The NDP’s Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe asked if there was any “non-legal document regarding the $90,000 payment that Nigel Wright made to Mike Duffy” and asked if the government would commit to releasing “all the documents concerning the agreement between Nigel Wright and Mike Duffy.” Liberal MP Marc Garneau wondered when the government would “give Canadians a chance to see all of the documents for themselves.”

The Prime Minister’s director of communication now seems to admit to possessing second-hand knowledge of the February 20 email.

“My understanding is it is a paraphrase of conversations that happened,” he told CTV’s Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife. “I’ve had them described to me from someone who is no longer here.”

So is the Prime Minister’s Office in possession of said email? That’s unclear.

Were Conservative members of the ethics committee so curious, they might’ve voted to convene hearings into the matter and conceivably made an order for documents. There were as well two order paper questions filed by Mr. Trudeau that sought records “regarding the letter of understanding between the Prime Minister’s former Chief of Staff, Nigel Wright, and Senator Mike Duffy regarding the payment of $90,127 to cover Senator Duffy’s living expenses.”

There is probably a useful discussion to be had about the standard of disclosure we should expect—both realistically and philosophically—from our government, whether they should necessarily have to be compelled by demand of Parliament or law to release documents or whether some level of voluntary disclosure should be expected. Of course, if the PMO released a pile of documents tomorrow, we might have to wonder whether we were being allowed to see all relevant documents or only those that the PMO wished us to see.

In the case of the February 20 email though, if it exists and if it is in the possession of the Prime Minister’s Office, it has been asked for. Just apparently not in a way that the Prime Minister’s Office is compelled to release it.


The mystery of the February 20 email

  1. now its the time to bring in the heavy artillery to get to the bottom of this cover-up and tell us the Canadian taxpayers who the real culprits are. ” Kreskin “. and if Kreskin cant tell us, well maybe George Stombo can call Oprah(there good buds these days) and have Oprah to pay Mike Duffy $90,000.00 to pay back nigel wright and to tell it all. but there has to be political asylum set up for Duffy in Russia first. someone needs to get to this paranoid and corrupt harper government.

  2. And suddenly, missing emails becomes a topic worthy of Aaron Wherry’s undivided attention.

    • That’s what we’re going with? Missing? Accidentally deleted?

    • This comment was deleted.

  3. The RCMP has to act. It can’t just wait and ask nicely for evidence that has been referred to and confirmed in public. While they are getting their warrant they should ask for all PMO documents related to Clusterduff up to and including Wright’s resignation. That’s where the cover-up strategy was drafted and decided.

  4. cover up cover up cover up cover up cover up

    That, or Andrew MacDougall is a liar in the PMO. So pick one and get on with it, RCMP.

  5. This comment was deleted.

    • 1. An email sent to or from a government office by civil servants (that’s what Duffy and Wright are/were regardless of their misplaced allegiance to the Conservative Party of Canada) is the property of the Government of Canada, and the responsibility of whoever heads that department, in this case the prime minister.

      2. Even if it was, as you say, a private message, if it is also evidence of a crime, hiding or destroying or refusing to hand it over, could be considered obstruction of justice.

      3. It’s a wonder the RCMP would bother trying to get copies from a third party when the best evidence is held by the author and the recipient, who would also be able to explain what they intended and what actions they took in response.

  6. Aren’t they “transparent”.. This is on so many occasions the least transparent, most full of cover-ups/working behind closed doors and uncaring of Canadians government to date.

    By far.

  7. Maybe “obstruction of justice” can be added to the list of criminal offenses that appear to be piling up here.

    • This comment was deleted.

      • I believe you mean the bribe (singular) he refused and didn’t report in the absence of any corroborating evidence.

        But carry on with your harmless, irrelevant diversions. At least they keep you preoccupied.

      • Speaking of lying…

        The funniest part is how NotRick has already admitted that lying to a reporter once two years ago isn’t “lying for 17 years”

        but…but…saying “he lied for 17 years” just sounds so much better!


        • It does mean that 15 years later he was lying about it.
          Did he tell the truth sometime before, or after that?
          If not, than that is at least “not telling the truth” for 17 years.
          If you don’t consider it “lying”, that’s your semantic prerogative, but you’ll have to do better to convince others.
          For the record, I don’t think not reporting one attempted bribe is a big deal. It’s odious, but so is Quebec politics.

          • I’m pretty sure I don’t have to convince anyone with an elementary grasp of English that not revealing something publicly is not “lying”.

      • How is it a “private” email? The PMO has already confirmed that Wright barely knew Duffy so it was clearly in his role as Chief of Staff for the Prime Minister that he was communicating with Senator Duffy. The communication is the property of the Prime Minister’s Office, and Stephen Harper has the authority to read it, copy it, and release it.

        By the way, it’s the RCMP that Stephen Harper is currently refusing to release the email to. Why is that?

  8. what a cover up! Duffygate?

  9. The RCMP can’t (or won’t) comment on something that is part of an investigation so the PMO and CPC are free to stone wall and spread false information as they like. It’s a shitty situation. Much like most things in Ottawa right now.

  10. Let the PMO keep farting around. Who won’t thoroughly enjoy the footage, when it comes, of the RCMP enacting a search warrant in Langevin Block?

  11. Of course we are allowing the Harper Government to get away with these technicalities while they do damage control. We need a Canadian Revolution to make them accountable …. there now the PMO will monitor my emails as I am a terrorist for saying the bad R word

    • That would require the PMO to consider you to be important or significant in the first place. You’ve got nothing to worry about.

  12. The Bay Street “Wonder Boy” Nigel Wright DOES NOT
    GIVE AWAY HIS OWN MONEY! Not a single
    dime came out of Wright’s pocket!

    It would be a simple matter of Nigel Wright INVOICING the “Conservative
    Fund of Canada” account (the Conservative Party’s –> taxpayer-subsidized
    war chest <—-) multiple times for some phoney "Financial Consultant
    Fees" to accrue back the $90K. CPC
    treates that Fund's coffer as their private "Honey Pot."

    Are there any conversations between Conservative Senator
    Irving Gerstein (Harper’s bagman) and the PMO about Nigel getting paid back
    from the “Conservative Fund of Canada” — the federal party’s war chest Gerstein
    once chaired.



  13. I guess the “enemies list” just had the RCMP added to it, putting the number of names on the list at 34.47 million people.

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