The Prime Minister explains by proxy -

The Prime Minister explains by proxy

Some clarification of what the Prime Minister didn’t know


After some confusion about his answers to reporter’s questions on Thursday, Mr. Harper’s office confirmed that he did not know about efforts to have the party cover Mr. Duffy’s expenses. And after a “no” from the Prime Minister on Friday, Mr. Harper’s office clarified that he had no knowledge of Senator Irving Gerstein’s efforts in regard to Deloitte.

And after those two appearances by Mr. Harper, the Prime Minister’s director of communications spoke this weekend to the CBC, GlobalCTV and the Canadian Press.

In Jason MacDonald’s conversation with CTV, we get straightforward confirmation on three fronts: according to his spokesman, the Prime Minister didn’t know about efforts to influence the Deloitte audit of Mike Duffy, didn’t know about the possibility that the Conservative party might cover Mr. Duffy’s expenses and didn’t know that his staff sought to edit the Senate report on Mr. Duffy.

And had the Prime Minister known about attempts to influence the Deloitte audit, he apparently would’ve put a stop to them.

Perhaps it would’ve been useful for the Prime Minister to have explained this all himself, clearly and thoroughly and publicly in the wake of this week’s filing by the RCMP. Maybe he could have stood somewhere—like, say, if we had a really nice-looking place specifically designed as some kind of venue for speeches by our elected representatives, maybe somewhere located in or near our national capital, we could even give the Prime Minister his own seat or spot in this place—and explained what he knew, or rather all of the things of which he was apparently unaware.

CTV’s Robert Fife lands the really difficult question at the 6:15 of his interview: why didn’t the Prime Minister investigate this matter as soon as it was reported in May and explain to the public what had occurred?

As it is, because his statement on June 5 about who in his office was aware of what Nigel Wright did, it is probably fair to wonder how much the Prime Minister did to investigate this himself.

And as for Mr. MacDonald’s explanations, the Canadian Press now wonders what he meant when he said the plan was to “compel” Mr. Duffy to repay his expenses.

The “comms” question to be debated by future generations of “public relations” students is whether the Prime Minister might’ve done better to explain everything at the earliest opportunity. Of course, hindsight is unfair and everyone thinks they’re a political strategist, but it’s tempting to conclude that an early airing of the facts would have been preferable to the last six months of regular revelations and discoveries. But possibly Mr. Harper did not have any idea on May 16 that this is what the next six months were going to bring (if he had, he probably would’ve made sure Mr. Wright exited the PMO more promptly).

Maybe showing a willingness to be forthcoming wouldn’t have helped. Maybe explaining yourself to some degree only makes it easier for opponents and voters to demand more explanation than you’re willing to provide. Maybe explaining oneself doesn’t so much answer all the questions so much as it leads to new questions. But maybe we should decide on demanding some new standard of explanation from our political leaders. Like, say, for instance, the federal government was set to reduce its spending in various ways by billions of dollars. We might expect said government to submit to a thorough accounting of those reductions. Or we could even expect one of the government’s ministers to stand in that place we were imagining a few paragraphs ago and table such an accounting.

Government control of information and a general reluctance to explain is hardly a new matter for discussion. But we might at least use this moment to imagine some changes for the future.


The Prime Minister explains by proxy

  1. This comment was deleted.


    • Weird that a women’s response to unacceptable sexual behaviour is to send an email to somebody. Why not just go the appropriate office and file a complaint or call the cops?

      • Makes me think this might be somehow motivated by someone giving this lady a paper bag and a wink wink on how to detract these CON issues from the media.

    • Now you point it out it isn’t right that the new leader of a third placed party, a leader who wasn’t around for much of the alleged activity, isn’t right at all that story doesn’t immediately compel a journalist to drop a red hot and running scandal on the guy who is actually PM.( which I’d guess sun may be gearing itself up to doing) It is astonishing that they aren’t given exact equal weight.
      The joke around here is you JG.

      • No one is asking him to drop the Duffy/PMO/PM story. At least I’m not. In no case have I ever suggested that the story should not be covered. Exactly the opposite is true. Pretty sure he can multitask. It’s been 4 days since the story broke.

        • Is it being covered adequately elsewhere, yes. Why do you insist AW in particular dance to your tune?

          • Because of the job title in his bio. I don’t see how anyone can call themselves a Parliamentary reporter, and refuse to cover sexual harassment or even allegations of sexual assault by Parliamentarians, especially considering allegations that Trudeau’s office sat on this story for months after being informed about it.

            But perhaps I’m mistaken. I assumed that potentially drawing the leader of a party and possible next PM of Canada into a potential coverup of sexual harassment was newsworthy. Perhaps even more newsworthy than the 1 day story every Liberal scandal is. Maybe something to do with all the Duffy stories I’ve read here.

            By the way, the PMO/Duffy story is being covered elsewhere too.

          • It hardly merits a full bore f**k it all! The sky is falling hissy fit. And certainly not one directed at your fav whipping boy – once again, does it?
            Actually the jokes around here are Oman! and FV. You should know better. Get a grip!

          • But the PMO/Duffy storey, in addition to being much more important than stories about a creepy old leech, is constantly evolving and changing so that it keeps itself at the top of the news. Also, the Liberals are not trying to make a lot of blanket denials and irrational counterclaims, so they don’t have to keep changing their “talking points” and drawing attention to themselves.

          • 1) It does not just involve a “creepy old leech”. It involves what the leader knew about that creepy old leech, when, why he did nothing 3 months ago, and what did he cover up. Once we learned Trudeau’s office was notified months ago, this became a *much* bigger deal.

            2) Before the Liberals can make blanket denials of anything, someone in the journalism profession, not just a commenter on a blog, needs to ask them a f***ing question.

          • There wasn’t a “blanket denial”. There was a very specific explanation offered for why the email wasn’t read.

            If they’re lying about it I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough – the complainant simply has to produce the email she sent.
            That she hasn’t tells you why even Sun News isn’t pretending there’s evidence of some sort of “cover up”.

            Can’t speak for whatever kook blogs are getting you cranked up, though.

          • Very odd. You would think that someone who worked with politicians would know how email is handled.

            I don’t want to blame the victim, but I do think that if she wanted to report it she probably should have done it in person rather than send an email. Or at least follow up on the email after receiving no response – particularly since she titled it “Senate Reform”. I mean seriously – how is anyone supposed to read that topic and understand it was about sexual harassment?

          • You’re reaching so hard, you’re going to pull something. If you think that the Liberals spent 3 months ignoring a problem then you might have an argument to make, but if you think they were “covering it up” then you’ve jumped the tracks. Why in the hell would they bother, in the first place?

            The guy has left the Liberal caucus, the police aren’t even interested, and the Senate is going to investigate the charges. The guy has been credibly accused of being a creepy old douchebag. Not only is that unremarkable, it was the single defining feature of Vic Toews who served for years in the CPC cabinet without a word of objection from all the good people who form that collective.

            Stop with the hystrionics, John, you’ll give yourself palpitations.

    • Well, this is the first I’ve heard of this story.


      There must be other writers who haven’t yet covered this story. Quick – get to their comments and shriek at them before they do!

      • What makes you think I haven’t?

    • “The first letter was written Aug. 22 and sent to Trudeau’s office but had the subject line “Senate Reform.” A Liberal spokeswoman said that’s why the “e-mail was triaged into a bulk folder of the Senate reform e-mails and was not seen by our office.”
      The staffer wrote a second letter Oct. 24, this time to the Liberal leader in the Senate, James Cowan, who then flagged her initial e-mail to Trudeau’s office.
      A meeting between the former staffer and Liberal party chief of staff Cyrus Reporter took place Nov. 4.”

      There’s their explanation from another source. It might not be a ringing endorsement of their office practices but it is mundane enough to have the ring of truth about it.
      Now how does the suspending of Kenny and an administrative slip up compare with the Harper – Senate criminal events complete with RCMP investigation? How does the apparent openness of the former compare with the constant obfuscation and spin of the latter?
      And when you answer those questions you might have some idea why Wherry focuses where he does.

      Should the Lib explanation begin to show cracks I’m pretty sure focus will shift until then stop pouting

      • Please. You’re not really this naive. If we took politicians’ word for it without checking it out, there would be no Duffy story.

        • Harper would have claimed the email didn’t exist. Or that he first heard about it when the media broke it. Or both.

          • And then that it was written by his Chief of Staff without his knowledge or consent.

        • If you have any evidence that Trudeau knew about the memo and ignored it then present it.
          If you have any evidence that what Reporter claimed is false go for it.

          We have loads of evidence that Harper has been telling untruths to Parliament. Hence the attention.

          Why is this so hard for the right to understand?

    • There’s already a post about on this site written by CP and you commented on it. There’s no news on it. Nice try at diversion.

    • Wow. “Officially” ridiculous.

      Who knew you were in any position to determine anything is official?

    • Oh MY! boo hoo… it seems accusations are instantly converted to guilt????? Sour grapes perhaps???
      Three months ago.. was Trudeau even the liberal leader then? Not sure myself but I do stand to be corrected.
      The story certainly fulfills the criteria for a ‘redirection’ though doesn’t it? Very timely and convenient, considering according to you these allegations have been around for 20 years.
      Myself, I will wait to see the conclusion of the investigation before trying to cry wolf…

      Though perhaps, I just have no desperate need to cry wolf?

  2. OK. Enough already Wherry.

    He didn’t know that he didn’t know until he was told that he didn’t know.

    • Nice summary of the situation – much better than what Mr. Wherry came up with.

  3. Parliament is wasted on Harper. Better mothball the place…cept for the mace and the throne, they might come in handy.

  4. If a man does not display the leadership skills to run his own office what can we say about his ability to run the country?

    Given the PM’s ability to pick scoundrels from a sea of people in his past appointments, I would have thought he would be coming to the conclusion that he is hopeless at personnel selection and would seek assistance for that purpose. Unless it is deliberate of course. “I know nothing” is not an excuse, he should have known and he should take responsibility for his appointments and their actions.

    • Every true leader and manager, knows that you can’t micro-manage your staff. People must be allowed to do their jobs without having the boss edit all their emails. Harper had his own work, including, but not limited to the EU trade negotiations, and he had qualified people in the PMO.

      • Rubbish

        This government pushed the idea of “Ministerial Responsibility” in order to prevent those in their departments form testifying before committees. They were the ones who refused to let their staff testify because the work of the department was the responsibility of the minister and the relevant minister would testify if needed.

        “Ministers are individually responsible to Parliament and the Prime
        Minister for their own actions and those of their department, including
        the actions of all officials under their management and direction,
        whether or not the Ministers had prior knowledge. In practice, when
        errors or wrongdoings are committed by officials under their direction,
        Ministers are responsible for promptly taking the necessary remedial
        steps and for providing assurances to Parliament that appropriate
        corrective action has been taken to prevent reoccurrence.”

        The PM is the minister in charge of the PCO and PMO and as such is the one responsible for what happens/ed in those offices and is responsible for being open to parliament about it.
        He has been far from open so far.

        • Rubbish to you too. I think that preventing staff from being pulled before committees is a good idea. Otherwise, no junior person would like to work there if there were going to be interrogated by seasoned politicians, and it would be a witch hunt and chaos.

          However, in this case, the situation is not so settled, and the Senate should have primary jurisdiction.

          I think the facts have all been disclosed except for one. And for those disclosed, it should be end of story. The one and only real question is why help Duffy but not the others?

          And micro-managing is still not workable.

          • But Harper has sent staff into the lions den rather than the minister responsible. The routine is the staff gets fired in a display of getting tough with offenders and then giving them another job in a different ministry.

          • Micro managing is not workable and yet Harper is a micro manager in all aspects of his rule, so why would he not have micro-managed here? That’s the real question.

          • The Senate should have primary jurisdiction over the PMO? That’s an, er… interesting take on things…

          • Senate should have primary jurisdiction over Senate.

          • They should, yes. In this instance it looks increasingly like the Senate was controlled by the PMO. The PMO was doing all kinds of things it shouldn’t have. And given the government’s insistence on ministerial responsibility, that means that if Harper’s word is any good (hah!) then he should be wearing this – even in the unlikely event he was kept out of the loop.

          • The only question there really is: Why try to help Duffy with his debt, but not Wallin and Brazeau? Was it simply that they knew the latter had the money to repay, but Duffy was broke?

          • I’m inclined to think they believed Duffy had information that would be damaging to the party or – more likely – to Harper himself. Though if he did, you’d think he would have played that card by now (unless any incriminating evidence was handed over in exchange for the $90 G).

      • The secret is to hire the right staff. Harper’s track record on that front is far from stellar. And wasn’t Wright handling the EU trade negotiations?

    • So what does it say to you that Trudeau apparently doesn’t bother reading e-mails with the subject line “Senate Reform”? Even when that e-mail contains accusations that a Liberal senator was sexually harassing his staff? Is *that* leadership?

      • Wow.

        That comment takes stupid to a whole new level.

        • I’m going to stop responding to Ricky soon as it isn’t a challenge to identify his logical errors and all around dumbth.

      • Oh Ricky aren’t you precious?
        You try and charge Trudeau with apathy for not reading all the e-mails his office receives; then you accuse him of ignoring accusations while already acknowledging he never read the accusations in the first place.

        But you are willing to accept that Harper had nothing to do with the Senate fraud issue even though one e-mail says “I am off to get approval from the PM” and one an hour later says “Good to go.”

        Boy are you a messed up excuse for a thinker…

  5. I disagree with the assertion that the PM should have got involved. If the Senate is to be independent of the House, then the PM should have let the Senate do it’s process, and not get involved as long as they are working on it. And, I don’t see that there is anything of essential substance to influence on either the Deloitte report or Senate report. We know about the expenses and we know about the repayment of the expenses. The rest is nothing to influence.

    • Residency was an issue the PMO didn’t want the auditors to nail Duffy on. You’re clearly not following this closely.

      • That’s because following closely is seen as an act of disloyalty to the true believers.

        • Staff are obviously told they will go straight to hell if they read anything but their talking points.

      • But why should Harper care about Duffy, more than Wallin, Brazeau? You’re clearly not following?

  6. So now Calandra will spend his day explaining what MacDonald meant on Sunday. Clearly, the PMO communication strategy is flawed.

    • This is what I don’t get, Harper is in it so deeply now that only he can pull himself out. So his choice to send yet another pawn out to defend him indicates that he can’t or won’t defend himself. He’s going all in on the bunker strategy and he’s left himself no escape route.

      • He’s afraid of having that Television Moment, where he says something on camera that’s later proven to be a lie. Perpetually passing the buck on every issue that touches his office means there’s always someone else to “retire” when things get hot.

        I hope MacDonald’s resume is up-to-date.

  7. Its official the cat has Emily’s tongue!

  8. Ask Paul Calandra your own questions at

  9. The whole thing is a non issue, completely manufactured scandal. Just like those American ones that disgust Canadians. A Toronto Scandal. Everyone should just get back to real work.

    The only curiosity is why the PMO wanted to help Duffy, but not the same help for Wallin, Brazeau.