The sketch: The Prime Minister clings to ignorance -

The sketch: The Prime Minister clings to ignorance

Mr. Harper can at least point to one thing he didn’t know


The Prime Minister said he had been “very clear” and the New Democrats laughed. The Prime Minister offered to be “very clear” and the New Democrats laughed again.

“It is right in the documents about what Mr. Wright told the RCMP,” Mr. Harper reported for the House’s benefit. “He said he told me that Senator Duffy had agreed to repay the money. He told me that he did not inform me of his personal decision to pay that money himself. When I learned of that, I took the appropriate action.”

There was a bit of a stumble here—Mr. Wright conceivably not having had to tell Mr. Harper what he had not told him—but here is basically what the Prime Minister has to say for himself. He didn’t know. Specifically, he didn’t know about the cheque.

“Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister keeps trying to hold onto a detail,” Thomas Mulcair now noted for the Speaker’s benefit. “We are talking about the whole scheme that took place in his office.”

There were grumbles from the government side.

“On February 22,” Mr. Mulcair continued, “Nigel Wright wrote: ‘I do want to speak to the PM before everything is considered final.’ An hour later he wrote: ‘We are good to go from the PM.’ ”

“Ohh!” exclaimed those New Democrats who had apparently not yet had time to review the documents for themselves.

Mr. Mulcair leaned in, stared at the Prime Minister and chopped his hand in Mr. Harper’s direction. “What did the Prime Minister approve during that hour?” he demanded to know.

Here now Mr. Harper would proclaim and celebrate his ignorance.

“Mr. Speaker, this is answered right in the RCMP documents. They say that Nigel Wright said the Prime Minister was aware on February 22 that Senator Duffy had agreed to repay the money,” Mr. Harper explained.

“I later learned on May 15 that was not true and let me tell members what the conclusion of the RCMP is on this. After months of interviews and review of documents, the investigator says he is not aware of any evidence that the Prime Minister was involved in the repayment or reimbursement of money to Senator Duffy or his lawyer. The RCMP could not be clearer on this.”

The Conservatives stood and cheered. Indeed, they gave their man an extended ovation for this. Huzzah for clarity. Huzzah for the RCMP. Huzzah for not knowing what one’s chief of staff did.

There are indeed sentences in today’s “information to obtain productions order” filing that suggest Mr. Harper was not aware of some details. At page 12, conveying the details of an interview with Nigel Wright, Cpl. Greg Horton writes that, “some people within the PMO were aware of the arrangement, but Prime Minister Harper was not.” At page 72, Cpl. Horton writes that he is “not aware of any evidence that the Prime Minister was involved in the repayment or reimbursement of money to Senator Duffy or his lawyer.”

That merely leaves everything else alleged within those pages to account for.

On what “broad terms” did Mr. Harper understand Mr. Wright to have operated?

What of the alleged machinations of Mr. Harper’s office to influence the Senate’s investigation and audit of Mr. Duffy? What of the alleged “efforts to withdraw Senator Duffy from the Deloitte audit”? What of the allegation that the original draft report of the Senate committee investigating Mr. Duffy “went against the media lines and conditions already agreed upon by the PMO and Senator” and that “the PMO in turn set out to have the Senate Report changed to reflect how they wanted it to appear,” the final result being a “Senate Report which lacked criticism of Senator Duffy, as the PMO wanted”?

Mr. Mulcair waited for the cheering and the yapping from the government side to subside and then he returned to the words of Mr. Wright as cited in the RCMP filing.

“Mr. Speaker, ‘We are good to go,’ ” Mr. Mulcair conveyed. “Good to go with what?”

“Mr. Speaker, good to go with Mr. Duffy repaying his own expenses,” Mr. Harper responded, “as he has acknowledged I told him to, personally, as he told everybody he had done, including the Canadian public; and when we found that was not true, we took the appropriate action, and he has been appropriately sanctioned by the Senate.”

Mr. Harper jabbed his finger and the Conservatives stood again and cheered. Gary Goodyear pointed at and heckled the NDP leader. Maxime Bernier motioned with his arms for Mr. Mulcair to keep coming. Whatever the unseemliness of this whole affair, there apparently remains some confidence on the government side that everything is going to be okay. Or that the basic facts still put the onus on someone other than their man. Or at least that ignorance is bliss.

Mr. Mulcair did, in fact, return to his feet. And then Mr. Trudeau pronounced shame on Mr. Harper.

Does the Prime Minister still believe that he bears no responsibility for the corruption in his own office?” the earnest Liberal earnestly wondered after he had been loudly mocked for proclaiming in his way that “Canadians deserve leaders who tell the truth.”

“Mr. Speaker, once again, what the RCMP has confirmed in its documents today is that two individuals, Mr. Duffy and Mr. Wright, are under investigation for their actions in this matter,” Mr. Harper clarified in response, “and it has also confirmed that this Prime Minister has been telling exactly the truth.”

Or at least the truth as this Prime Minister knew it to be at the time.

After Mr. Trudeau it was back to Mr. Mulcair. And after Mr. Mulcair had finished with the last of his 15 questions, the New Democrats sent up Megan Leslie, Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe, Alexandre Boulerice and Charlie Angus, the Liberals dispatching Dominic LeBlanc and Ralph Goodale to join the investigation and the Prime Minister giving way to his parliamentary secretary, Paul Calandra, when the NDP and Liberal leaders had finished.

As the hour proceeded, there was some conferring between Mr. Mulcair and his House leader Nathan Cullen. Mr. Cullen then proceeded to the Speaker’s chair and then proceeded to walk hastily around the NDP benches, trying to find a backbencher who conceivably needed to be advised that his or her speaking spot was about to be taken by the party leader.

With matters sufficiently readjusted, the Speaker called once again on Mr. Mulcair.

“Ohh!” mocked voices on the government side.

“Mr. Speaker,” Mr. Mulcair asked, “who ordered the whitewashing of the Deloitte audit into Senate expenses?”

Mr. Angus had already basically asked this question, but here seemingly was the question that the New Democrats had apparently decided belatedly that they wanted their leader to be seen and heard putting to the Prime Minister.

Only the Prime Minister didn’t stand up.

“Ohh!” mocked voices on the NDP side when Mr. Calandra stood instead.

Mr. Calandra would not tell us tales of how things were done in his father’s pizza store. He would instead lament for an envelope Mr. Mulcair was offered in 1994.

“Mr. Speaker, I know it is troubling for the leader of the NDP because of the contrast to him waiting 17 years to talk about the fact that he was offered a bribe,” Mr. Calandra explained. “He sees the trouble now that Quebec is going through because of his delay in speaking about that.”

Who, indeed, was Mr. Mulcair to even look in Mr. Harper’s direction without anything other than humble and admiring eyes? Who was the NDP leader to ask for anything other than advice on how to be a great prime minister?

“When he contrasts himself to this Prime Minister who, as soon as he found out, took immediate action, opened up his office and ordered them to co-operate and assist the RCMP, I know he must be embarrassed,” Mr. Calandra continued, “because there is nothing he can compare to this Prime Minister when it comes to open, accountable, reliable government, and this Prime Minister showed that leadership every single day.”

The Conservatives stood and cheered Mr. Calandra as he finished this paean to a man whose leadership is apparently writ large in a trove of emails that were handed over to the RCMP and now help form the basis of a remarkable tale about the machinations of a government.


The sketch: The Prime Minister clings to ignorance

  1. At worst, he personally ordered it done and chose the people who executed the plan. At the very least, he fostered an attitude within the party […], chose the managers of the people who committed these crimes and completely and utterly failed to exercise any oversight, supervision or leadership. In the end, it doesn’t really matter where [his] actions or lack of them fall on that scale. He is the leader and a leader is responsible for the actions of the people he leads. If he had a right or honourable bone in his body, he’d admit that and resign immediately.”

    Stephen Harper during the Gomery Investigation

    • Yes, of course, a leader is responsible for the actions of the people he leads. The problem with Harper is that he has no right or honorable bone in his body to speak of. A liar, a cheater, a bully and a coward, that’s what he is as far as I am concerned.

    • The Liberals were running a money laundering scheme thru the Federal Ministry of Public Works, and stuffing their pockets and party coffers with millions in stolen taxpayers money,
      this scandal isn’t even on the same planet as Adscam.

      • this scandal isn’t even on the same planet as Adscam

        You may be right. Now, how about that $1 million life insurance policy that Harper offered to Chuck Cadman if he voted to support the government budget?

        Are we on the same planet now?

      • Once again, the only defence offered by the Conservatives: the Liberals were worse.
        Once upon a time Harper rode into town vowing to clean up corruption and undue government influence; to offer complete transparency and accountability in government.
        It was all a lie and all you cling to? the Liberals were worse

        Who knows how deep anything runs with this government when the doors remain closed and secrecy abounds? When the unelected PMO has such enormous influence. Harper closes the drapes, calls no inquiries and invokes closure whenever possible.
        Who knows what state the books are in? He’s hamstrung the PBO. Access to Information is in it’s worst state ever. Secretive, secretive, secretive.
        Why should I trust Harper’s numbers? Flaherty well and truly cooked the books in Ontario. Leopards don’t change their spots
        Once you start telling lies, they tend to build on one another and even you know this is just the tip of the iceberg.

      • I dunno. With adscam you can see why the people doing it would not want Chretien to know about it. With this matter, it’s amazing to think Harper wasn’t told.

      • We have PMO/Senate scandal PLUS voter suppression scandal! Voter suppression, sharon…think about that a moment.

      • That’s funny, it sounds exactly the same to me, aside from the amount of money that we know the Senators siphoned.

        Leaving aside that the principle makes it irrelevant, this doesn’t account for the billions of dollars that have just vanished under Harper’s watch.

    • Dear Tom Mulcair,
      Above this comment, you will see another. It contains a paragraph of italicized text, a quote of Stephen Harper’s from some time ago. Next time you decide to take over the vast majority of your party’s questions during question period, please bring a print-out of the above italicized paragraph with you and read it aloud to Prime Minister Harper. Then ask him if he can possibly miss the applicability of his own words to his current situation.
      There is nothing quite as effective at painting someone into a corner as using their own rhetoric against them. Please take advantage of this priceless opportunity.

      Thank you kindly,

  2. So people who harper hired or appointed, are running around HIS office (the PMO ) breaking laws, lying to the public, interfering with audits etc etc.. and harper didn’t Know a thing.

    If we are to take harper at his word, then he is an incompetent fool, un-fit to be PM or like his ex chief of staff stated “harper is in over his head”, etc etc…

    Or, despite the possibility he may not have known about the specific $90,000 check, harper was leading his band of misfit, criminals and hooligans on the biggest fraud, cover up, bribery, Senate scandal in the history of Canada.

    • There was nothing in the RCMP report about interfering with audits, lots of reference in the wording of the report to the Senate.
      Evidence showed Duffy wanted the audit stopped, which it did not,
      but PMO was interested in the Deloitte decision on primary and secondary residences because it would set a precedent and possibly affect other Senators..

      • Wow selective reading makes people ignorant, there was at least 3 mentions of senator gerstein making calls to his contact at Deloitte to see if they could halt the audit! That is breaking the law, and also brings up an interesting question, since deloitte also audits the CPC funds, and has been awarded millions of dollars in contracts by the harper government. Gersteins ability to seemingly have some influence calls into question any audit EVER performed by deloitte, and why they seem to be the sole auditor!

      • There’s an e-mail sentence SPECIFICALLY SAYING that Harper gave the go-ahead. You yourself have acknowledged this.

        You are a liar.

  3. At page 72, Cpl. Horton writes that he is “not aware of any evidence that the Prime Minister was involved in the repayment or reimbursement of money to Senator Duffy or his lawyer.”

    Considering the FACT the conservative government has taken great pains and gone to great lengths to hide, destroy, lie about evidence.. this does not preclude the FACT that evidence may exist somewhere, that has yet to see the light of day or FOUND YET by Cpl Horton.

    The cons shouldn’t count their chickens before they hatch!

    • You are forgetting one other detail. Nigel Wright has sworn in an Affidavit that Harper knew nothing of his decision to provide the money. He has claimed all along that he never consulted Harper. If that is true, there will be no evidence to hide or destroy and no reason to lie.

      • So what, this is politics! Harper might plausibly have said: ‘You deal with this Nigel, i don’t want or need to know the details. Just get it done.’
        Would that really let either of them off the hook?

        • If you read the RCMP docs, not advising the PM/head of government is the reason for the fraud charges against both Duffy and Wright (see the conclusion at end of report)

          • There are no charges at this point, sharon. And there are many more docs to come. I am sure that, like most Canadians, you want to know the truth, right?

          • How do you come to that conclusion, given the content of the e-mails and Harper’s behaviour thus far?

      • Apparently he does not say Harper did not know about the plans for the Conservative Party to pay Duffy’s debt, or the cover up of that plan. I don’t think it makes a difference if Wright paid or if it was the party – the point is the cover up.

        In any event, the buck stops with the leader. He chose leadership, and one of the consequences of leadership is that you have to be accountable for what happens under your watch.

  4. “It is right in the documents about what Mr. Wright told the RCMP,” Mr. Harper reported for the House’s benefit. “He said he told me that Senator Duffy had agreed to repay the money. He told me that he did not inform me of his personal decision to pay that money himself. When I learned of that, I took the appropriate action.”

    That offering, even in context, would keep a shrink happy for a month of Sundays. It’s flat out wierd! Harper is attempting to slip through some rhetorical word hole in space and time and undo/complete the past and present all at the same time.

  5. Harper thought bubble: “How come Vladdie [Putin] never has these problems? Note to self: I need a gulag. Why did we p!ss away that 50 mill on Tony’s gazebo upgrades? I could use that money now to set up a little penal colony somewhere above the Arctic Circle. Part of my brand’s commitment to Our Great Canadian North. Sort of.”

  6. Read the report, around page 70, where the RCMP tear apart Duffy’s theatrics in the Senate, both times.
    Duffy lied thru his teeth, HE was the one who got his lawyer to lay out 5 conditions or he would not let Nigel pay back his expenses. (which is the grounds for the bribery charge) HE started and carried out the nefarious scheme, not the PMO, no evidence of his claims about anything.
    But he sure had the media sucked in to his stories.
    Oh, and not one email/doc the RCMP have requested from Duffy has been provided, RCMP say media report that hundreds of emails sent to them by Duffy’s lawyer was absolutely false.
    Imagine that, the media getting it wrong or just making things up.

    • The docs show that Duffy did not want to go along with this, but was bribed to do so. Duffy is a pig — a pig appointed by a bigger pig. Why was he appointed? Oh, yeah, to help steve campaign…just stop, sharon, just stop and read those documents.

    • Harper lied several times himself about this affair, why should he be believed either?

    • And Harper appointed him. Why? Well some say, since the appointment followed so closely Duffy’s unethical stab at Dion during the 2008 election, that the appointment was his reward. Certainly, at the time he made the appointment he was aware that Duffy’s report was unethical.

      So a ruthless nasty politician rewards a ruthless nasty unethical reporter, and then they both turn around and stab each other in the back. Looks to me like they deserve each other.

      Seriously, what did Harper expect after Duffy did that character assassination on national television?

    • If the following is true, it bears repeating — again and again — every single person involved with this was hired or appointed by Stephen Harper.

      But I didn’t do that research myself, and if I’m wrong, I’d appreciate being corrected.

  7. ‘We’re good to go’
    was an email referring to paying Duffy’s legal fees
    back when the party was told Duffy’s housing expenses were $32k.
    But Duffy was also charging for meals and incidentals, while living in his own house in Ottawa, making the total payback assessment by Deloitte a whopping $90k…!

    • I agree. Duffy is a scoundrel. Who appointed him, anyway?

    • It was an e-mail showing that Harper knew what was going on.

      I guess we should call you “stupid” as well as a liar.

    • You are working overtime. You must be worried.

    • “We’re good to go from the PM”
      According to Harper, this refers to Duffy repaying HIS OWN expenses.
      Please tell me, in what world does the Prime Minister need to personally approve a senator repaying HIS OWN inappropriate expenses?!

  8. One thing the conservatives CANNOT deny, taxpayers seemed to have spent a shitload of money for these people working in the PMO doing CPC work instead of their duties they were hired for. Time for an audit of just how much taxpayer money was wasted by harpers staff, trying to deal with a political cover up and NOT government business.

    • Ooooh, good point!

  9. “this Prime Minister has been telling exactly the truth”

    1. This Prime Minister instead of “I” suggests a wish to disconnect himself from the actor in the PMO

    2. “has been telling exactly the truth” is substantially different from “has been telling the exact truth”

    “has been telling exactly the truth” means that what he has been saying, and only what he has been saying, is exactly true, but no more – therefore pay close attention to each word

    “the exact truth” would imply the necessary information needed to provide a full answer the questioner is being given (and he does not seem to be doing that!)

    The one thing we have learned about the rhetoric of this Conservative government is that its pronouncements are highly deceptive, and the words it chooses must be parsed with great care. And “this Prime Minister” is a master of this rhetoric.

    • Parsing sentences was pretty much a dead subject when I went through high-school English, but I had an old-fashioned teacher. I did some. I was pretty good at it. I never thought I’d have much use for it in my day-to-day life except to entertain myself, but ever since Harper was elected, it’s become an essential skill.

  10. I wonder if there is any real significance to Fife’s comment last night that Harper has gotten rid of the PMO staff and Senate hierarchy who were involved in this cover-up?
    A supporter would say it’s his punishment for what they did; a critic would say it’s part of the elaborate cover-up and has gotten them all out of the way.

    • And Stephen Maher pointed out that all involved in this ITI were appointed by Harper too. Nigel taking the fall could have been part of the strategy all along — if it looked like they were being found out, keep the PM clean (bwahaha, such as it is) and go away. I am astounded to think that we are all supposed to accept that they can lie in the HoC, lie to police (which LeBreton, Stewart Olson and even Tchakuk most certainly did) so we have to catch them up in court. Huh? I thought it was criminal to lie to cops! There are still several of those caught up in this scheme still in PMO — so will they be let go now? I mean: what would a private company do, right?

      • If we had a functioning press in Ottawa, a bunch of Fifes, not the cowering, compliant bunch up there, this would have all come out without the RCMP and courts.

        • You know, one of the former chiefs of staff yesterday pointed out that, without the leak to Fife, the PMO would indeed have gotten away with this cover up. I wonder who leaked it? Of course, with so many involved, who knows — it’s like Murder on the Orient Express: all kinds of people knew and may have had reason to leak. Oh what a tangled web we weave …

          • In another sense if we had a tough, aggressive, investigative press in Ottawa, the PMO and Senators might have said “halt” we can never get away with this. And they would have known better than to even try it.
            So that’s the virtue of a strong free media class in a democracy. A real watchdog. which we don’t have today. We depend on these appointed ethics and budget officers appointed by government. Not so good.

          • I am wondering if it was a Jason Kenney mole, perhaps he is starting to feel time is slipping by and wants to sit in the big chair while the CPC can still win an election.

          • The longer this is front and centre, the more exposed Harper’s flanks become — CPC does not want to lose power, and Kenney, etc do not want to lose their jobs either. Harper’s a scrapper — and he’s good at power, no doubt! — but sooner or later, it will be his time.

    • In Saskatchewan in the Nineties, several Conservative cabinet ministers, MLAs, and staffers were charged with fraudulently using expenses — in fact, Senator Bersten went to jail. And so everyone was guilty, right up to then-Premier Grant Devine. Is this a repeat — taking the fall so the king can live? And I should say: nobody believed Devine was not in it up to his neck, but he was never charged with anything, just turfed out in the next election.

      • I would be willing to settle for Harper and the CPC being turfed out in the next election, as long as the elected party (and I don’t, at this point, even much care if it’s the Libs or the NDP) has a comfortable majority.

  11. The reliance upon clever word play and highly technical parsing is very disappointing, coming from a governing party that promised a return to ethical conduct and transparency. It’s little wonder that the average Canadian holds modern politics in such low esteem which helps explain why the Conservatives are likely to get away with the shenanigans around election spending, robocalling, senators’ spending, PMO management, etc. I understand intellectually why this stuff is important but emotionally…meh…and I doubt that my feeling is uncommon.

  12. This is the scandal that just won’t quit and it’s too bad … people are quibbling about 90 thousand dollars when 3.1billion … yes billion is missing from security spending and 1.2 billion was blown by the Ontario liberals to cancell gas plants … it would be nice if people started paying attention to the things that are really costing the taxpayers serious money instead of these trivialities.

    • It’s not about the money.

      • Exactly — I think it was Jennifer Ditchburn yesterday who said to just take the money out of the equation — it’s still about corruption, cover up, exerting influence over both the senators and Deloitte, changing the audit, lying to cops, lying to public in HoC — I mean, you don’t need to worry about the money, but that ‘s a handy trail for finding out what was going on. I don’t think the $3.1 billion will disappear any time soon. PMO seems to have ensured all the various scandal stories keep popping up with fresh wounds.