The unbelievable matter of Mike Duffy and Nigel Wright -

The unbelievable matter of Mike Duffy and Nigel Wright

Has the Harper government come across something it can’t easily get away with?


For the eternal record, here is the statement of Nigel Wright this morning.

“In light of the controversy surrounding my handling of matters involving Senator Duffy, the Prime Minister has accepted my resignation as Chief of Staff.

“My actions were intended solely to secure the repayment of funds, which I considered to be in the public interest, and I accept sole responsibility. I did not advise the Prime Minister of the means by which Sen. Duffy’s expenses were repaid, either before or after the fact.

“I regret the impact of this matter on the Government, our Caucus, and all of my colleagues, for whom I have the highest regard. I came to Ottawa to do my part in providing good government for Canada, and that is all that I ever wanted and worked for in this role.”

And here is the statement of the Prime Minister.

“It is with great regret that I have accepted the resignation of Nigel Wright as my Chief of Staff. I accept that Nigel believed he was acting in the public interest, but I understand the decision he has taken to resign. I want to thank Nigel for his tremendous contribution to our Government over the past two and a half years.

“Our Government’s top priority is, and will continue to be, securing jobs and economic growth for Canada. This is the focus of all our efforts and attention.”

That last sentence of the Prime Minister’s is a bit silly given everything that has been the focus of his office’s effort and attention this past week, but perhaps he can’t be blamed for trying to conclude on a positive note.

It would be interesting to know whether Mr. Wright had offered his resignation before this morning. As of Thursday, the Prime Minister’s director of communications was refusing to say whether such an offer had been made and the Prime Minister was said to have full confidence in his chief of staff. (Update 12:40pm. An insider offers one version of events to the Globe.)

It has only gotten worse since then.

Mr. Wright has been reported to have been involved in a deal to whitewash the Senate investigation of Mike Duffy. Pamela Wallin has departed the Conservative caucus amid questions about her spending. Patrick Brazeau has produced an email that he says is evidence he did nothing wrong in claiming a housing allowance. And an anonymous Conservative MP has claimed to be “full of rage” over the whole thing. CTV’s Robert Fife is apparently reporting that Conservative MPs wanted Mr. Wright to depart.

Rob Walsh, former parliamentary law clerk, gave an interview last week to CBC radio’s The House, in which he used the phrase “unbelievable” to describe Mr. Wright’s cheque for Mr. Duffy. Here are four of the five.

This, to me, is unbelievable, frankly. It just simply is unbelievable. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. It is unbelievable, to my judgement, at that level something like this could have happened.

Where did they think they were going with this? It’s just simply unbelievable. That’s why it begs for explanation […] a credible explanation, ostensibly by some third party, not the Senate doing its explanation and the Prime Minister’s Office doing their explanation, which should be forthcoming, no question. They need some referee to step in and look at the facts and examine it and report to Canadians whether there was anything that puts into question the integrity of the government or the Senate.

Unbelievable, of course, has a couple meanings, but either might be applied here. It is an adjective that all sides might agree to apply to this mess. But it is something that must be accounted for, regardless of whether Mr. Wright was to be working now for the Prime Minister or Gerry Schwartz or whoever. What were the terms of his deal with Mike Duffy? At the very least there should be House committee hearings, perhaps as early as this week (perhaps encouraged by the government backbenchers who have lately sought to demonstrate their interest in the principles of parliamentary democracy?), to begin to investigate this matter. Mr. Wright should be called for. Mr. Duffy should be invited.

This government has always seemed to have a keen understanding of what it could get away with or at least an ability to get away with things. No one had to resign over in-and-out and the government won a promotion after being found in contempt of Parliament. Maybe all governments possess such resiliency, up until the point that they don’t. Maybe this government has finally done something that it cannot so easily get away with. For now, it is simply unbelievable that it is Mike Duffy’s housing allowance that should shake this government like nothing else since the late fall of 2008.

More from John Geddes and Paul Wells.


The unbelievable matter of Mike Duffy and Nigel Wright

  1. So by what factor does Nigel Wright look worse than Thomas Mulcair does for NOT taking a bribe but not being forthcoming about the bribe later?

    Ten times? A hundred times? A thousand is probably too much.

    • Well, the commentors on these boards sure don’t seem to care that Mulcair changed his story. It doesn’t matter to most commenters here on Macleans how unethical Mulcair is – as long as the CPC can be nailed for unethical behaviour then the mission has been accomplished.

      • This is a Condiversion. Our P.M. lied to the house last week after his personal advisor gave 90K to a Senator to avoid a scandal and all you guys want the public to focus on is an event where no wrong doing took place years ago. Hey why don’t you guys focus on the Harper who called maritimers welfare bums or who told albertans to separate (create a firewall!). This is Con sickness at its best , or worse!!!!

    • Nothing like being on the offensive while the P.M. and his crew of nutcases screw the public and lie to parliamnet. The P.M.’s call for all senators to do the honorable thing like Senator Duffy did’ was a bold face lie knowing that his minion had collected acheque to cover his expenses in order to subvert the inquiry on their finances. And you want all f us to woory about something that happened years ago???? Con-

  2. Incroyable!

  3. They are dirty as the day is long,First…They (politicians)swear an elegance to a third party(queen and her errs) to do a job over us.Action word is JOB..Cause they are sure doing a job on us all…PEACE

    • It is high time that Canada stopped being a servant of the Queen of England, and became a republic standing proud and free.

  4. The underlying thread seems to be that Duffy thought he could get away with anything, and no one called him on it. Wright knew he was paying to make some stuff go away, but he probably didn’t know about all the stuff. He knew about improper Ottawa living expenses, and maybe one Florida vacation, but he presumably didn’t know about double-dipping for political travel, or simply making taxpayers pay for such travel.

    Did Wright know that as soon as Duffy got the money, he was going to refuse to cooperate with the audit? If Wright knew, it looks like obstruction of justice. If he didn’t, it looks like incompetence. Ditto if Harper knew. The reason Duffy tried to stop the audit was probably that he didn’t want the double-dipping, etc. to come out. It’s possible he had never discussed this with anyone in the PMO. Again, the reason for contradictory stories about the $90,000. Wright and the PMO are trying to say it was a gift, it’s all over, nothing to hide. Duffy says he negotiated with his bank because he knows that it may look like the PMO was covering up for the double-dipping. Raw abuse of taxpayers’ money is one thing; a cover-up by the PMO would be something else.

    Duffy still seems unique in that under the Constitution, he may not be validly a Senator at all. He may owe taxpayers all his salary, etc.

    • i can’t speak as exactly what adds up to what kind of wrongdoing, but I would speculate Wright knew Duffy’s expenses could be related to campaigning, and that is why they were paid back personally, quickly, and quietly.

      I would also guess that if Wallin’s expenses later turn out to be for party campaigning, then Wright did NOT know because there was no payout offered from those.

    • The media isn’t touching the issue of whether Duffy qualifies to be a Senator for PEI, given that his primary residency is and has been in Ontario for decades. Maybe they’re saving that issue for a time closer to the 2015 election?

      And why would the PM appoint him if he wasn’t constitutionally qualified because of his residency?

      If Duffy isn’t qualified to be a PEI Senator, that is a much bigger scandal than him ‘unknowingly’ defrauding taxpayers with illegitimate expense claims. It would call into question Harper’s judgement and / or motives.

    • Harper knew of the payment. He simply did not know if it was a cheque, a money oorder or cash (the means by which the payment was made). The Duff story was a lie and Harper knew that as well. This is sick.

  5. “No one had to resign over in-and-out and the government won a promotion after being found in contempt of Parliament.”


    Because the voter can see through the makings of false accusations of contempt of Parliament. Voters aren’t so easily convinced by false reporting.

    And about holding no one to account for the in-and-out ‘scandal’……..did the NDP get raked over the coals for overspending? Again, the majority of voters know when a pick-and-choose attitude is being applied (see recent BC elections).

    Duffy and Wright and all the others are fools. They should have gotten a lawyer and take the issue to court. It has helped Liberal senator Harb so far! No talk about him.

  6. I ALMOST feel sorry for Double-Dip Duff and Pamela Dingwallin. Their greed and abuse of power will cost them dearly for years.

    For a narcissist like Duffy to be shunned into friendless exile for being “radioactive” to, firstly, the news-gathering community and then to his political buddies must be a killer — and he’s not even popular in P.E.I.

    For a super-frequent-flyer like Pam, the joys of probably first-class, “free” (ie., taxpayer-paid) travel are not only over but even if she travels on her own dime in future — even to the farthest reaches of the world where other Canadian tourists go — she knows she’ll always be at risk of getting filthy looks and/or cutting comments from some of the citizens she ripped off. (I’m paying my own way on a Danube river cruise next year, Pammie and Puffy. If I see either of you on it, I’ll warn the staff to check your suites for missing towels because you’ve been investigated and possibly by then charged with fraud by our famous Mounties.)

    But for Stephen Harper to cynically and deliberately hire these two as Conservative fund-raisers at taxpayers’ expense (by appointing them to the Senate and making no discernible effort to pay from Tory coffers for their flights across the country for fund-raising) is the most inexcusable corruption of all. In a way, Pammie and the Puffster were almost set up for their fall by Harper. I can easily imagine the message they got: `Just charge it to Senate travel expenses’.

    But then Pammie went further and used travel expenses to justify her regular trips back home to her condo (in Toronto, NOT Saskatchewan) and like a crook who got away with a rip-off once, then twice and so thinks he can endlessly do the same with no penalty, Puffy made his fake residence claim one, two, three years and more.

    Jerks all round, to put it mildly.

    • This is another facet of the story that is not getting full coverage. Duff and Wall campaigning at our expense while getting double pay by the tax payer. Sick.

  7. Two questions:

    Is this really the first time in Nigel Wright used his wealth to make a political problem for Stephen Harper go away?

    Who paid for Ken Morgan’s flight to Kuwait?

  8. QUOTE: “Maybe all governments possess such resiliency, up until the point that
    they don’t. Maybe this government has finally done something that it
    cannot so easily get away with.”

    – This seemed the case with the BC Liberals’ Premier Gordon Campbell. He got away with some serious promise breaking, such as claiming he would not sell crown corporation BC Rail, but he did sell it to CN ,& under questionable circumstances. He swore before an election he wouldn’t tear up already negotiated labour contracts with hospital workers. Post election, he did just that, although the Cdn. Supreme Court declared what he did illegal & ordered compensation be paid to workers. Campbell had gotten away with lots – until the HST. He said he wouldn’t bring in the HST, yet did so. Gordo no doubt believed since the public had forgiven lots of other lies & transgressions, they’d give him a pass on the HST too. Too bad voters had reached their limit with Campbell. He became & remained extremely unpopular & was forced to step down. Many believed the Campbell HST curse would wreck BC Lib party’s prospects after Christy Clark replaced him. But by good fortune, & a poor NDP campaign, Christy Clark’s Libs won last week’s election. I’m not sure Harper’s gang will be so fortunate. Harper may even step down before a 2015 election like Campbell did.
    “Inexperienced” Justin must be laughing at the arrogant stupidity demonstrated lately by Harper & his gang of superior, “experienced” politicos!

    • Folks, as a simple man on the street, I don’t understand why would Duffy go for a $133,000 job as senator while he was earning $200,000 plus clothing allowance as a reporter. Has anyone a clue?

      • Better hours plus a travel allowance?

      • Look at the percs and the prestige! FREE travel, expenses, meals, wine — the salary is just the tip of the iceberg.

      • well, as a senator you don’t have to work………..

  9. Forget Duffy and Write, the buck stops at Harper. Where is the explanation on his part in this, the real on.

  10. Duffy was the larger than life friend or foe of everyone.

    Now what seems to be plain and simple greed has left him without a friend in sight anywhere.

    How miserable and petty he must feel knowing that this scandal may be his most significant contribution to the government and people of Canada.

    Barring a major miracle, the Duffster’s days as a big shot Conservative or anything are over.

  11. Prime Minister Justine Trudeau……sounds nice.

    • I’d rather have your Avatar as PM!

  12. Harper has screwed up in his senate appointments but for the left in this country think Canada is waiting with open arms for another Trudeau forget it. The left always get so excited when they think victory is just around the corner. B.C was a great shock to the NDP as it will be in the Federal election to the Liberals. We vote with our pocket books and there is no one who would replace a successful government and take a chance of losing his income on some fictitious loyalty .

  13. It is obvious to many that Duffy must have had some flaws in his personality and the government and the media seem to suppress this from Canadians.for anyone to be appointed to a position of responsibility without public participation is a disgrace. The senate is the worst example of patronage appointments without vetting in public.