OTTAWA – Over the course of the Mike Duffy Senate spending scandal, the Conservatives have made different statements about the issue. Here are some of the contradictions that have emerged through the courtroom testimony and evidence:
The issue: The existence of documents related to an expense repayment deal struck between the Prime Minister’s Office and Duffy.
Then: “Our understanding is there is no document,” then-foreign affairs minister John Baird said on May 21. “In fact, no one in the government knows about any legal agreement with respect to this payment,” Baird added a day later.
Now: Emails filed as court exhibits show that there was extensive documentation exchanged, including one draft entitled “scenario for repayment.” There were also messages shared back and forth between the PMO lawyer and Duffy’s lawyer. A communications spokesman in Harper’s office was copied on many of the emails.
The issue: Duffy repaying his own expenses.
Then: Duffy made public statements in February and April 2013 that he would repay, or had repaid, his Senate expenses. “It’s become a major distraction, so my wife and I discussed it and we decided that in order to turn the page to put all of this behind us, we are going to voluntarily pay back my living expenses related to the house we have in Ottawa,” he told the CBC.
Now: Emails show that several people inside the PMO knew full well that Duffy was not going to be on the hook for the expenses and that this was kept deliberately quiet. At one point when he refused to answer reporters’ questions on whether he had actually repaid, PMO staff became frustrated and coached him to say he had.
The issue: The Senate internal economy committee’s handling of their probe into Duffy’s expenses.
Then: Former committee chairman Sen. David Tkachuk told Maclean’s magazine in 2013 that he had not been told by the PMO to “whitewash” a report on Duffy. “There was no indication that and no expectation that we would treat him any differently than the way he was treated,” Tkachuk said.
Now: Wright’s testimony and email evidence shows that the Conservative senators on the committee received direct advice from the PMO on drafting the report on Duffy. And Wright says it was Tkachuk’s idea to see if an independent audit of Duffy could be called off if the senator quietly repaid his expenses.