Nigel Wright resigns. Now what? -

Nigel Wright resigns. Now what?

John Geddes notes a new test of Harper’s tactical acumen



Nigel Wright’s resignation from his position as Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s chief of staff suggests two possible paths ahead for the story of Wright’s strange decision to cut Sen. Mike Duffy a $90,000 cheque.

The first path starts  from the perspective, best expressed in Scott Reid’s insightful column in yeterday’s Ottawa Citizen, that Wright dipped into his personal wealth to pay off Duffy’s illegitimately collected Senate expenses out of a perhaps overly developed sense of a dutiful political aide’s responsibility to stamp out fires before they threaten to engulf the boss.

If this interpretation—that Wright, largely acting alone, made a misguided but ultimately understandable move—eclipses other possible elements, then this story has reached its climax today.

The second path, the one that opposition parties will no doubt be energetically exploring, would of course allow that Wright’s own flawed judgement was a key factor, but insist that other players must have been involved in important ways.

Who exactly knew about what Wright was doing, and when did they know? Did they discuss how allowing Duffy to pay back what he owed might change the course or thrust of the Senate audit into Duffy’s expenses?

That’s a sloppy, bumpy, potentially jarring trail to travel, and so the Conservatives will be doing everything they can to take that first, shorter, smoother route, which basically ends with a shake of the head and a sad, “Who would have thought a guy as slick as Nigel would have to bow out this way? Intriguing character. Let’s move on.”

It’s worth keeping in mind how stubbornly unwilling the Harper Conservatives have been to allow resignations to leave the stamp of admitted wrongdoing on their government’s record, or to otherwise acknowledge lapses.

I’m thinking, for instance, of how long the Prime Minister allowed Gordon O’Connor to continue on as defence minister, even after O’Connor had to apologize to the House over misleading comments about Afghan detainees, before finally shuffling him to another cabinet role, rather than dumping him.

And of how, when they pleaded guilty in 2011 and were fined in the so-called “in and out” 2006 election campaign-financing fiasco, the Conservatives claimed that court settlement was—and this still takes one’s breath away—a “big victory” for the party.

So Wright’s resignation represents a new sort of test of the tactical acumen of the Harper team. Previously they have worked, with a great deal of success, to never accept as the premise of debate that big mistakes were made by senior Tories.

In this case, that conclusion is now undeniable. The question is whether, having allowed that uncomfortable starting point, Harper and his crew can still dictate the road they follow next.


Nigel Wright resigns. Now what?

  1. “Nigel Wright’s resignation from his position as Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s chief of staff suggests two possible paths ahead …. ”

    Wells’ 1st Rule – For any given situation, Canadian politics will tend toward the least exciting possible outcome.

  2. And how many will have to fall on their swords this time — so far it’s Wright, Duffy, and Wallin — who’s next to go under the bus in this latest desperate message control exercise?

    • As long as Duffy and Wallin draw Senate salaries, in’s not entirely accurate to say they’ve fallen on their swords. It’s probably more accurate to say they’ve had to surrender their swords at the door of the Red Chamber.

  3. With all the toppling at the pinnacle of the PMO, it’s become a veritable Shakespearean drama. “Who will rid me of this troublesome senator?” mused Harper…and the rest is history, and perhaps becoming more historical by the day. Should he decide he does not have to address the questions, Harper will keep news this front and centre, and that’s why I believe the rumours that he may prorogue Parliament yet again. Maybe if they MPs were not to be paid when they prorogue, there would be more democracy applied to that decision.

    • While Duffy’s problems were embarrassing to the government, they were hardly earth shattering. Still Wright felt compelled to spend cash to attempt to make that problem go away.

      The Conservatives are still faced with a much more serious allegation of systematic election fraud. Interestingly the main person of interest has left the country and holed up in Kuwait, leaving some kid named Sona to face the charges. I wonder if Wright and Ken Morgan were good friends? I wonder if someone helped finance Morgan’s sudden travel plans? I wonder if they did this without Stephen Harper’s knowledge?

  4. Amusing how the castrated media are accepting the Con’s definition of a bribe as just “money someone gave to someone else cuz he’s a nice guy.”

    Are Canadians and their worthless little hack media fucks genuinely this stupid?

    I guess they are…

    Look how many people the obese, semi-literate crack-head has fooled.

    Keep it up Con morons along with your invincibly gullible, brainless supporters!

    • Oh you used that word as did Craig Oliver this afternoon on CTV. But Oliver said the word would be appropriate in “another context”.

  5. It’s unaccepatble that Harper and his goverment keep on with the lie that Wright paid Duffy’s bill to ‘protect taxpayers’ . Does anyone really believe that taxpayers would have had to pay if Wright didn’t? It’s preposterous. Duffy would have either voluntarily paid or his wages would have been garnished, it’s that simple; The taxpayers wouldn’t have paid a dime.

    The truth is Wright paid Duffy’s bill to protect the PMO, the Con Party and it’s brand and he resigned today because his plan back-fired, plain and simple.

    • We had already paid Duffy for false expenses: that’s how the taxpayer paid, and it seems likely that Duffy was refusing to repay and they wanted to sweep the scandal under the rug. But yes, Wright paid Duffy’s bill to protect PMO and CPC.

    • correction: the Con talking points changed slightly over the last couple days from “protecting taxpayers” to “protecting the public interest”-both claims are hogwash..

      Same old MO from Harper and the Conservative gov’t : Lie, deny, squirm and spin.

      • We need someone or something to protect “the public interest” from our government.

        Read today that the work program they are advertising to us does not actually even exist yet.

        • It requires the cooperation of the provinces and businesses. and is still being discussed in the house. It is not a bill nor has it been voted on. Quebec is not interested. This is quite misleading. Considering the $95,000 cost to show that ad each time it’s on particularly during the hockey games..I’d say that is a pretty poor way to use more tax dollars and boondoggle us.

    • Amen!

  6. There’s a third path down which this sorry narrative could wend:

    This is a law & order government, committed to getting criminals off the streets and doing serious hard time, even if they are first offenders.

    So, if the RCMP finds evidence of criminal fraud on Duffy’s part, Vic Toews absolutely will not rest until the Crown gets a conviction and Duffy goes from the Upper House to the Big House, where he spends his days shackled and pounding rocks with a sledge hammer.

    He and Rob Ford will have to doublebunk.

    That all seems plausible, right?


  7. Could the next one under the bus be polievre?
    Please, please please

  8. A lot of words have been used to describe this transfer of money from the PMO to Duffy; among them payment and gift.
    What would be the absolutely best word to describe it? If you pick the same one I did, then the next move is up to the RCMP.
    However Harper has been establishing more control over the RCMP and that is a worry.

  9. To be posted on Ottawa Kijiji under ‘resumes’;

    Partisan rich person willing to lie for and generally kiss the Prime Minister of Canada’s @$$
    Agricultural background helpful because a large amount of manure must be spread.
    Other duties include babysitting tory senators as directed by the PM
    Pension plan includes a future seat in the Canadian senate.
    Experience not important. Willing to train the right person.

  10. In and out was a major victory for Harper, they basically got away with it.

  11. Looks to me like Duffy was threatening to let some skeletons out of the closet if Harper didn’t make the $90, 000 go away.

  12. There is a third possible explanation. Given that Wright has a large number of admirers who attest to his honourable character, it could be that Wright was finally disgusted by the shenanigans of the Harper gang – the stupidity of the long form census replacement, the abuse of the parliamentary budget officer, the repression of government scientists, the appointment of unsuitable and embarrassing senators, and so on – and engineered an escape route that would force him to resign without appearing to want out. This would explain why a man with such an understanding of politics would commit such an obviously inappropriate act, with added benefit of holding Senator Duffy up to the light.
    Of course, no one will believe that Nigel Wright could be so Machiavellian, will they? That’s why it’s plausible.

    • I can’t buy that. Better to whistleblow than to make sure you get caught.

      • The cost of whistleblowing would have been his entire social and business circles. Now he remains a hero to them and escapes the poisoned PMO. Unlikely as this scenario is, the outcomes fit the posited motivation.

  13. this is getting outrageously disgusting, can you imagine everything else the cons did behind our backs….

  14. one step closer to the texans taking over 100%

  15. Remember that the PMO’s legal counsel was involved in this matter that took place in February. Consequently to postulate that the Harp did not know is absolutely ludicrous. We are being taken for idiot hicks by these Cons and their media.

  16. NIGEL WRIGHT = PM’s X-chief-of-$TASH!
    Which needy Canadian is this modern-day suit & tie ROBIN HOOD now helping out of the kindne$$ of his $ecretive bank account?
    NIGEL WRIGHT did WRONG to ALL CANADIANS and HARPER knew ALL ABOUT IT which makes the PM criminally liable. IF Harper knew nothing about what WRIGHT did, then the PM is basically INCOMPETENT and needs to resign and go take a course in ETHICS 101. Either way, Canadians DO NOT WANT a lying or incompetent Prime MInister.