Who is the government’s least favourite reporter?

Tease the day: Probably the guy who’s breaking stories worth a thousand headaches


Devaan Ingraham/CP

This morning, let’s play a fun game. I’m still workshopping its title, but the working moniker is What’s Bob Fife Working on Today? We can’t know, obviously, since we’re not inside the brain of CTV’s Ottawa bureau chief. But the man has been a machine for the past week—well, longer than that, but for this morning’s purposes, let’s stick to the Mike Duffy Affair.

Fife’s broken every major story in the past week that has made headaches, and occasionally migraines, for Prime Minister Stephen Harper; Nigel Wright, the PM’s former chief of staff; and Senator Mike Duffy. Fife’s the guy who told us about the $90,000 personal cheque Wright passed along to Duffy, to cover the repayment of  improperly claimed expenses. Fife told us a few other things, too, and then last night reported that two Senators—David Tkachuk and Carolyn Stewart Olsen—ordered edits to a report of the Senate’s internal economy committee.

That report reviewed an audit of Duffy’s expenses. The unedited version, which found its way to reporters’ hands, was much more critical of Duffy than the final copy that Tkachuk and Stewart Olsen reportedly had “whitewashed,” or “sanitized,” or whatever else you want to call selective editing. Worth noting is that Stewart Olsen is a former PMO operative. None of this makes things easier for the government.

So, what comes next in this saga? Your best bet is to go ask Bob Fife. Thanks for playing.

What’s above the fold this morning?

The Globe and Mail leads with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s lament for former chief of staff Nigel Wright’s decision to repay Senator Mike Duffy’s improperly claimed expenses. The National Post fronts a gruesome slaying of an apparent British soldier on the streets of London. The Toronto Star goes above the fold with Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s continued silence in the wake of allegations he smoked crack cocaine. The Ottawa Citizen leads with Senate Government Leader Marjory LeBreton’s call for more robust expense disclosure in the Red Chamber. iPolitics fronts last night’s flurry of news on the Duffy scandal. CBC.ca leads with the unedited Senate report that suggested Duffy’s primary home was not in P.E.I., as he had claimed. National Newswatch showcases CTV News’ story that two Conservative senators, David Tkachuk and Carolyn Stewart Olsen, ordered edits to the report on Duffy’s expenses.

Stories that will be (mostly) missed

1. Blood. Canada Blood Services lifted a ban on gay males donating, but only if they haven’t had sex with a man for five years—a stipulation critics say renders the policy change meaningless. 2. Cuban trial. The Canadian ambassador to Cuba, Matthew Levin, will attend the trial of a Canadian businessman, Sarkis Yacoubian, who’s charged with bribery and tax evasion.
3. Pensions. Canada’s crown corporations can’t afford mounting pension liabilities and will only do so by implementing “bold” reforms, says an advocate for such measures. 4. Accommodation. The Parti Quebecois government is toning down language related to religious accommodation, and delaying implementation of its Charter of Secularism.

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Who is the government’s least favourite reporter?

  1. Our best bet is to go ask whoever is leaking info to Fife, actually.

    I wonder if Fife is even enjoying the discomfort he is causing. I remember a few years ago, when UK expenses scandal was happening, there was also an expenses scandal in Nova Scotia occurring at same time, a couple of Fed MPs were in trouble as well, and on one of political talk shows, Fife and Travers chatted for a few minutes about what great people our MPs were, how reporters didn’t need to investigate anything because MPs were superior human beings – I couldn’t believe it.

    Canadian journos remind me an awful lot of Mr Magoo.

  2. Nevermind Fife. What we all want to know is who is his Deep Throat.

    • Not me. I am quite happy with the SCC decision in the Leblanc case. Mon chou, rather than ma chouette, and so be it.

    • What if it’s Duffy?

      • Okay…..”the source” squeals on himself. I hate to rain on your parade but if someone is going to blow the whistle on themselves, they usually make themselves look better. If Duffy is “deep throat”, what’s in it for him?

        • That would be kinda funny, actually. I mean, he probably thought it was pretty sweet to force Wright to write the cheque for his election related expenses, knowing it would be far worse for CPC than for him if they came to light. I could actually see him turning the screws a little tighter by then making some quiet comments to the press. Not the most likely, certainly, but not impossible.

          Remember, as long as Duffy is reasonably confident there will be no criminal charges, he’s probably sure he doesn’t face any downside risk to ANY of what’s gone on.

          • Huh? Noooo! Wright had deep pockets. Duffy is much better served to keep milkin’ the cow than to squeal and lose his source of income and his own reputation. You also must remember “the wife”. There is a downside for her…Duffy has gone from hero of the conservatives for paying his bills to a alleged crook. The stress of having reporters camped outside your house…nasty!

          • I would think the self-important and entitled Duffy is extremely upset to realize he’s not going out as Good Old Mike and is instead considered a criminal and liar. And if Harper made a deal with him and said that would never happen, Duffy can always squeal the truth, right? Maybe Harper’s the one on the ropes now.

          • Ah, yes, the fall back line springs into action when all else fails: It’s all Harper’s fault!

            Sooo predictable you are.

          • And you, of all people, would certainly recognize predictability ;)

          • Actually, I did predict a majority government for the CPC last election, even when the presses were thinking it would merely be another minority.

            So take my predictions for what you will.

          • I wasn’t commenting on your predictions – you’re always welcome to prognosticate to your wee heart’s delight.

            I was commenting on your predictability.

          • Here, let me prove you right! :)

            (Justin is about to give a speech at a school he has been invited to, at a cost to the school of $10,000 dollars. Justin was at first reluctant to do this since he already gets an MP salary, but the vote in the House that day was not that important….)

            Justin walks onto the podium pulling a little red wagon full of scissors:

            “People, people, this should be an outrage; the government has decided to add $3 to the cost of this little red wagon because it was made in China. And these scissors, dear middle class, all of these scissors are now costing 10 cents more because of another tariff attached to the made in China product. And outrage for the middle class, simply an outrage!!”

            Justin then wipes his curly hair away from his brow before pulling his little red wagon up and down the stage to show each and every student and parent the many scissors waiting in the wagon to be sold. The students and parents clap, and clap and clap some more. Then Justin is done and goes behind the stage, and as he does so, bowing one last time to the audience which he will then leave breathless.

            Behind the stage Justin pulls the headmaster aside and says:

            “Dear headmaster, could you CUT me that cheque for $10,000 now. Sending it in the mail will only add the cost of a stamp, non?”

          • That’s not a prediction, it’s just predictably lame fiction. Don’t quit your day job.

          • Certainly, that could happen but “deep throat” is actually spewing so much information that is hurtful to Duffy and other senators thus far, not much that implicates Harper in any substantive way. If Duffy is trying to take out Harper, he best start providing info to sink him quick.

          • OMFG I was actually going to joke about “it’s all about his poor wife, don’t’cha know” but figured I’d spare you the embarrassment of bringing up your melt-down defence of the Duffster on the day it broke.

            And there’s not much cow left to milk other than the Senate job. I’m not saying it’s lilkely, but it’s possible he was so mad about being asked to repay money that was improperly spent on a benefit to the PARTY rather than him personally (the election funds) that he not only said “NO, YOU pay up, guys”, that afterwards he was alll like “well, let’s see how they like THIS.”

          • Why would I be embarrassed? I thoroughly enjoyed that day. I have absolutely NO personal stake in any of this and I am not so naive as to think any bantering back and forth we do on Macleans, will ever make a difference in the outcome. I just think if someone showed their willingness to protect someone else to the tune of $90K, and I were corrupt, I would certainly be looking to cash in personally before exposing anything. Revenge is a dish best served cold….that is with cold cash in your pocket.

          • I suspect the culture of entitlement is so endemic in the Senate that Duffy deeply resents being the one who is offered up as the sacrificial offering to expedience.

            If he is as prideful and arrogant as he is widely described, it wouldn’t surprise me if he is exacting passive aggressive revenge on those who have “betrayed” him.

          • That’s kinda’ like the pathological arsonist who sticks around to watch the crowd assemble while firefighters attack his creation.

        • I was mostly being facetious, but at this point, the leaks are less about Duffy, and more ab out the fact that someone somewhere for some reason whitewashed the original Deloitte report. And that’s something the Gov and CPC does not want us to know: what WAS Wright’s deal with Duffster (and the other senators who would lead PR and fundraising for CPC)? Could anyone believe there is no paper trail that goes along with a $90,000 cheque? And why doesn’t anyone ask, or expect to ask, NIgel Wright about any of this — does he just get to disappear into a cloud of suspicion; does he have some kind of immunity to journalists?

          Meanwhile, over on Twitter, Michael Sona is starting to sing a few notes, just warming up for his day in court, I imagine. He says to ask who benefits most from this series of debacles emanating from PMO, and says that Jenni Byrne and Nigel Wright never did see eye to eye.

          Stewart Olson was a loyal Harper staffer and she’s implicated in the cover up. So was Doug Finley. After swearing to get rid of the Senate, Harper instead stacked it with about 60 cronies who we were told at the time all agree to follow his Senate agenda — I would like to know just what that agenda is and what they all agreed to.

          • Well, Doug Finlay’s dead so there is the ULTIMATE person to take the blame lying down.

        • Okay…..”the source” squeals on himself. I hate to rain on your parade but if someone is going to blow the whistle on themselves, they usually make themselves look better.

          You’re presuming he squealed ON PURPOSE. I don’t necessarily think it’s likely that Duffy is the leak, but it also seems to me that Mike Duffy is pathologically incapable of keeping his mouth shut. Sometimes, a source comes to a reporter and deliberately lays out exactly what’s gone on in great and deliberate detail. Sometimes, a source is simply talking too loud in a restaurant or bar about how he’s been so mistreated and hard-done-by that his friends in the party felt it necessary to help him get out from under his problems.

          I think Duffy STILL thinks he never should have had to pay the money back, and reports are that he often complains too publicly about the pay cut he took to become a Senator. So, while perhaps unlikely, it wouldn’t AT ALL surprise me if the payment information slipped from his own lips at some point while he was defending himself, and trying to explain how unfair the attacks against him have been (a la “And by the way, I’m not the only one who thinks this is all terribly unfair… Nigel Wright was so upset with how I was being treated that he offered to pay the money back for me”).

          • It is possible that Duffy let it slip to others and one of those others is Bob Fife’s source. That still doesn’t make Duffy “deep throat”.

          • Maybe not, but it could if Duffy said it to a friend/colleague at a popular restaurant/bar either oblivious to the fact, or not caring, that Fife was sitting one table over.

            I’ve often read that a lot of the journalists and politicians in the capital frequent the same establishments, and that some of the press’ best “sources” come from government insiders speaking a bit too loudly, and MUCH too candidly, either because they don’t register the fact that a columnist or an Ottawa Bureau Chief is within earshot, or they don’t care.

          • It wouldn’t matter if Fife was sitting on Duffy’s lap, he needs “independent, (sober) sources”. No journalist worth his ilk, would write a story based on the bombastic ramblings of a pissed off senator. You always get someone with credibility to tell if you if the story is true.

          • OK, if he was DRUNK it’s not credible, but I didn’t mean to suggest he was drunk, just pathologically incapable of keeping his mouth shut.

            Also, you may need more than one independent source to report on an agreement between two people in some cases, but not if your one source is one of the two people who made the agreement.

          • The point I am making is that Fife needs to be able to “ask questions” to get deeper into the story and “clarify things” that don’t make sense. You can’t do that with a one-time source who you “over-heard”. Now, if people want to suggest deep throat is Nigel Wright, we might have something to talk about….

      • I’d start with who stands to benefit if Harper goes down. Answer? Leadership hopeful. That should narrow the field.

        • And that’s kind of where I felt Michael Sona was going on Twitter — who stands to gain the most from this series of incidents, and that Jenni Byrne never “saw eye to eye” with Nigel Wright.

          And Jenni Byrne’s boyfriend/partner is Skippy Polievre.

          • I would look to the leadership hopeful who has been conspicuously slient since this story first broke. The one who also happens to be aligned with the dissenting pro-life backbench perhaps?

          • Is that Kenney? Ambrose is too, but she would never win leadership. Where HAS Jason been? Baird is taking all the questions. Flaherty is off trying to keep his face from exploding. You know, other than Baird, all the senior ministers have been out of the limelight over this.

          • “Where HAS Jason been?” Ding ding ding!

  3. This has got to be the most incompetent & corrupt government in Canadian history, from the rat Harper down to these douchebag senators Khachuk & Olsen who try to cover it all up….send them all packing!

    • Don’t be silly, Borden pulled off some crazy stuff in the election in the middle of WWI, and the railroad scandals of yesteryear dwarf anything harper has pulled.

      But most incompetent and corrupt of the post-second word war era? You could make the case, though it’s not a slam dunk.

  4. Let’s face it aside from Fife and Maher there is no decent government reporting in Ottawa. They just follow the horse race and the talking points and each other around town all day. The Americans would never put up with any of this nonsense
    Two questions from a PMO approved favourite list?

  5. Holy redactions batman! Is this real life? ctvnews.ca/polopoly_fs/1.1293074!/httpFile/file.pdf

    • That’s a nice line-by-line comparison of Duffy’s report. Wow… talk about sanitizing.

  6. Why did Bob Fife suck Harper’s koch for the last 7 years though? CTV was/is infamously known as the CON mouthpiece. What changed?

    • What a sweet girl you are Nadine sounds like one who talks from experience..

      • Why be such a daisy? Fife has been awfully snuggly with Harper. And CTV is pretty much the Con mouthpiece. So do you have a comment, or just expressing shock at Nadine’s choice of words (which she cushioned for the faint of heart).

    • But Nadine….What makes you think anything has changed? Fife is a Tory, not necessarily a Harperite. His Deep Throat could be someone angling for Harper’s job.

      • Maybe some ambitious person is sensing that Harper will leave rather than fight this fight in public (legacy! reputation!) and just making sure it happens sooner rather than later.

    • Why can’t we see a copy of Nigel’s cheque and see who it was written to, when, etc etc. AND WHY CAN’T ANYONE ASK NIGEL WRIGHT QUESTION ABOUT THIS? Is he really that special that he doesn’t have to answer questions of journalists.

      • Yeah, let’s see the cheques.

        I want to know how many school funds Justin milked for speaking at those schools.

        How many books and computers could that money have bought the students instead?

        • The only folks that could answer that are the ones that administer school funds and made the decision to hire Trudeau at whatever terms they agreed to.
          But I’m still waiting for you to answer those questions.

        • Careful, Francien, your boy-fetish over JT is leaking again.

          • Good Gawd neuoticdog, please don’t call Justin a boy…isn’t he fortyish? These “boy” references, while mildly amusing, cannot be good for his image. I don’t remember ANYONE thinking of JFK as a boy.

          • I only ever use the term in relation to the (presumed) age of a certain commenter who demonstrates a persistent, dare I say obsessive, fascination with JT’s every thought and move.

            If anything, I’m being unfair to that commenter, not Trudeau.

      • He is a private citizen. Journalists are not police. They cannot compel anyone to talk to them. However, should he be called to answer questions by the RCMP or the Ethics Commissioner, he will have to do so. Let’s get that going. Where is Justin Trudeau? Are he and Mulclair demanding an RCMP investigation into Nigel Wright and the cheque ASAP?

        • Then everyone working in government is a private citizen and can do whatever machinations with taxpayer money they like?

          Anyway, I think you likely already know, but here’s a link to what Trudeau has requested; NDP are crying to abolish the Senate because they have lost track of the real cover up scandal.

          NatPo has a list of 10 questions from the Liberals that they want answered. They are good questions.

          Despite what Harper claimed to have done with Helena Guergis, the RCMP decide who and what to investigate, not through PMO. And I thought they said they WERE investigating something — isn’t that the announcement that suddenly caused all this excitement from Duffster and Wallin?

          • Yes, everyone working for the government is a private citizen and now Nigel Wright now longer even works for the government. You You can’t “make” anyone talk to the press. Politicians are compelled to do it (or not) related to public perception. A lawyer worth their salt would tell any public citizen person NOT to speak to the press. You making a link between being accused of “machinations with taxpayer money” and a requirement to speak to the press is moot. You might WANT Nigel Wright to speak to the press but he has legal rights as a citizen of Canada. You can’t make him sit down with Peter Mansbridge.
            As for Justin Trudeau, I was wondering if he was in the House during question period. I know that the RCMP decide what to investigate but hey if someone is demanding an investigation, it can’t hurt.

  7. The scary thing is, CTV is usually right leaning.

    • You haven’t watched Don Martin!!!

    • Do you believe that CTV is Fox News and would fail to report a “scoop” implicating the PMO in possible fraudulent activity? Is that what you mean about “right leaning”?

  8. What I would like to know is what Duffy has on someone in the CPC. There must me some reason the Cons were so willing to help him. It seems he has always thrived on knowing all the gossip and maybe he knows something that Harper doesn’t want anyone else to know.

    • Well call me nuts, but maybe they just like him- birds of a feather etc. Also, loyalty means a lot in politics.

      Hmmm….maybe check that last statement… :)

    • I assume it’s the fact that his expenses were spent while on campaign for the party, which is a big no no and would get the CPC in bigger trouble than Duffy. THAT part they needed to make disappear for their own benefit. hence the cheque.

      • I don’t know about that. Duffy billed the CPC for the expenses AS WELL as the senate. The only way the CPC could get in trouble is if they knew Duffy was double-dipping and they encouraged it and hid it, etc. As for them getting in bigger trouble than Duffy…Everyone can just say it was a misunderstanding, miscommunication…blah,blah,blah…..UNLESS someone breaks ranks and squeals on the others and then BAM…busted!!!
        The thing I don’t understand with the whole business is that usually you have to submit your original copies of your expenses in order to get paid for them (your original receipts) AND you don’t get them back. So, how did Duffy submit original receipts to both the CPC AND the senate? Obviously, one or the other, is very lax in requiring the right receipts or the CPC was returning the receipts to Duffy so he could re-submit them to the senate. Now, given that separate Conservative candidates paid Duffy for his expenses each time he campaigned in their areas, it would seem far-fetched that there was a conspiracy throughout the entire Conservative party to help Duffy double dip. However, there might be a consistent policy throughout the party with regard to paying expenses of people who campaign and what receipts are submitted and held by the person campaigning. That is where Fife and party need to go next. After all, those receipts had to be submitted for refund of 60% by the Canadian taxpayer. My guess is the problem lies with the senate. They were lax in demanding original receipts.

        • Or some were not declared AT ALL and it affects the campaign limit. Although I haven’t looked up all the details of what the breach would entail and what the penalties would be, but look for the election expenses bit to be the area it goes from ‘serious breach of ethics” to “serious fraud.”

        • Duffy’s deployment in Campaign ’11! was managed by CPC HQ, was it not? So, likely he was foisted on local candidates, like it or not. His utility as a campaign jolly-maker and toastmaster, and I think @acoyne said on the teevee, WAS the reason he went to The Reds in the first place.

  9. Hey Nick,

    Both the Ottawa Citizen and CBC The National reported the names of those two senators last night BEFORE Bob Fife did.

  10. It would be sneaky cool if Conservative strategists were playing a ‘long game’. What if *they* were the leakers, with the intent being to force senators and MPs to accept full public transparency on expenses? Opposition parties might be having a field now, but they are also painting themselves into a corner, so that they will no longer be able to cover up their questionable use of taxpayer money.

    • I will leave it to you to figure out why your idea is foolish.

  11. We are so anxious to condemn the government that we seem to forget all the other useless twits who have been appointed to the senate. Yes the Tories have a lot to explain but lets look at this in the open. Harper started out to reform the senate,8 year term, elected by the people. The Liberals fought it and the NDP in a sly way claiming they wanted to eliminate the senate. This when they thought they may form government and fill it with their own scroungers. Harper made some disastrous appointments .trying to get a few more votes. If tomorrow all three parties agreed to term limits with elected senators it could come about this year. They could put a time limit on getting rid of the present system of appointments to 75 years.Governments have this power to just close it down.So who can fight it some old scrounger in the senate goes to court claiming his entitlement,What entitlement? We the people did not hire them so we can fire them. If the media did its job and quit making excuses for this body when it suits their political cause we can start the process now.

    • Um, no. So many answers to these tired old ideas. you should look elsewhere for them.

    • Are you here to distract? I’m far less concerned about the Senate than I am about the cover up scandal in the PMO.

      But I’ll take your bait: just what measures did Harper try to put in place to refor the senate? And did he uphold his own policies when he appointed 57 partisan senators after saying he would appoint none?

      • The Harper government did put forth an initiative to have senators terms be held to 8 years. The government was then in minority position and the initiative was defeated. I believe then opposition leader Ignatieff wanted 10 year terms!

        • And the Conservative Government introduced Bill C-7 to reform the Senate in June 2011, looking for 9 year-term..

          They haven’t brought it forward to second reading yet, almost two full years later.

          And no, you can’t blame the opposition this time because…Majority government…

  12. Oh, Nick, you make it too easy for people to play your game!

    Who is the government’s least favourite reporter?

    Well any reporter, when talking or writing about Duffy’s and Wright’s shady financial dealings, who forgets to mention that Justin may have financial problems of his own to deal with (or why else would a paid politician demand extra payments from school boards to stuff into his own pocket?) would be considered the least favourite reporter. But wait, that would include most of the reporters! Ah, Bingo! Did I score some points in playing this game?

    (Friendly suggestion to Nick: next time make the game more challenging! More fun that way!)

    • That dead horse still ain’t walkin’, Francien. Keep floggin’.

      • I strongly believe that the dead horse will rise to the occasion some day!

        • You’ll notice the entire media corps, even those who rant the JT speeches “story”, have moved on.

          And when you admit to using distraction techniques, you kind of blow your cover.

          • Oh, I know that the media corps have moved on. They always do when it comes to Justin Trudeau.

            Justin charging schools for hearing him speak? Not a problem. No problem that Justin enriches himself from schoolboard money! School taxes are paid mostly by the middle class through their property taxes, so why would Justin care, right? Whatever Justin lines his pockets with is fine with the press.

            But watch out when CPC politicians order one glass of orange juice too many! Oh, how long the presses ran on that one!

          • You missed the part where the schools sold tickets and gathered sponsorships to the JT events to raise money.

            “Enriching`themselves, I guess. The bastards.

            He also asked the Ethics Commish about these speeches BEFORE he made them. And she said they were okay.

  13. Choosing Fife for the leaks was smart. Any other outlet would have been accused of being a Liberal shill. This Deep Throat is after Harper and Fife is his weapon of choice.

    • Maybe that person told Fife he too could be a senator.

  14. Only 1% of the population are psychopaths according to the book “Snakes in Suits, When Psychopaths Go to Work” in Harper’s PMO. They need God to be good and have an affinity with conservative authoritarian self proclaimed leaders. There is a history book there. Not all of us need God. Some of us, as Plato observed, are repelled by it. So maybe some in the conservative party is outraged by the types Harper seems to attract. Promise me fewer pyscoapaths making decisions for me and I’ll vote for anyone. Other than conservatives. They have proven for me psychopaths and conservatives attract.

  15. Bob Fife is also probably the reporter most jealous of the success of Duffy and Wallin.
    Bias anyone?

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