When an Ottawa philanthropist was drawn into the Senate scandal

Brian Karam provided a loan to beleaguered Senator Mac Harb


Adrian Wyld/CP

The Senate expense scandal, which is simmering through these dog days of summer, taints everyone it touches. Anyone who’s dealt with a beleaguered senator fighting to defend their expense claims risks getting dragged into the mud. The newest character in the saga is Brian Karam, an Ottawa businessman who’s contributed to myriad local charities over the years. Karam might easily be described as a community leader, and a leading light on bustling Elgin Street in the nation’s capital.

That is, until he became involved with Senator Mac Harb, who’s under the gun for improperly claimed expenses. The Ottawa Citizen reports today that Harb accepted a $55,000 loan via a numbered company that lists Karam as its president. Why is that problematic? Karam also owns another numbered company that’s done work for the federal government, including a current contract worth $1.87 million. According to Section 121 of the Criminal Code of Canada, Harb’s not allowed to accept a loan from anyone doing business with the feds.

Neither Harb nor Karam provided comment to the Citizen, and the details of their arrangement are unclear. But Karam’s mere relationship with Harb has already made its mark on his reputation, as evidenced by the Citizen‘s characterization of his resume:

Before being thrust into the Senate expense scandal, Brian Karam, the man who loaned Harb $55,000 in May, was best known for his business acumen and charity work.

Does that assume that Karam’s prior life as a successful businessman and philanthropist will take a back seat to his involvement, whatever it is, in the Senate scandal? Not exactly. But no matter his intentions, Karam will forever be at least a footnote in an odious scandal that’s battered political careers—and isn’t through just yet.

Update: Mac Harb has since defended his decision to borrow the money. And Karam sent an email to media outlets defending his decision to loan the money: “The terms of such loan to Mac Harb are fully set out in the registered mortgages,” he said in an email. “Such terms involve no benefit or advantage to Mac Harb and are very similar to terms I have provided to others during the past year.” An update on the story is here. 


What’s above the fold this morning?

The Globe and Mail leads with the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Maine, and its Canadian affiliate filing for creditor protection in Quebec. The National Post fronts President Barack Obama’s decision not to meet privately with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a G20 meeting in Russia next month. The Toronto Star goes above the fold with calls for greater federal regulation of Canada’s drug supply. The Ottawa Citizen leads with a questionable loan provided to Senator Mac Harb by an Ottawa businessman who’s been awarded federal contracts. iPolitics fronts the virtues of political intellectuals running for office. CBC.ca leads with a potential Ontario ombudsman investigation of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim’s death on a Toronto streetcar. CTV News leads with the potential probe into Yatim’s death. National Newswatch showcases .

Stories that will be (mostly) missed

1. Crude. The U.S.-based Federal Railroad Administration is concerned that crude shipments contain chemicals that make rail cars more susceptible to corrosion and unsafe for travel. 2. Foreign workers. The feds have implemented a series of reforms to temporary foreign worker rules, including a $275-per-employee fee companies hoping to hire non-Canadians must pay.
3. B.C. terror. John Nuttall, one of the accused Canada Day terror plotters in Victoria, has received mental health certification in B.C. and been transferred to a psychiatric ward. 4. Blood. Canadian Blood Services says it’s experiencing a shortage and  drawing on national reserves. It requires 50,000 donations by Labour Day if its stock will remain at “an acceptable level.”
5. DSK. Dominique Strauss-Kahn was the “linchpin” of a prostitution ring operating in France, say judges investigating the conduct of the former head of the International Monetary Fund. 6. Kenya. A fire at Nairobi’s main airport heavily damaged the African hub, and stranded hundreds of passengers. Firefighters, stuck with inadequate equipment, struggled to contain the blaze.


When an Ottawa philanthropist was drawn into the Senate scandal

  1. It’s amazing how The media pursued Duffy relentlessly for months, but you see only one or two stories about Mac Harb. Oh, I forgot, Duffy is a media hated Conservative.

    • No, it’s ‘dog days’…..meaning nobody works

    • 1. Before the Senate, Duffy was a national figure. Harb was an anonymous backbencher who became an anonymous senator.
      2. After the Senate, Duffy went from a “journalist”, someone supposedly “objective”, to possibly the most rabid partisan in the Conservative caucus and a popular speaker for party fundraisers.
      3. When the spending scandal broke, Duffy lied, misled, and obfuscated, annoying the media who were covering the story.
      4. I used some public media databases to search for 2012 and 2013 stories containing the name “Mike Duffy” and then the name “Mac Harb”. Same databases, same dates, results: Duffy retrieved 141 results. Harb retrieved 108.

      • And what exactly was written about in those 141 Duffy stories as compared to the 108 Harb stories?

        It’s not the number of times the stories are in the news but the tone of the telling which counts.

        Duffy bad, bad, bad and Harb??

        • Francien, the original commenter put forward the argument that nobody covered Harb. I did a quick search and discovered that the evidence didn’t seem to support that. I have a life, so unless you’d like to pay me to do content analysis, I’m going to pass on analyzing 249 news stories. You should feel free, though.

      • And a search of Google News for the names in headlines:
        Duffy: 1370
        Harb: 25

        Pretty clear that Harb’s being mentioned as an after thought in all of the Duffy articles.

        Harb has done far more lying, obfuscating (owing 0.01% of a house?!) than Duffy could have ever imagined. Harb has also been running this racket for a decade, compared to a couple of years for Duffy.

        And the senator’s media profile should have nothing to do with how they’re judged for the same crime.

        It’s just blatantly clear that the media are trying to cover for the Liberals here.

        • Hi Rick: I recreated your search. For those who wish to see what it looks like, here’s a search of Google News for “Duffy” in headlines — bit.ly/1exzCBV and for Harb: bit.ly/1exzORR.

          My results came to 1180 / 268. However, a significant proportion of the Duffy results appear to relate to a baseball player named Danny Duffy, or to a Connecticut sports columnist named Kevin Duffy.

          It seems to me a bit naive to think that someone who spent decades doing national television programs would get an equal amount of media coverage as would a relative nobody like Harb. For example, there were slightly more than 500 handgun murders in Los Angeles. I doubt any of them got coverage at the Phil Spector level, because none of the accused were as famous as Phil Spector.

          I didn’t suggest that Harb and Duffy should be judged differently (other than on the basis of the evidence presented in a criminal or civil trial). Judgement is done by courts, not by media, and I doubt that a finding of guilt or innocence is determined by reviewing media coverage.

          As to Harb’s actions? If what’s been reported is accurate, it’s certainly outrageous and most likely highly illegal. In that case, I would hope he is convicted and sentenced appropriately.

          I would say the same of Duffy.

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