Information commissioner investigating 'non-existent' Senate scandal emails

OTTAWA – The federal information commissioner has launched an investigation into the mysterious disappearance and reappearance of emails related to the Senate expenses scandal.

Suzanne Legault’s office confirms an investigation has been initiated in response to a complaint from deputy Liberal leader Ralph Goodale.

Goodale had submitted an access-to-information request to the Privy Council Office, seeking all emails, correspondence and other records related to former prime ministerial chief of staff Nigel Wright’s deal to pay Sen. Mike Duffy $90,000 so that he could reimburse the Senate for invalid living expense claims.

Among other things, he specified all records from or to Benjamin Perrin, former legal counsel in the Prime Minister’s Office.

The PCO, which provides bureaucratic support to the PMO, eventually responded in late June that, after a thorough search, no records were found.

Since then, however, documents obtained by the RCMP from the PMO and filed in court, have disclosed hundreds of emails exchanged between Wright, Duffy, Perrin, various other top aides in the PMO and several senators.

Moreover, PCO acknowledged Sunday that it mistakenly told the RCMP that Perrin’s emails had been deleted when he left the government’s employ in March, according to standard practice. In fact, Perrin’s emails had been preserved because of his involvement in an unrelated legal matter.

That development has prompted Goodale to write Legault again today, arguing that her investigation is even more crucial now, given the “absolute relevance of the Perrin documentation and the spotty record of PCO in handling this hugely important and sensitive file.”

He says it’s important to ensure that PCO is able to maintain and retrieve records “free from political interference.”

Last spring, Perrin denied any role in the Wright-Duffy affair.

But the email trail disclosed by the RCMP shows he was intimately involved in negotiating a deal with Duffy’s lawyer, under which Duffy agreed to repay his expenses on condition that he be fully reimbursed, that an audit into his expenses be halted and a Senate report on his expense claims be whitewashed.