Mike Duffy and Nigel Wright: Still more questions

Did the Senator claim expenses while campaigning for the Conservatives?

Liberal MP Sean Casey says Mike Duffy should resign and Mr. Casey likely came to that conclusion before he was aware that Mr. Duffy’s Senate expense claims seem to overlap with time he spent campaigning for the Conservatives in the last election.

The full extent of Duffy’s Senate expenses during the writ period remains a mystery — the Conservative government is refusing to reveal the full breakdown of the senator’s claims and his repayment of $90,172.24. But independent auditors at the firm Deloitte listed Duffy as being in Ottawa on Senate business and claiming a daily expense for seven days in April 2011, a month that was dominated by campaigning for the May 2 vote.

All of yesterday’s news is here.

Update 11:21am. On the off chance that the Senate Ethics Officer hadn’t heard about Mr. Duffy’s situation, NDP MP Charlie Angus has written to her to request that she look into the cheque he received from Mr. Wright.

Update 11:33am. The CBC finds more paperwork related to Senator Duffy’s campaigning in 2011.

The Deloitte audit that reviewed the living and travel expense claims for Duffy and senators Mac Harb and Patrick Brazeau shows that Duffy was neither in Ottawa or Prince Edward Island but in an “other location” on Senate business on April 27 and 28, 2011 … But an invoice written by Duffy is titled, “Mike Duffy campaigning in the GTA, April 27 & 28, 2011.” It indicates he flew out of Ottawa on April 27, spent the night in a hotel in Toronto on April 28, and flew back to Ottawa on April 29. The invoice is included in Elections Canada campaign expense records for Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver’s campaign. Oliver was elected in the Toronto riding of Eglinton-Lawrence.

An email from a political operations officer for the Conservative Party of Canada, Felix Wong, to Oliver’s campaign manager, John Penner, is also in the expense file. It says the total cost for Duffy’s trip to Toronto was $1,355.56 and “that amount will be divided between the eight ridings that he visited, so each riding will be responsible for $169.45.”

Update 11:49am. Included in CTV’s report last night was the suggestion of some influence over the Senate committee’s investigation. I asked the Prime Minister’s Office if there was a response to that report and here, for the record, is what I was told.

The committee reached its own conclusions based on the independent audits provided by Deloitte.

I also asked the office of Senator David Tkachuk questions about any knowledge he might have had of Mr. Wright’s agreement with Mr. Duffy. Here, for the record, is what I was told by his office.

Senator Tkachuk says that the cheque for reimbursement that we got from Senator Duffy was a personal cheque. We never inquired as to where he got the money for that cheque, nor will we be concerned from where Senators Harb or Brazeau get the money.  Our business is to see that taxpayers are reimbursed.

Update 1:21pm. The Senate Ethics Officer won’t comment on specific cases, but I asked the office of the Senate Ethics Officer for guidance in interpreting Section 17 of the Senate’s Conflict of Interest Code—noted here yesterday and identified by the NDP today in Ms. Angus’ letter to the ethics officer—and it provided the following.

Section 17 of the Conflict of Interest Code for Senators (the Code) governs gifts or benefits, but only those that relate to a senator’s official functions…

Subsection 17(1) prohibits a senator from receiving any gift or benefit, directly or indirectly, that could reasonably be considered to relate to the senator’s position.

Subsection 17(2) is an exception to this general prohibition about receiving gifts or benefits in the context of a senator’s official duties and functions. This subsection provides that, if the gift or benefit does relate to the senator’s position, but was received by the senator as a normal expression of courtesy or protocol or was received within the customary standards of hospitality that normally accompany a senator’s position, the senator may accept it.

Under subsection 17(3), only those gifts or benefits that are received as a normal expression of courtesy or protocol, or those that are within the customary standards of hospitality that normally accompany a senator’s position, are required to be disclosed to the SEO, who then publicly discloses them, and only if the value of any such gift or benefit exceeds $500. These gifts or benefits must be disclosed to the SEO within 30 days of receipt of the gift. As already noted, the SEO will then make this information publicly available.

Whether a particular gift or benefit is acceptable depends upon the particular facts involved. So, by way of example, a gift or benefit from a family member or a friend of a senator could not, in most cases, reasonably be considered to relate to a senator’s official duties and functions and, as such, would fall outside the prohibition in subsection 17(1) of the Code. On the other hand, a gift or benefit that is provided to influence a senator in the performance of his or her duties and functions could reasonably be considered to relate to a senator’s position.

Update 4:09pm. Nigel Wright apparently still has the confidence of the Prime Minister.

Update 5:31pm. And now Senator Patrick Brazeau wants a public hearing into the expenses scandal.

Update 9:36pm. Mike Duffy has resigned from the Conservative caucus.