Nobody deserves to be in such a mess, not even Harper
Senator Mike Duffy has reason to be angry
Soon after it broke, the Senator Mike Duffy scandal went viral, right around the world. Front page in the Wall Street Journal. It was even up in the news-flash lights on Times Square.
Then the Duffy scandal went legal. What the Harper Conservatives had told us was nothing more than a harmless, little expense-padding scam suddenly backfired in Stephen Harper's face.
It was not something that Harper could easily correct just by getting Senator Duffy to give back the money, or say he was sorry and wouldn't do it again.
Political commentators began talking on television about legal implications and criminal infractions. It no longer was just a harmless scam.
Opposition leader Thomas Mulcair asked the RCMP to investigate.
Justin Trudeau went the same route. People began talking Criminal Code.
"Harmless scam" had gone out of it.
Stephen Harper met his caucus the following Tuesday and said that anybody in the room who had come to Ottawa to rip off taxpayers should leave the room. Then Harper himself left the room and was off to Peru. They all seemed to miss the irony.
There's a big difference between having to leave the room as punishment (that's what they do in grade school) and what Harper talked about for the politically corrupt in the sponsorship scandal back in 2005 before he came to power.
Meanwhile back in Harper's office they were still trying to figure how to get themselves out of the mess. They figured that Senator Duffy might have to give back $32,000 and maybe they could get that out of the Conservative Party political loot bag. There is a secret fund in Harper's office that began growing back in 2006 when Harper came to power and nowadays there's close to a million dollars in it.
Then somebody actually tallied up what Duffy had made off with, and discovered that it came to $92,172. They talked about it and decided it was too much to ask the Conservative Party to pay. That amount is not petty cash. Somebody in the party might be asking questions.
Nobody, it seems, considered letting Duffy stew in his own mess. Why try to save Duffy? Did they owe him something? We still don't know.
And then out of nowhere Chief of Staff Wright came up with the idea that he would be pay Duffy himself, out of his own money.
We still can't figure out why Wright was so generous. What are chiefs of staff for, you might ask, if not to cover for guys in the party who take money they should have taken?
For a reason we are still trying to figure out, everybody involved agreed.
So Wright cranked out a personal cheque to Duffy for $90,172 out of his own money. But when the news hit the fan they all began running for cover.
Duffy meanwhile, was singing like a canary telling the world he had to keep silent about the cheque. He wouldn't say why.
It didn't take long for the RCMP questioning the people in Harper's office to establish who was in on it. Except for Harper of course.
"Mr. Clean" said none of the gang of four had ever told him about it, and he only knew what he saw on television. So when he found out on his own in front of his television set, he did the only thing he could, and he asked Wright to leave, or maybe Wright decided on his own to leave. Take it either way.
A strange way for Harper to deal with a guy he had been calling "honorable" for the last few days before he left.
Ray Novak took over as chief of staff, and he wasn't signing any cheques.
Smart guy that Novak.
On television pundit sketched his own warped, sarcastic Liberal view of the whole incredible, unbelievable story that Harper would have us believe:
"As the Duffy expenses audit was going on, nobody was paying attention in the Prime Minister's Office.
"And then one day Nigel Wright woke up and went rogue. He went crazy and decided on his own, without talking to a single other person in the PMO: ‘I've got to solve this. I've got to write a cheque.'
"Stephen Harper found out about it when he watched the news one night, and he was outraged. He expressed his outrage by saying: ‘I have full confidence in Nigel Wright.' He did it for several days at a time.
"But then one day he realized: 'I am so outraged I have to fire this guy.' "
NDP MP Charlie Angus said the real issue in the scandal is being missed. Angus says the cops have to find out if a crime has been committed, not just political scams that can be corrected simply by giving back the money.
Angus says: "There was an issue of a breach of the Parliament of Canada Act, and that is an indictable offense, and it occurred in the Prime Minister's Office."
Angus keeps repeating "there was a cheque cut in the Prime Minister's Office with a promise that a deal had been made. That's the bigger issue."
"Sure, they are going to throw Mike Duffy under the bus. At this point you can see them tweeting the Conservative backbenchers saying ‘Okay, we're going to ditch Duffy.'
"But they are not dealing with what was done in the Prime Minister's Office."
The laws are strict when it comes to giving money to public officials.
Section 17 (1) of the Senate's Conflict of Interest Code says senators cannot accept any gift or other benefit, apart from compensation authorized by law. Where does a $90,172 cheque in return for keeping ‘silence' about something fit in?
Section 16 (1) of the Parliament of Canada Act says senators cannot take any compensation or benefit ‘. . . in relation to any bill, proceeding, contract, claim, controversy, charge, accusation, arrest or other matter before the Senate. .."
That just about covers it all. Even "controversy" is covered. The penalty: up to a year in jail.
Section 121 (1) c of the Criminal Code covers anyone who "gives, offers, or agrees to give or offer" to an official or "being an official, demands, accepts, or agrees to accept, any loan, reward, advantage or benefit of any kind" in return for "co-operation, assistance, exercise of influence," in connection with "any matter of business relating to the government."
Talk about serious! Not even loans are allowed, never mind rewards or benefits. The penalty: up to five years in the clink!
Calling in the cops is a serious matter. No wonder Harper hesitated. In the end, the RCMP decided on their own to visit Harper's office.
But Harper began refusing to hand over a mysterious e-mail he has that supposedly tells in detail the whole story of how they came to give Duffy his cheque.
Harper has told the Mounties that if they want that e-mail so badly, why don't they go to a judge and get a court order that he had it over. If they do, he'll "co-operate."
Right now the cops are still mulling over that possibility.