Saturday, May 18, 2013

Canary In The Corruption Part II

The scandal surrounding Mike Duffy continues to produce more revelations.  Today's we learn that the Senate committee's "official" version of Mike Duffy's audit has been sanitized:

A confidential report obtained by CTV’s Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife shows the original version of Duffy’s audit found that the senator broke the Senate’s “very clear” and “unambiguous” residency rules. 
The report found that Duffy stayed in his Prince Edward Island cottage mostly during the summer months. He had listed it as his primary residence, which allowed him to claim an annual housing allowance given to senators who live more than 100 kilometres from Ottawa. 
Duffy’s air travel pattern also showed he lived in Ottawa and he had registered his address in the capital “for several official purposes,” according to the original report. 
The report also reveals that Duffy’s lawyers sought to have him exempted from the forensic audit.
Additionally, Harper-appointed Senator Pamela Wallin has chosen to sit as an independent in the Senate for the time being while her own expense claims are audited.  While Wallin's situation is different from Duffy's, it still looks as though she spent an enormous amount of time and money travelling.  This may or may not be necessary travel, I don't know - I will wait for the auditor's report before deciding whether Wallin has abused her privileges.

What I think we need to pay more attention to is the PMO and its denizens' actions in this whole mess.
On Friday, Harper’s former deputy chief of staff Keith Beardsley said Wright made a major mistake that will likely continue to dog the Conservative government for some time to come. 
As well, Eddie Goldenberg, former chief of staff to then-Liberal prime minister Jean Chretien, said Wright was “dead wrong” to cut Duffy a $90,000 cheque.
The Harper government was in full damage-control mode Friday, a day after Sen. Mike Duffy resigned from the Conservative caucus following new allegations he was claiming Senate expenses while campaigning for the Conservative party during the 2011 federal election. 
The prime minister, however, continues to stand by Wright, whose decision to give a $90,000 cheque to Duffy to cover improper Senate expense claims, is under review by the ethics commissioner.
I don't think I need to express further outrage at Duffy's hypocrisy.  Frankly it's out there for everybody to see, and Canadians should be outraged.   Not just with Duffy, but with the people at the top.  Even if the actions of Nigel Wright are deemed to be "ethically acceptable" by Parliament's Ethics Commissioner, they remain actions clearly designed to sweep the whole issue under the carpet.

Canadians should be asking themselves why the PMO is suddenly involving itself in paying off a Senator's debts?  Under Harper, the PMO has become something of a politburo - spending enormous amounts of money "managing the message", from centralizing government communications to actively spying on the utterances of MPs, both government and opposition.  The amount of power and control being exercised from this office since Harper came to power is truly disturbing.  That the members of his "personal office" believe that they are able to intervene directly in such a matter speaks to a sense of not just entitlement but invulnerability from scrutiny.  

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