Saturday, July 06, 2013

The Duffy Scandal Keeps On Giving

In some respects, what is coming out regarding Mike Duffy this week is not really a big surprise.  However, it is important.

First up, we have a set of court document filings that bring out some very interesting points regarding timeline, and in particular how that timeline relates to the story that Harper has related to Canadians.

1. The documents reveal the RCMP is investigating Duffy over not just one, but three separate fraud allegations:
  • For expenses perhaps fraudulently claimed for Ottawa housing and per diem costs, because Duffy said his primary residence was in P.E.I.
  • For possible fraudulent per diem claims submitted while he was vacationing in Florida or while he was campaigning for the Conservative Party in the last federal election.
  • For accepting, perhaps fraudulently, a payment from Nigel Wright, the prime minister's top aide, in exchange for a deal that would allow him to pay back his inappropriately claimed expenses quickly and without protest and for a promise a Senate report would "go easy on him."
2. Amid opposition party demands for an investigation, the RCMP, of its own volition, began investigating Duffy in March. That was two months before a Deloitte audit of Duffy's residency, commissioned by the Senate, was made public, and before a Senate committee voted to refer Duffy's expenses to the RCMP.
3. Although Duffy claimed his primary residence was in P.E.I., the documents reveal he's lived in Ottawa since 1971. However, he applied for a P.E.I. driver's licence on Dec. 22, 2008 — the same day it was announced he had been selected for appointment to the Senate.
4. In passport applications in 2007 and 2012, Duffy gave his Ottawa address as his permanent residence.
5. The documents reveal the Conservative Party initially believed Duffy owed only $32,000, an amount the party was apparently willing to pay. This amount may refer to the $34,000 the Deloitte report calculated Duffy had claimed in housing costs in Ottawa and per diems during the 18-month period of Deloitte's examination.
It is not clear why the party didn't know that Senator David Tkachuk, at the time chair of the Senate committee on internal economy, had written Duffy on Feb. 27 telling him he actually owed $90,172.
6. Lawyers for Nigel Wright, the prime minister's former chief of staff, told the RCMP that when Wright gave Duffy $90,000 he didn't know about any fraudulent claims on Duffy's part. But Wright was in contact with Senator Tkachuk during the time Deloitte was preparing its report, and it was Deloitte that discovered Duffy had claimed per diems for being on Senate business while on vacation in Florida.
7. It is not clear why the chair of the Conservative Fund, Senator Irving Gerstein, thought it was OK for the party to bear the cost of $32,000 for Duffy, but not $90,000.
8. Wright, in a statement given when he resigned, said he accepted "sole responsibility" for the decision to give money to Duffy. But the documents reveal that Wright's lawyers told the RCMP that three other senior people in the Prime Minister's Office knew about the $90,000 cheque, as did Gerstein.
At Huffington Post, they took the time to go through the documents and compare the timeline in the court filings with the version of the story that Harper has been trying to convince the public is "the real story":

Under intense questioning about the affair throughout the spring, Harper repeatedly insisted that his chief of staff, Nigel Wright, acted on his own when he decided to give Duffy $90,000 to reimburse the Senate for invalid expense claims.
"Those were his decisions. They were not communicated to me or to members of my office," Harper told the House of Commons on June 5.
But the RCMP, which has launched a criminal investigation into the matter, says in a court document that Wright recalls telling three other senior people in the Prime Minister's Office about the transaction.
Wright had not been interviewed by the Mounties at the time the document was filed in court by lead investigator Cpl. Greg Horton, on June 24. But the document recounts a June 19 meeting with Wright's lawyers, Patrick McCann and Peter Mantas.
The lawyers told the RCMP that Wright recalls telling his assistant, David van Hemmen; Harper's legal adviser, Benjamin Perrin; and Chris Woodcock, director of issues management in the PMO, about his intention to personally give Duffy the money to reimburse the Senate.
Anyone who believes that Harper was not fully briefed on what was going on in his own offices has to be either deluding themselves or they would believe someone trying to sell them the Brooklyn Bridge on the street.

Beyond Harper lying to Canadians about this whole fiasco, is the emerging evidence that Senator Duffy was not, and is not today, a resident of the region that he is supposedly representing.  This isn't just a matter of recently moving either.  Duffy has lived in Ottawa since 1971, and two passport applications list his Ottawa address as his permanent residence.

Why is this significant?  Because it calls into question whether Duffy should even be permitted to sit in the Senate as a representative of Prince Edward Island.

Referring to the Constitution documents for Canada, we find the following qualifications for a Senator:

Qualifications of Senator
23. The Qualifications of a Senator shall be as follows:

  1. (1)  He shall be of the full age of Thirty Years;
  2. (2)  He shall be either a natural-born Subject of the Queen, or a Subject of the Queen naturalized by an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain, or of the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, or of the Legislature of One of the Provinces of Upper Canada, Lower Canada, Canada, Nova Scotia, or New Brunswick, before the Union, or of the Parlia- ment of Canada after the Union;
  3. (3)  He shall be legally or equitably seised as of Freehold for his own Use and Benefit of Lands or Tenements held in Free and Common Socage, or seised or possessed for his own Use and Benefit of Lands or Tenements held in Franc-alleu or in Roture, within the Province for which he is appointed, of the Value of Four thousand Dollars, over and above all Rents, Dues, Debts, Charges, Mortgages, and Incumbrances due or payable out of or charged on or affecting the same;
  4. (4)  His Real and Personal Property shall be together worth Four thousand Dol- lars over and above his Debts and Liabilities;
  5. (5)  He shall be resident in the Province for which he is appointed;
  6. (6)  In the Case of Quebec he shall have his Real Property Qualification in the Electoral Division for which he is appointed, or shall be resident in that Di- vision. (13) 
At the time he was appointed to the Senate in 2008, he didn't even hold a driver's license from PEI.  In other words, all of his legal documentation likely showed that he resided in Ottawa.  I don't think that this has changed one iota.  For the sake of appearances, Duffy applied for a PEI Driver's License in 2009, but a subsequent passport application in 2011 listed his Ottawa home as his permanent address.

In short, Duffy fails the residency test in the first place.  Given that the Governor General appoints Senators on the advice of the Prime Minister, I think it is fairly clear that not only is Duffy's seat in the Senate highly suspect, but further that Harper is complicit in a fraudulent appointment.

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