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OTTAWA — The NDP wants the RCMP to consider laying charges against Nigel Wright and up to a dozen other staffers in the Prime Minister's Office for their part in covering up the scandal over Sen. Mike Duffy's expenses.
In a letter to RCMP commissioner Bob Paulson, NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus says testimony at the Duffy trial has produced significant new evidence about the role played by Wright, Stephen Harper's former chief of staff.
Angus says Wright's testimony has also revealed that at least a dozen other senior staff in the Prime Minister's Office were involved in a plan to make a secret payment to Duffy, interfere with an independent audit of his expenses and deliberately mislead the public about the entire affair.
Wright has been on the hot seat at the Duffy trial for a week, testifying about his decision to personally give the senator $90,000 so that Duffy could reimburse the Senate for questionable expense claims.
In addition to charges of fraud and breach of trust, Duffy faces one count of bribery for accepting Wright's money; however Wright has not been charged for giving Duffy the money.
All the charges facing Duffy were laid under the Criminal Code. The RCMP did not lay any charges under the Parliament of Canada Act, even though some legal experts have argued it would have provided an easier route to a conviction.
The act specifies that no senator shall receive compensation for services rendered in relation to any matter or controversy before the Senate; it also makes it illegal for anyone to offer such compensation.
"With the new evidence that's coming out at the Mike Duffy trial, the testimony from Nigel Wright, it seems to us imperative that the RCMP take a new look at the possibility that section 16 of the Parliament of Canada Act was in fact broken by Nigel Wright and by other people around Stephen Harper and we think Canadians have a right to know whether they broke the law," NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said during a campaign stop in British Columbia.
"That provision is clear and I think that sort of clear response is required now by the RCMP commissioner to Canadians."
In his letter to Paulson, Angus notes that the RCMP commissioner assured him last year that the Mounties would eventually make it clear why Wright was not charged.
He asks whether the RCMP "will now be laying charges against Nigel Wright" and "whether Ray Novak or any other staff working in the Prime Minister's Office should be investigated for their role working with Mr. Wright in relation to this matter."
Emails disclosed during the trial suggest that Novak, Harper's principal secretary at the time, was aware that Wright was sending Duffy a cheque. Novak, now Harper's chief of staff, has denied that.
Harper has been dogged by questions about the matter as he campaigns for the Oct. 19 election. He continues to insist that he knew nothing about Wright's payment and that he believed Duffy had repaid his expenses out of his own pocket.