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In November, 2013, as part of his investigation into the Duffy housing expense scandal, RCMP Cpl Greg Horton swore in a statement that he had good reason to suspect that Nigel Wright, chief of staff to the then prime minister of Canada, had committed the following criminal offences:
1) Nigel Wright between February 6, 2013 and March 28, 2013, at Ottawa, Ontario, did directly or indirectly corruptly give or offer to a member of Parliament for the benefit of that person, any money, valuable consideration, or office in respect of anything done or omitted by him in his official capacity contrary to section 119(1)(b) of the Criminal Code.
2) Nigel Wright a person having dealings with the government of Canada, between February 6, 2013, and May 19, 2013, at Ottawa Ontario, did, without the consent in writing of the head of the branch of that government, pay a reward or confer an advantage or benefit to Mike Duffy, an official of the government of Canada with respect to those dealings contrary to Section 121(1)(b) of the Criminal Code.
3) Michael Duffy and Nigel Wright between February 6, 2013, and May 19, 2013, at Ottawa Ontario, being officials of the government of Canada, did commit breach of trust in connection with the duties of their offices contrary to Section 122 of the Criminal Code.
As everyone now knows, only Duffy was charged.
Why did those (or other) charges against Wright never materialize?
Why haven’t other PMO staff and senators involved in the wider abuses unearthed in the Duffy trial been charged?
Why were so many criminal charges laid against Duffy for relatively minor internal Senate finance issues? Was the indictment padded for effect?
Why was Stephen Harper never questioned?
How far did the Harper PMO’s influence reach?
It’s imperative that the RCMP and Crown now provide concrete answers about the 63-day show trial and botched public hanging of Mike Duffy.
Something went seriously wrong at the charging stage and the smell won’t wash out.
Whoever made the charging and prosecutorial decisions must account for them now, because the administration of justice has been seriously compromised. The trial on the central bribery charge went so off-base that the Crown’s own witnesses pretty much established the defence case on their own. Duffy didn’t need to testify at all, and probably did so for purely personal reasons.
We now know that Nigel Wright was the chief architect of the entire Duffy pay-back scheme, conscripting the PMO’s top echelon into his service. We know he relentlessly drove the plan to its conclusion, steam-rolled over senators and senior public servants with vastly more government experience, then grossly violated the boundaries of Senate confidentiality.
Mike Duffy, at best, was an unwilling ride-along.
The RCMP knew all this before they charged Duffy alone.
For his part, Duffy worried that if he didn’t claim Ottawa as a secondary residence he might lose his PEI Senate seat in a constitutional challenge. He wanted an authoritative finding on his expense claims, not a face-saving shove from the PMO. We have not only Duffy's word for this, but corroborating emails and testimony by Crown witnesses.
It was Wright and the then prime minister who demanded an immediate end to the political scandal—the “Chinese water torture” as it was called. Wright pulled out all the stops to make that happen.
The PMO applied intense pressure through February 2013 to convince Duffy to go along with their plan and re-pay the expenses. To secure his compliance, they agreed, in a legal agreement drafted by lawyers, to keep him whole. At that point everyone thought the party would cover his expenses.
And the RCMP knew it.
So far, so good. As PMO lawyer Ben Perrin testified at trial:
"The potential for there to be a criminal issue here was never in our minds… We thought we were dealing with a potential violation of a Senate rule."
To that point, this was true.
Then a Senate sub-committee ordered an independent audit by Deloitte of the housing expenses, and Nigel Wright's runaway train shot right off the rails. He directed Duffy not to cooperate in the audit—he (Wright) would manage it.
Using Conservative Party bag-man Senator Irving Gerstein’s relationship with a Conservative donor and professional contact at Deloitte’s, Wright and the PMO worked through wholly illegitimate back-channels to obtain confidential information about the audit and attempt to manipulate its findings to fit the desired narrative.
And the RCMP knew this when they charged Duffy alone.
That tactic blew up in the PMO’s face when Gerstein reported back on Thursday afternoon, March 21st. Wright's scheme to internally de-rail the Deloitte audit had failed. Not only was that audit going full-steam ahead, but it would openly criticize Duffy's non-cooperation, which Wright had directed. The whole deal with Duffy was in jeopardy, and the media and opposition sharks were circling.
The RCMP had all this evidence.
Wright and his crew then worked feverishly over the March 23rd weekend to get the $90,000 expenses repaid to the Senate by March 26th, via Duffy’s lawyer's trust account. More than 60 emails passed between the group over that weekend alone. The matter was of such urgency that Wright wrote the cheque himself, thus ensuring they’d at least have repayment in place when the Deloitte audit concluded at month’s end. Ray Novak, Harper’s closest advisor, was copied on emails.
When the independent audit arrived with its expected criticisms of Duffy, the Senate sub-committee drafted its own negative report. Over the objections of a respected senior civil servant, Wright’s PMO group directed that the Senate sub-committee edit out negative comments on Duffy's conduct, including his non-compliance in the audit. This served the dual purpose of covering up their own role in that non-compliance.
Without notice to the Liberal senate committee member, the PMO dictated changes verbatim to the majority Conservative members, who adopted the report as their own.
The RCMP knew all of this before they charged Duffy alone. It was all in Cpl Horton's report which recommended charges against Wright.
Somehow in this process, someone in the RCMP or Crown peeled Wright’s name off the proposed charges.
Who made that call, and why?
A decade ago, in his report on the sponsorship scandal, Justice John Gomery warned of the dangers of increasingly concentrated executive power within the PMO. He warned that unchecked power by unaccountable PMO political staffers untrained in government rules would lead to interference in our democratic institutions.
Appearing in Ottawa in 2008 to discuss his findings, Gomery told a Commons Committee that political staff, such as those in the PMO "often do not have the training and are not aware of what an appropriate rule of conduct might be."
"For example, when a member of the public service receives a phone call from (someone in the PMO) who requests certain information, the civil servant would have great difficulty in telling the person to mind his or her own business. That is virtually impossible.
In my view, there should be a rule prohibiting any such phone calls."
Yet ten years later, in the midst of yet another scandal, with a PMO riding roughshod over senior senators and civil servants, casually abusing the most fundamental principles of Parliamentary confidentiality and the rule of law, our RCMP and Crown looked the other way, and threw the book at Michael Dennis Duffy.
It smacks strangely of precisely the same opaque command-and-control mindset that governed the PMO’s entire Duffy strategy. Canadians need to know it doesn’t emanate from the same source. As the Gomery experience shows, a change in government is meaningless if the institutions and power structure don't change.
RCMP and Crown: explain this.