Trying to make sense of the Wright-Duffy-Harper scandal is not easy. That's because so many aspects of it make no sense. We're all trying very hard to draw conclusions when there may be a lot of facts we still haven't heard.
With the exception of Mike Duffy, the stories seem to be falling apart. Harper’s accounts have been convoluted, inconsistent and contradictory. First, Wright acted alone, went rogue so to speak. No one else in the PMO knew anything about it. Then, after Wright’s statement to the RCMP, it was four PMO staffers in on it. Still Harper says he knew nothing until May 15th.
Wright’s e-mails indicate that he did speak to Harper but Wright ties those to the aborted proposal that the CPC pay $32K, not the subsequent deal to cover $90K plus $13K in Payne’s legal fees. That sounds like a distinction without a difference. (Either way, Wright contends that Harper was aware that Duffy would be receiving a gift of money in connection with his office - bribery and corruption)
Harper's claim to have known nothing might be remotely plausible if it wasn’t for Perrin. He was legal counsel to the prime minister. His fiduciary duty was plain. Yet he facilitated this deal, wrote the letter of undertakings to Payne, and yet never breathed a word of this potentially explosive deal to the prime minister? That defies all reason. Then, a month after the money is exchanged, Perrin hightails it back to Vancouver. That has the appearance of Perrin bolting from Ottawa. Perhaps that had been in the works long in advance and had nothing to do with Wright-Duffy-Harper. It just looks bad in the circumstances.
Perrin has said he had nothing to do with the bribe which is a telling statement if Perrin negotiated the deal that saw the funds transmitted to Duffy's lawyer. That is what Wright maintains and constable Horton agrees.
As the investigator, Horton, laid it out, the money was a bribe. It’s prohibited under the Parliament of Canada Act. Wright must have known that. Perrin obviously had to have known that. These two guys aren’t rubes from the back woods. They knew that there were way too many people in on this. Duffy, Payne, Wright, Perrin, van Hemmen, Woodcock, LeBreton, LeBreton’s aides (Montgomery?), Stewart-Olsen, Tkachuk, Gerstein, Arthur Hamilton, Ray Novak and probably the odd support staff. That’s a baker's dozen for starters.
How could Wright and Perrin have believed this wouldn’t leak out? You would have to be brain dead to realize that many people were in on it and then assume it would remain secret for more than a month or two. They even asked how many people Duffy intended to tell. How could two astute types like Wright and Perrin not have failed to realize the explosive ramifications of this? Impossible. All of this strongly suggests this was not entirely of their own doing. This is an act of supreme hubris and that points to just one person, doesn’t it? Were they all pressured into this? This is beginning to look like the handiwork of the Smartest Man in the Room(tm).
Why did they do this for/to Mike Duffy? Was his prowess at fund raising and electioneering remotely worth the risks this scheme entailed? Harper did try to intercede on behalf of Wallin when he said both she and Mike Duffy met the residency requirements and again when he said he had reviewed Wallin’s expenses and found nothing out of the ordinary. Beyond that she never received any “special handling.” Later she got worked over by Ray Novak and forced to leave caucus.
Contrast that to what they did for Duffy. It wasn’t just the money. As constable Horton points out, the top aides in the PMO, in conjunction with three top Tory senators, set out to corrupt the Senate itself. They threatened to use the residency issue as a club to oust Duffy if he didn’t play ball. They tried to interfere with Deloittes and, when that failed, they laundered the audit report themselves. That is pretty clear corruption by the PMO and by the Tory Senate leadership including Stewart-Olsen who is directly tied to Stephen Harper.
Did they really go to these lengths to protect the Golden Goose or was there more to it? Do they perceive Duffy not only as an asset but also as a potential threat? Does MD perhaps have the goods on them as some in the media have suggested? Does he know where the bodies are buried?
The prime minister has become very erratic. He’s been repeatedly forced to change his story, especially about Wright and others who were in on this. He seems to be making a lot of human sacrifices to cover his trail. In some aspects this resembles the prime minister’s handling of the Bruce Carson scandal. For the first time in his career, he’s stuck in a scandal he can’t shake, one that won’t fade away. If he hasn’t already, the prime minister would seem to be at grave risk of becoming ineffective, a liability to his party. I can’t imagine he has any shortage of enemies and rivals within his own party ranks.
So many loose threads. So many questions unasked. I still have the feeling there’s an awful lot we don’t know and may never know. Has Perrin talked to the RCMP? Better yet, has he “lawyered up”?
This is definitely the most sordid scandal in Canada's political history. We can't even guess how much more is to come.
Benjamin Perrin is the key.
Benjamin Perrin is the key.