OTTAWA – Politics – There is quite a scandal going on in Ottawa right now and I have two opinions on it. I’ll get to those two thoughts further down, but here is a quick look at the “Senate Scandal Timeline” as compiled by the CBC (www.cbc.ca). It will hopefully explain what has happened on the issue before I share my thoughts.
June 13, 2012: Auditor General Michael Ferguson recommends the Senate require documentation for more of senators’ expense claims, after finding the Senate did not have proper documentation to support living expense claims in two of seven cases examined.
Dec. 6, 2012: Senate internal economy committee announces it will conduct an audit to assess “whether all senators’ declarations of primary and secondary residence are supported by sufficient documentation.” Documentation includes provincial health card, driver’s license and voting registration.
Feb. 4-5 2013: P.E.I. Health Minister Doug Currie confirms to CBC News that Duffy applied for a provincial health card just before Dec. 25, 2012. CBC News also reports that a property tax assessment shows Duffy does not receive a P.E.I. resident tax credit for his Cavendish home.
Feb. 8: Senate announces it has hired outside auditor Deloitte to examine the residency declarations and related expenses of Duffy, Brazeau and Liberal Senator Mac Harb. It is also seeking legal advice about Duffy’s residency status.
March 26: Auditor Deloitte receives a letter from Duffy’s legal counsel stating that Duffy had repaid more than $90,000 in expenses, and would no longer be participating in the audit.
April 19: Duffy issues statement saying he has repaid more than $90,000 in housing and living expenses. Senate committee on internal economy confirms $90,172.24 repayment, but does not say when payment was made.
May 15: Following a report by CTV News, PMO spokesman Andrew MacDougall confirms the prime minister’s chief of staff, Nigel Wright, wrote a personal cheque for $90,172.24 to repay Duffy’s living expenses, and says the cheque was a gift, not a loan. Conservative spokesman Fred Delorey says “no party money involved in any way” in Duffy repayment. Duffy and Wright decline comment.
May 17: PMO spokesman says Wright is “staying on.”
May 19: Nigel Wright resigns “in light of the controversy surrounding my handling of matters involving Senator Duffy,” adding he did not tell Harper of the repayment “either before or after the fact.” Harper says in a statement he accepted Wright’s resignation “with great regret.” Ray Novak, Harper’s principal secretary, takes over as chief of staff.
May 21: Prime Minister Stephen Harper allowed journalists into a Conservative caucus meeting while he spoke to his MPs and senators. He told them he was “very upset” about the recent conduct of “some parliamentarians” and his own office but he did not name names and did not specifically address the Senate spending scandal. He did not take questions from reporters and they were asked to leave when he was done speaking. Following the meeting, the Prime Minister left for a weeklong trip to Latin America.
May 27: In spite of being in Canada, and in Ottawa, the Prime Minister refuses to attend what would be his first Question Period since Canadians found out about Nigel Wright’s secret payment to Mike Duffy. The Heritage Minister is forced to answer questions on his behalf.
So…my two cents?
First, I believe the RCMP should be called in immediately to investigate the alleged $90,000 ‘hush money’ payment from Prime Minister Harper’s Chief of Staff Nigel Wright to Senator Mike Duffy. Such a payment, if it occurred would violate at least two laws – The Parliament of Canada Act and the Criminal Code. The police need to be involved in this matter right now and to ensure that there are no further cover-ups.
Second, this sort of thing has gone on for too long. New Democrats have called for the abolition of the Senate for more than 50 years because of this sort of behaviour by nearly every past Conservative and Liberal government. We believe the time has finally come to abolish the unaccountable and unelected Senate as soon as possible, and we hope you agree.
John Rafferty MP