Friday, July 5, 2013

Is Duffy-Geddon A Word? Should It Be?

Someday, when they write the histories of the early decades of the 21st Century, there will be an article or maybe even a chapter on Stephen Harper and his Harper Party.  At the end of the piece there will be a bit about the end of the Harper era, the reason that Stephen fell from Grace.


The end of the Harper years came about due to the increasing scandal surrounding one of his Senate appointments.  Senator Michael Dennis (Mike) Duffy[‘s]…  scandal started as a rather inconspicuous affair with questions about his actual home and some improper expenses he claimed as a Senator.  The issues escalated until they reached critical mass… some historians refer to this as “Duffy-Geddon”…

Seriously, if Stephen Harper had stood up for Canadians and just did the right thing, Duffy would be sitting in his home, wherever that is, wondering about what might have been.  But instead Harper did the political thing, protected his star money raiser and put himself and his party into an uncomfortable position.

Some Master Strategist.  He didn’t just step into a pile of poop, he basically jumped (or was pushed) from the hayloft into a huge pile of manure.

In the very beginning, when the Duffy Affair had only started, it would have been so easy to say “He said he lived in PEI, but I guess he doesn’t” and Senator Duffy would have been ex-Senator Duffy.  Instead we were given an entertaining dog and pony show and some nonsense about Health Cards and Voting Records which apparently amounted to diddly squat.

Mike stayed in the Senate and Harper was happy.

The next we heard of the Duffy Affair was the housing allowance that Mike was getting even though he apparently lived just a short drive from his job in the Senate.  I still maintain that this expense investigation was prompted by a Harper Party desire to discredit the Liberal Party by making Senator Mac Harb look like he was “gaming the system”.  But anyway, as the investigation took place, it netted Duffy as well as Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau, and of course Mac Harb, showing them all to be lining their pockets with questionable expenses.

When the reports were written, both Brazeau and Harb were chastised for their expenses, but the Duffy report was missing this bit, supposedly because he had already repaid his improper expenses.  Duffy was confused by the difficult paperwork, Brazeau and Harb were cheaters.  Pamela Wallin? Well her report has yet to be written, but she has been paying back some expense money too.

Now Stephen Harper steps back into the picture, lauding Good Ol’ Duff for taking a “leadership role” in repaying his debts.  That may have been Van Loan, they all start to sound the same after a while…

Senate Government Leader Marjory LeBreton came out and declared the Duffy Matter closed.  He owed money and it was repaid.  Period.

It gets a bit messy here, things happening on top of each other… But while some were wondering why Duffy was so confused by the paperwork for his housing allowance, the Senate did not think that Brazeau and Harb were equally confused.  This came to a head with Senator David Tkachuk agreeing to reopen the reports and have a second look at what should have been reported and how.

Enter Nigel Wright. 

While Mike Duffy was telling folks how he had gone to the bank and arranged a loan to repay his debt, word came from the PMO that in fact Nigel Wright had written the cheque and covered Mike Duffy’s improper expenses.  An anonymous source in the PMO said that Nigel and Duff were good friends from way back and Nigel just wanted to help Good Ol’ Duff out.

This got some of us wondering, just how friendly do you need to be to cut a cheque for a friend that approaches what you make in a year’s salary?

Stephen on the other hand thought it was wonderful that Nigel had saved the taxpayers from having to pay the debt or some such nonsense.  We would have gotten the money back by garnishment and it wouldn’t have cost us one cent more. 

Nigel realized that he had messed up and offered his resignation to Stephen Harper.  Harper sat on the resignation before finally accepting it, trying to distance himself from the kerfuffle by saying he wasn’t aware of what his Right Hand Man in the PMO was doing.

Other nasty questions were coming out too.  How did Duffy know how much he owed when the audit was still incomplete?

The answer is pretty obvious, someone told him.  Senator Tkachuk admits contacting Duffy about some questionable per diems that he claimed and he also admitted going to the PMO for guidance on how to proceed with the audits and the results.

What was Stephen Harper’s explanation for all this?  He says he didn’t know what was going on.  He held an open Caucus Meeting, smiled at the cameras sadly, and had the press thrown out of the meeting when he was done talking.

I almost forgot, he asked Duffy and Wallin to resign from the Harper Party Caucus and they did.

Then Stephen went to South America for meetings.  He left his minions in charge of defending his and his Party’s honour.  They deflected and denied until they were blue in the face, making accusations against the NDP and Liberal Members based on half truths and sometimes less than half truths.

Then Stephen finally came back.

I’ll give full credit to Tom Mulcair here.  When Stephen finally came to Question Period, Tom took him to task, asking short pointed questions that even Harper realized could not be deflected or volleyed back at the NDP as his minions had been doing.  Even the new Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau scored some points here, but not nearly as many as Mulcair.  Stephen did give a few answers but stuck to his story of ignorance about what had happened with the Duffy Affair.

And then Stephen flew off the Europe.

The saga went on, questions in the House, denials, deflections, and spin until the House finally broke for summer recess.  Like kids in school, sort of.  Kids are usually better behaved.

So the Duffy Affair/Scandal/Whatever was quietly put to rest with the end of an acrimonious sitting of the House.  Or so we thought.

Remember when the arguments were going on in the Senate, Mike Duffy said he wanted an investigation done on the whole affair?  The Senate decided to pick up the phone and invite the RCMP to have a look-see.

A lot of people figured the RCMP would be a whitewash and that nothing would come of their poking around.  I thought that there might be a different result.  The RCMP is like a fine horse, not always pleasant to be around and sometimes downright nasty in its actions.  Horses like this run well when you keep a loose hold on the reins and give them their head.  The Harper Party and Vic Toews tried to rein them in and keep a firm hold on those reins.  Maybe, just maybe that horse would be chomping at the bit and ready to sink its teeth into someone’s rump.

The rump looks like it might belong to Mike Duffy.

The RCMP has some serious allegations of impropriety involving the Duffy Affair reaching into the PMO.

Yes the same PMO that fire a shot across the bow of the same RCMP over a situation that occurred in a flooded community in Alberta.  Not a good way to win friends and influence people is it?

Anyhow, the RCMP has said that when Wright gave Duffy the money to repay the debt which would make Duffy look like he was an OK guy, and that everyone would stop talking about the whole thing and it could then go away was illegal.  It’s covered under something called “frauds on government”.

Now the Harper Party and the PMO are quick to point out it was Nigel Wright’s money and that no taxpayer money was involved, but that almost wasn’t the case.

When the Harper Party People thought that Duffy’s debt was on the order of $30,000.00 they were willing to pony up Party money to cover the debt.  When they saw that it was $90,176.00 they balked at that.  That’s when Party money man Nigel Wright decided to write the cheque to make the problems go away.

The Party money is the money they raise through donations and the Dollars For Votes that is being phased out.  Those donations are underwritten by us, you and me.  When someone gets a rebate on their political donation at tax time, our tax dollars make up the difference.

We almost got stuck with that, but then again, it would be a better use of the money than yet another attack ad as far as I can see.

So where are we now?

Benjamin Perrin, former PMO legal advisor said he was not involved in any of the Duffy Affair.  Nigel Wright’s lawyer says Perrin was there and took part in the meeting.

Senator David Tkachuk has stepped down from the Senate Internal Economy Committee.  To be fair, he is battling cancer but the stress of this situation cannot be good for him.

Senator Marjory LeBreton has suddenly decided to step down as Senate Government Leader.  How she managed to get herself into this situation is beyond me, but she was the one that declared the Duffy Matter closed months ago and has looked the fool ever since.  Her history with the PC party goes all the way back to Diefenbaker and she served as a Cabinet Minister under Mulroney, why would she decide to climb into the Harper Party fold?  No idea, maybe the price was right at the time, it doesn’t look too good right now.

The Harper Party has taken a hit in their pocket book as well.  Though they still out raised the opposition by a fair amount, it was not as much as they normally would draw.  And remember, the most recent numbers were from before the RCMPs allegations and the Harper Party confirming that had the cost been lower, they would have spent their Party money on Duffy’s debt.  I’m sure the call centres will be working some overtime to try and scrape up some extra cash now.

Senator Irving Gerstein.  Who?  Irving is the man in charge of the Harper Party treasure chest, and he is the one who was OK with paying off Duffy’s debt until the amount climbed too high.  Gerstein was also charged in the “In and Out Scandal” from a few years back. The charges were later dropped when the party pled guilty and paid $52,000.00 in fines.  How this plays out for him is anyone’s guess.  Irving was a long time fund raiser for the PC Party and followed into the Harper Party when the PCs tossed their lot in with the Reform and Alliance Parties.

Interesting tidbit:  Irving was chair of a committee that handed in a report on Canada’s efforts to combat money laundering.  It was not a flattering report for the Harper Party.

Nigel Wright is being investigated for so called “frauds on government” and yet he maintains that he acted alone.  But he does say that he did discuss it with Perrin and others in the PMO.

Who am I missing?  Oh, Mike Duffy.

Duffy is now implicated in a crime, the same one that is following Nigel Wright.  I’m not sure if it is the same cheque that is getting him into trouble here, but he is in trouble over his repeated history of ineligible expense claims.  This falls under the same act as well.

To be honest, this last item confuses me.  Depending on the source, the RCMP may be looking at charging Wright for his part in this whole affair, but others say that Wright is merely a witness at this point.

The RCMP has been seizing Election Canada spending reports for various Harper Party candidates around the country.  There is a big question over who was paying the travel tab for having Duffy appear at election events.  Some parts were paid for by the candidates, which is what should happen, some parts appear to be included in Duffy’s per diem expenses which is wrong.  And some parts don’t seem to show up anywhere which means someone was paying election expenses but not recording them.  This could be a huge blow to the Harper Party.

And then there are the MPs who have decided to leave the party.  Brent Rathgeber was the first to leave.  He says he is unhappy with the way the Harper Party is doing things and has chosen to sit as an independent in the House.  This has annoyed the PMO and that amuses me.

Other members have decided the time is right to finish their terms and not run for re election.  It’s worth noting that these are former Reform Party members and not all of them are thanking Stephen Harper for having them around.

Finally, what about Stephen Harper?  If I were a cynic, I’d mention that the timing of everything in the Duffy Saga almost looks like it is orchestrated.  Every time things calm down, something blows up.  This was a smooth running mandate that suddenly has blown tires all over the place. 

This was supposed to be Harper’s Summer.  A nice party in Calgary to reaffirm him as leader and everyone wearing big smiles suddenly has gone sideways.  The hugfest in Calgary was flooded out.  Cabinet Ministers are announcing their retirements at the end of their terms.  The upcoming Cabinet shuffle is going to be put down as a tired attempt to change the channel and will probably go for naught if the Duffy Affairs rears its ugly head again… And it probably will.

It would almost look like the backroom boys have decided that it’s time for Harper to go, but with no real contender or heir apparent around, that just doesn’t make sense.  Nothing about the Harper Party makes sense right now.  Ministers seem to be stumbling along, stepping on landmines right and left.  And the Trudeau attack ads that actually increased Liberal support and donations.

It’s almost like Karma woke up, yawned and decided that it’s time for Harper to pay.

But what really doesn’t make sense is how Canada’s most infamous micro manager, who drove the director of the 1812 commercials nuts with his unnecessary tinkering with minute details in those ads, could not have known about the cheque.  Wright was Harper’s Right Hand.  Wright spoke with no less than three PMO lieutenants.  The head of the party was in on the deal and Gerstein was the one who put the kibosh on the Harper Party footing the bill.

All this happened and no one, not one single person told Harper?

If this truly is the case, then the next question would be who the hell is actually in charge of the government?

More to ponder, Cheers! BC

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