If you haven’t tuned into the Duffy trial over the past week, than you are living under a rock, or you’re missing one of the best political dramas in Canadian history. The cross examination of Nigel Wright in Senator Mike Duffy’s trial over inappropriate expenses, is becoming quite interesting to many Canadians. Canada seems to be tuned into this political drama playing out in an Ottawa court room in droves, albeit in the middle of the summer when most tune out politics. CBC saw ratings rise to record levels during the cross examination last week in its At Issue political panel, and the political talk show Power and Politics:
— Peter Mansbridge (@petermansbridge) August 14, 2015
On top of this, latest poll numbers put the Conservatives in third place behind the NDP. What all of this is suggesting is that Canadians are now tuned in big time to the trail and Wright’s testimony. I’ve been following this closely as well on Twitter, where I’ve been commenting on the testimony on a daily basis.
Nigel Wright was Harper’s chief of staff. The main job for the chief of staff of the prime minister is to protect the prime minister politically. For those of you who have ever watched House of Cards, Wright’s responsibilities were similar too Michael Kelly’s character Doug Stamper. For those of you not familiar with House of Cards, Wright was the go-to man for the Prime Minister to make political problems go away, and with his testimony, he’s unintentionally creating more problems for the Conservative party than he is deflecting them away from the Prime Minister.
The media is doing a very good job at simplifying a very complicated web of deception, spun by the Prime Minister’s staff to fend off questions on Senator Mike Duffy’s expenses. Duffy did a lot of fund raising for the Conservative party over the years and the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) felt that this expense scandal the media uncovered regarding Senator Duffy, would damage the Conservative brand, thus the prime minister. Nigel Wright who was then the Prime Minister Harper’s chief of staff was in charge of making Duffy go away quietly.
While a lot of political pundits are focusing on what the Prime Minister knew and when regarding a payment to Duffy by Wright, my main interest is that several ministers including my own (then house leader) Peter Van Loan were fed “public relations” lines to say in the media and the house of commons by the PMO regarding Duffy re-paying his own expenses which were utterly false. It turns out that the PMO knew about Wright’s payment to Duffy, all while scripting a false and misleading response that Duffy paid his own expenses for Ministers to try and control the problem politically.
Why does all of this matter? The e-mail threads submitted into evidence show a deliberate attempt by Wright and PMO staff (some of which are handling Harper’s election campaign currently) to mislead Canadians on Duffy’s expenses to try and protect the Conservative party. They also point to the PMO interfering with what is supposed to be an independent Senate audit of Senator’s expenses. If the PMO is deliberately misleading Canadians to protect their own brand, are we in a huge deficit right now, and not on a balanced budget? What else has the PMO been guilty of misleading Canadians on, and are we getting any truthful information on government policy and if it’s working or not? We could be in the dark quite a bit on a lot of important policy that is steering the economic, and social engine of the country as a result of a culture of deceit and almost near total control over the party and independent processes that seems very well established in the PMO.
If you want to follow this past weeks events regarding Wright’s testimony a good place to start is Evan Solomon’s new podcast Everything is Political which aired on August 13th. Friday August 14ths testimony is summed up nicely here
As the Duffy trial winds it’s way through the election campaign, more testimony is expected from people in the inner circle of the Conservative party. With this many people tuned into Wright’s testimony, this will be hard for the Conservatives to simply use plausible deniability tactics at a time when even their own base is questioning the ethics of the party and their poll numbers dropping.