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Federal Politics

Harper Says He Did No Wrong? Let Him Prove It

Answering these questions under oath would do wonders for PM's credibility.

Michael Harris 30 Nov 2013iPolitics

Michael Harris is a writer, journalist, and documentary filmmaker. He was awarded a Doctor of Laws for his "unceasing pursuit of justice for the less fortunate among us." His eight books include Justice Denied, Unholy Orders, Rare Ambition, Lament for an Ocean, and Con Game. His work has sparked four commissions of inquiry, and three of his books have been made into movies. He is currently working on a book about the Harper majority government to be published in the autumn of 2014 by Penguin Canada.

It's time for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to call a public inquiry into Duffygate.

Former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin did that in the eye of the storm that was the ad sponsorship scandal. It was the only way to shore up badly-damaged public confidence in government. It also gave a measure of closure to public revulsion over serious institutional corruption -- to the degree that was possible.

It was a hard call because Martin himself was not involved in AdScam, but knew full well what opening up that barrel of worms would mean to his tenure as prime minister.

Stephen Harper, by comparison, is going down in a hail of whoppers, as the stain spreads in the PMO, reaching the Senate and even the Deloitte Forensic investigation. Careers are being ruined, the cloud of criminal charges hangs over two people, and the country staggers around in ignorance as the prime minister practices his peculiar form of transparency -- knowing absolutely nothing about anything. No director of communications can keep up with the non-sequiturs the prime minister offers as answers these days.

They're not answers -- they're efforts at optics, and poor ones at that. Usually when you change your story, you explain why. After whiplash-inducing reversals, Stephen Harper alters his account of serious matters with zero explanation. He appears to believe that repeating amended and self-interested versions of the facts is the same as telling the truth. Lacking consistency on simple matters of fact, the prime minister's credibility is now all but exhausted on Duffygate and a great many other things.

Swearing an oath might be a wonderful way to concentrate his mind.

Answer us this, Mr. Prime Minister

Here are some questions Stephen Harper needs to answer under oath:

And while we're at it, Mr. Wright?

The prime minister is not the only person who needs to give a few answers under oath.

Consider how the PMO reached into another parliamentary body already in the process of conducting an independent forensic investigation and tried to engineer the course of events with respect to one Senator Mike Duffy. This is how Nigel Wright described the actions of the PMO aimed at ending the Deloitte investigation in documents released by the RCMP:

"Today (March 1, 2013) I asked Sen. Gerstein to actually work through senior contacts at Deloitte and with Sen. LeBreton... the outcome we are pushing for is for Deloitte to report publicly that if Kanata were the primary residence (of Duffy) then the amount owing would be the $90,000 figure and that since Senator Duffy has committed to repay this amount then Deloitte's work in determining primary residence is no longer needed..."

A week later, there is a progress report on Gerstein's mission and his discussion with Michael Runia, a senior partner at Deloitte. The appraisal is given by PMO staffer Patrick Rogers, also in RCMP documents:

"Senator Gerstein has just called in. He agrees with our understanding of the situation and his Deloitte contact agrees. The stage we're at now is waiting for the senator's contact to get the actual Deloitte auditor on the file to agree. The senator will call back once we have Deloitte locked in."

Here are a few questions Nigel Wright should answer under oath:

Finally, some answers due from Deloitte

There are also some questions that Deloitte needs to answer in the Wright-Duffy scandal. Why would one of Deloitte's senior partners, Michael Runia, agree to discuss an ongoing forensic investigation with the Conservative party's bagman and corporate boardroom heavy, Senator Irving Gerstein? And what, if any, pressure did he put on the actual auditors on the file to agree to Nigel Wright's plan as passed on by Senator Gerstein?

Michael Runia was to have testified earlier this week in front of the Senate's Internal Economy Committee but senior senators now say that won't be happening. Instead, the committee will hear from three auditors who looked at Duffy's expenses. It's a pity Runia will not be testifying. He would have attracted quite a crowd.

As for Mike Duffy, he has never had a problem building an audience. That's why 17 Conservative candidates got Duffy to campaign for them in 2011.

One of his earliest appearances was with then-Conservative candidate Julian Fantino when he ran in a byelection in Vaughan. Fantino's people went looking for someone to host a live tele-town hall back in November of 2010, and struck gold -- they got Mike Duffy. Duffy had, by then, left the bright lights of television journalism and was employing his talents at special Conservative events and fundraisers as a celebrity senator.

Duffy went to Fantino's office and the two men talked to 40,000 homes, with the Fantino campaign expressly banning the media from listening in and reporting on the event. An astonishing 15,000 people stayed on the line for 18 minutes, making the event a big success.

Corporal Greg Horton, the lead RCMP investigator in the Wright-Duffy affair, is now in possession of a complaint from Vaughan that the Fantino tele-town hall did not show up on Fantino's election expenses. Did it show up on Duffy's? No one knows at this point.

Sooner or later, someone is going to have to explain why the PMO went to such extraordinary lengths to keep Deloitte from poking around in the affairs of the guy with the killer wink.

That someone should be the prime minister.  [Tyee]

Read more: Federal Politics

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