More bad news for Tories as details of RCMP case against Mike Duffy emerge

Andy Radia
July 5, 2013

If Prime Minister Harper was hoping a summer recess from Parliament would help 'change the channel' on the Senate expense scandal, he is going to be utterly disappointed.

Media outlets — including CTV News and the Globe and Mail — have obtained court documents shedding light on the RCMP investigation into Senator Mike Duffy and his Senate expense claims.

According to the reports, Duffy is being investigated for breach of trust for a "pattern of filing fraudulent expense claims" and "fraud against the government" for accepting the $90,000 cheque from Nigel Wright, the prime minister's former chief of staff, in order to pay back his improperly claimed expense claims.

"[Duffy] maintains that his primary residence is in PEI so that he can collect housing and travel allowances from the Senate, however uses his Ottawa residence as his primary residence when convenient, such as when dealing with OHIP [Ontario Health Insurance Plan] so that he can obtain medical coverage in Ontario," the court documents, dated June 24, say.

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The documents — needed for the police to obtain search warrants — also include some damning information that could further politically harm the Harper government and the Conservative Party.

In the court filing, the RCMP allege that the Conservative Fund — the taxpayer subsidized fundraising arm for the Tories — was going to be the source of the monies to pay Duffy.

"The Conservative Party was initially going to repay the money for Duffy, from a Conservative fund, when it was believed the amount he owed was approximately $32,000. The fund is controlled by Senator Gerstein," the RCMP note.

"When it was realized that the cost was actually $90,000, it was too much money to ask the Conservative Party to cover.

"[Nigel] Wright then offered to cover the cost for Duffy, believing it was the proper ethical decision that taxpayers not be out that amount of money."

The filing also claims that at least three people at the Prime Minister's office, along with Tory Senator Irving Gerstein, knew of Wright's decision to cut the cheque which eventually led to his resignation.

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On Thursday evening, the Prime Minister's office seemed to feel somewhat vindicated by the new revelations.

"This file was handled by Nigel Wright and he has taken sole responsibility," Harper's spokesperson Andrew MacDougall toldPostmedia News.

"The affidavit is clear that the prime minister was not aware of the payment."

While the prime minister may not have known about the Nigel Wright money transfer, at least three of his key staffers did and none of them objected enough to put a stop to it.

Harper's defence doesn't wash with NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus.

"The Prime Minister's defence appears to be incompetence," Angus wrote on Facebook.

"He [has] refused to answer simple questions about who in his office was involved in a secret pay out to a disgraced senator. He refused to answer and and seemed to have no interest in finding out whether or not his staff and his key advisors were cooking up a potentially illegal pay-off."

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The latest revelations may just be the beginning of Stephen Harper's summer of Senate discontent.

The RCMP is also investigating Senator Patrick Brazeau's expenses while an audit of Senator Pamela Wallin's travel expenses continues.

(Photo courtesy of the Canadian Press)

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