Mike Duffy defended himself in the Senate Tuesday, as members of the Red Chamber debated whether to suspend Mr. Duffy and two other senators because of improperly claimed expenses. At the heart of the scandal is the question of what Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his staff knew about Mr. Duffy’s expenses and how he repaid the claims. Many of the players have given differing accounts of what happened.
WHAT HARPER AND HIS STAFF KNEW ABOUT THE REPAYMENT
Media: In December of last year, the Ottawa Citizen reported that Mr. Duffy had claimed $33,000 in residence allowances since 2010 for a cottage in Cavendish, PEI, as his primary residence, despite the fact that he has lived near Ottawa for decades.
The Senate’s internal economy committee asked independent auditors to review Mr. Duffy’s expenses in February. The Deloitte audit, released in May, 2013, found that the residency requirement rules were unclear, but still resulted in the internal economy committee asking that Mr. Duffy repay $90,000 in expenses (which he’d already done by this point).
Mr. Duffy’s version: ‘A smear’
Ever since the story first broke in December, Mr. Duffy has maintained his innocence. In his speech to the Senate Tuesday, he said that he immediately contacted Nigel Wright, the Prime Minister’s then-chief of staff, after reports first surfaced, saying he had done nothing wrong.
“Nigel Wright e-mailed me back, saying he had my expenses checked and he was satisfied that my accounts were in order, that all was in compliance with Senate rules,” he said.
Mr. Duffy added that, in a meeting with Mr. Harper, the Prime Minister told him “It’s not about what you did; it’s about the perception of what you did that has been created in the media.”
RCMP’s version: Two counts of breach of trust and one of fraud against the government
In documents released in July, the RCMP allege that Mr. Duffy committed a breach of trust by filing inappropriate expense claims. The documents also allege that Mr. Duffy’s acceptance of a $90,000 cheque from Mr. Wright to repay the expenses runs contrary to the Criminal Code.
PMO’S version: ‘Disappointed and upset’ by some senators
In a public speech to his caucus days after Mr. Wright resigned in May, Mr. Harper tried to contain the fallout from the larger scandal, saying he was disappointed and upset by some Senators and his office. Mr. Harper told MPs and senators that if any wanted to use their status for their own benefit they should “leave this room.”
WHO WAS INVOLVED
PMO’S version: Just Duffy and Wright
Throughout the Duffy expense scandal, Mr. Harper has maintained that his former chief of staff told no one of the arrangement to repay the $90,000, and that the decision was made by Mr. Wright alone.
“This was not a decision of the office, it was a decision of Mr. Wright. And he will be held accountable for that,” Mr. Harper told The Globe in July.
Mr. Wright resigned from the PMO in May.
RCMP’S version: Duffy, Wright, and several PMO staffers
In its probe of the expense scandal, the RCMP released an affidavit in July revealing that the Conservative Party had planned on repaying Mr. Duffy’s expenses before realizing how much it would cost.
The RCMP also said that at least three members of the PMO aside from Mr. Wright knew of the plan to repay the expenses: Chris Woodcock, director of issues management (who has since left the PMO), legal adviser Benjamin Perrin (who has also left the PMO), and David van Hemmen.
Duffy’s version: The PMO, Senate leadership, and many others
In his speech to the Senate Tuesday, Mr. Duffy claimed that the PMO was intimately involved with his decisions immediately after news first surfaced of the questionable expenses. He said he had a private meeting with Prime Minister Harper and Mr. Wright in February, in which he said both Mr. Harper and Mr. Wright urged him to repay the expenses.
When the decision was made for Mr. Wright to write the $90,000 cheque, Mr. Duffy added, it involved several lawyers from the PMO. He added that there was “an undertaking made by the PMO, with the agreement of the Senate leadership,” not to audit him.
THE PAPER TRAIL
Duffy’s version: There definitely is a paper trail
In his speech on Tuesday, Mr. Duffy said his lawyer, along with lawyers representing the Prime Minister’s Office and the Conservative Party negotiated “elaborate undertakings” that he “would not be audited by Deloitte, that I’d be given a pass” and that if the “phoney scheme” ever became public Senator Marjory LeBreton, who was then government leader in the Senate and later resigned, would prevent his expulsion from the Red Chamber.
“The e-mail chain shows it took hours of shuttling back and forth as the lawyers checked with their principals about the guarantees they were going to give to ensure that I wasn’t censured for going along with this PMO scheme,” Mr. Duffy said. “Given all of those e-mails, you can imagine my shock when I heard there’s not a single document about all of this in the PMO, not one.”
Privy Council’s version: ‘Does not exist’
The website of the Privy Council Office, the bureaucratic arm that advises the PMO and cabinet, shows that multiple requests under the Access to Information Act for records mentioning Mr. Duffy had the same response: “Does not exist.”
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