The Official Opposition will waste no time in relaunching its attack of the Conservative government over the role that the Prime Minister’s Office played in a Senate spending scandal that has become the focus of an investigation by the RCMP.
As soon as the House of Commons returns to business Wednesday following a Throne Speech, the New Democrats will be asking Speaker Andrew Scheer to find that the Prime Minister Stephen Harper misled the House when he said he and his office had no knowledge of the money paid by his former chief of staff, Nigel Wright, to help then-Conservative senator Mike Duffy reimburse the Senate for expenses he had claimed inappropriately.
The question of privilege will take precedence over all other business in the House of Commons and means that the new sitting will open with the problems in the Senate that were dominating the discourse when Parliament rose in the spring.
Mr. Harper told the House on June 5: “As I have said repeatedly, it was Mr. Wright who made the decision to take his personal funds and give those to Mr. Duffy so that Mr. Duffy could reimburse the taxpayers. Those were his decisions. They were not communicated to me or to members of my office.”
But the RCMP filed an affidavit in July saying at least three other people in the Prime Minister’s Office were aware of the money that exchanged hands between Mr. Wright and Mr. Duffy.
These PMO staffers include Chris Woodcock, director of issues management – a job that handles hot political files – as well as legal adviser Benjamin Perrin and David van Hemmen, Mr. Wright’s executive assistant.
NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair told reporters after a caucus meeting on Wednesday that his party has been waiting for many months to get to the bottom of the matter.
“Last spring, Stephen Harper stood up in the House of Commons and, in the most formal setting possible, told Canadians that no one else in his office was aware of what had gone on between Nigel Wright and Mike Duffy,” said Mr. Mulcair.
“In very official documents, the RCMP made it clear over the summer that that is not true. Well you don’t get away with saying one thing that is the opposite of truth in the House of Commons and expect to have no consequences,” said Mr. Mulcair. “There are legal, technical, procedural and honour consequences for Stephen Harper here in the House of Commons for having done that.”
Three Harper appointees – Mr. Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau – are all subjects of a police investigation after auditors uncovered problems with their expense claims. A fourth senator, former Liberal Mac Harb, is also under investigation by the RCMP. Mr. Harb retired from the Red Chamber in August.