An e-mail has surfaced that shows the Prime Minister’s Office offered Senator Mike Duffy communications advice just days before he told Canadians he’d repaid questionable expense claims out of his own pocket.
It will fuel the controversy over recent allegations by Mr. Duffy – now suspended from the Senate – that the PMO told him to lie to Canadians about the source of the $90,000 used to reimburse taxpayers for controversial expenses.
The money had in fact come secretly from former PMO chief of staff Nigel Wright, a fact that was kept hidden from Canadians until mid-May when news broke of the arrangement designed to make a public fuss over the expense claims disappear.
Fighting a suspension motion last week, Mr. Duffy alleged that the PMO advised him to tell the public he’d obtained the $90,000 through a loan from the Royal Bank.
It was back on Feb. 22 that the PEI senator first announced to Canadians he would “voluntarily pay back my living expenses related to the house we have in Ottawa.”
An e-mail obtained by CTV News shows that on Feb. 20, two days before the repayment announcement, senior PMO officials approached Mr. Duffy to help him explain things.
The electronic message, sent to Mr. Duffy from his lawyer Janice Payne, informs him she’s been contacted by a PMO lawyer who works for Mr. Wright.
The Prime Minister’s Office names two PMO staffers who are standing by to craft messages for Mr. Duffy.
“Chris Woodcock of his office and Patrick Rogers are communications specialists – very talented and happy to work with you to develop various strategies around communications,” Ms. Payne wrote in the e-mail to Mr. Duffy.
Mr. Duffy is one of three Harper Senate appointees who was suspended without pay last week after a push by the Conservative government to assuage public anger over the expenses controversy.
He, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau are also being investigated by the RCMP, but have not been charged with anything.
Donald Bayne, a lawyer for Mr. Duffy, said he’s handing over a significant amount of records to the Mounties to back up the senator’s allegation that the PMO figured prominently in the expenses controversy.
“We are providing the RCMP with a lot of information, which we believe will dramatically improve the RCMP’s understanding of the role of the prime minister’s office in this affair,” Mr. Bayne said.