The paper trail surrounding a covert deal to repay Mike Duffy’s expenses is growing, as the Senate pledges to give RCMP access to his e-mails and those of three fellow senators.
The move comes after the government announced Sunday evening it would also give the RCMP e-mail records from Benjamin Perrin, who worked in the Prime Minister’s Office as a lawyer and “special adviser” to Stephen Harper. Mr. Perrin’s e-mails were earlier said to have been deleted.
Senate Speaker Noël Kinsella said Monday the Senate will give RCMP e-mail records for Conservative Senators Marjory LeBreton, David Tkachuk, Carolyn Stewart Olsen and Mr. Duffy. It means that the Senate won’t fight the request by invoking parliamentary privilege, which Mr. Kinsella said Monday “cannot be used as a shield.”
Along with Mr. Perrin’s records, RCMP will now be given a fresh set of e-mails – they’ve received 260,000 already – from five individuals to piece together talks over a deal earlier this year that ultimately saw Mr. Harper’s then-chief of staff, Nigel Wright, personally pay $90,000 in expenses for Mr. Duffy, a deal now under criminal investigation.
A court document filed last month by the RCMP alleges Mr. Perrin was closely involved in talks between the PMO, Mr. Duffy and his own lawyer. Mr. Perrin took a leave from the University of British Columbia last year to join the PMO, and has worked with several government departments. He returned to UBC in March, at which point his e-mails were said to have been deleted. They weren’t.
The federal Privy Council Office, which serves the PMO, said Sunday the e-mails were still recoverable because of a “litigation hold in an unrelated matter.” A government source said Monday that matter was tied to Employment and Social Development Canada, formerly Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, and not the Senate issue.
Democratic Reform Minister Pierre Poilievre refused to say in Question Period on Monday whether the PMO accessed Mr. Perrin’s e-mails before sending them to the RCMP, with Liberal Dominic LeBlanc asking whether the PMO was able to “delete, doctor, alter or whitewash” the records.
The Perrin developments are “getting in to the realm of the bizarre,” NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus said. “First, [the e-mail account] was deleted, and then when push comes to shove, suddenly, they found it.”
Ottawa law professor Amir Attaran has asked the B.C. and Ontario law societies to investigate Mr. Perrin for his role in the Wright-Duffy deal. If that deal was indeed found to be criminal, “any lawyers who negotiated the deal with knowledge of its terms then also acted unprofessionally,” Mr. Attaran wrote in a Nov. 26 complaint. On Monday, he followed up by pushing the law societies to, like the RCMP, get Mr. Perrin’s e-mails.
The PCO said the RCMP would be given Mr. Perrin’s e-mails “without further delay.” The four senators’ e-mails will be provided – including e-mails the senators may have deleted – before the 30-day RCMP deadline expires later this month, Mr. Kinsella said.
The saga could widen Tuesday, when senators are set to vote on whether to call in Deloitte auditor Michael Runia, who is said to have called the auditors handling the review of Mr. Duffy’s expenses at the request of Conservative Senator and fundraising chief Irving Gerstein.
Mr. Kinsella, meanwhile, said Monday the ordeal has been embarrassing to the Senate, but said the institution remains a pillar of Canada’s democracy and, despite RCMP allegations, is separate from the PMO. The speaker, who is a Conservative, stressed he didn’t seek or receive PMO approval before he invited journalists into the Red Chamber for a lengthy news conference Monday. “This has to be a learning moment for the institution, for our Parliament, for our country,” Mr. Kinsella said.