Revelations that the Conservative Party of Canada initially planned to repay Senator Mike Duffy’s improperly claimed expenses have cast new light on statements made by officials linked to the story.
Documents filed in court as part of the RCMP’s investigation of Mr. Duffy provide new details about the $90,172 payment from Nigel Wright, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s former chief of staff, to cover the Senator’s living-expense claims. (Read the documents)
Three questions raised by the court documents:
Were taxpayers on the hook?
Mr. Wright said in his May resignation announcement that he repaid the money because it was “in the public interest.” As well, he and the PMO previously said “the government believes that taxpayers should not be on the hook for improper expense claims made by Senators.”
The court documents say the Tories initially intended to use party funds to cover Mr. Duffy’s repayments, but didn’t because the amount was “too much money to ask the Conservative Party to cover.” Such funds come from per-vote taxpayer subsidies and donations, which are subsidized by tax credits.
Was a Senate committee report involved?
A Conservative-dominated Senate committee’s audit of Mr. Duffy’s expense claims was toned down and some sentences redacted, officials said, because the Senator had already paid back his expenses.
In the court documents, RCMP Corporal Greg Horton said he believes Mr. Duffy and Mr. Wright had an agreement, “constituting an offence of frauds on the government,” that would see the criticisms contained in the Senate probe softened as long as the improperly claimed expenses were repaid.
Who knew what and when?
A former PMO legal adviser who was linked to the payment in media reports issued a statement challenging suggestions that he was involved in drawing up an agreement between Mr. Wright and Mr. Duffy regarding the payment. “I was not consulted on, and did not participate in, Nigel Wright’s decision to write a personal cheque to reimburse Senator Duffy’s expenses,” Benjamin Perrin, an associate professor at the University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Law, said on May 21.
The RCMP says that lawyers for Mr. Wright said the former aide told four people, including Mr. Perrin, that “he would personally provide funds to repay” Mr. Duffy’s expenses. Mr. Wright’s lawyers and Mr. Harper deny the prime minister knew about the cheque before it was reported in the media.
With reports from Steven Chase and Kim Mackrael