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Spring, 2013. Journalist Bob Fife gets a phone call from a senior ranking Ottawa player. He has a story tip.

They meet mid-afternoon for 45 minutes in an out-of-the-way coffee shop in Ottawa's east end. The source, palpably nervous, says there's something the hard-edged CTV reporter should know about the Senate expenses scandal.

Mr. Fife leans forward. "It's Nigel Wright," the source says. "He paid the $90,000."

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The reporter's mind starts racing. "If this is true," he's thinking, "it has Watergate implications. A potential conspiracy to mislead the public run out of the Prime Minister's Office. The chief of staff controlling the levers."

The two of them talk on the phone a couple of times shortly after the meeting. There's been no communication since. But that one meeting is the linchpin for the disclosure of a cover-up scandal that has opened Canadian eyes to the level of morality in Stephen Harper's office.

The 61 year-old Fife has been reporting Ottawa politics for 38 years. He's an old-school newsman, a pavement beater who never gives up the chase. He can spot truth fornicators from a mile away. His reporting renders charlatans buck naked.

Mr. Fife says he will never reveal the identity of our very own Deep Throat, not even after he or she is dead. But it is not, he says, who many people think. "The idea that it's Mike Duffy is beyond ridiculous."

As a talking head, Mr. Fife is hardly Mr. Smooth but on the Senate story he has delivered the scoops. It was his revelation that there was a PMO-directed whitewashing of a Senate committee report. It was his story that revealed the role of Benjamin Perrin, legal counsel to the Prime Minister. For Mr. Fife, his candour in trial testimony brings to mind John Dean of Nixon lore.

In all his time in Ottawa, Mr. Fife had seen a lot. He and I worked together exposing some of the abuse of power of Jean Chrétien's Liberals. But he's never seen anything like what he's witnessed under Harper and company. People he could always talk to in government – deputy ministers, senior public servants – were now silenced. The Harper gang was trying to shut down all but controlled information. They were trying to sabotage the way the system was supposed to run.

Other reporters helped lift the veil. One who broke many stories was the Ottawa Citizen's Glen McGregor. It was his report that first revealed the Duffy residency controversy.

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The scandal isn't of the magnitude of a Watergate. But there are too many similarities for the comparison to be readily dismissed. In each case, relatively minor developments – a break-in and expense-account chicanery – became major on account of cover-ups at the top exposed by journalists.

In one case, White House tapes buttressed the evidence, in the other, PMO e-mails. In one case a group called the Plumbers carried out a maze of other dirty tricks. In the other governing party, apparatchiks were found to have engaged in black ops of a similar kind.

In Washington, many media were initially disparaging of the importance of Watergate, and later proven wrong. Here, some have been of similar mind toward the cover-up scandal, saying that any new government that comes along will be no different. There will be, they incredibly maintain, the same degree of depravity.

But there are fewer doubters now and the scandal has yet to run its course. Bob Fife was back from holidays last week, chasing down the story in the way others weren't, by doing a stake-out on Mr. Harper's top guy, Ray Novak.

Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein wrote All The President's Men. Our very own sleuth isn't planning the big book yet. But if he does, All The Prime Minister's Men would make a fine title.

There was only, remember, supposed to be one person on high who knew of the secret payment. We subsequently learned there were about a dozen. Mr. Fife broke that story, too.

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