Friday, August 21, 2015

Stephen Harper just not ready to be trustworthy

Ottawa - Harper has claimed that Canadian voters have a clear choice between a proven leader that they can trust, namely him, or two risky and unproven leaders, Justin Trudeau of the Liberals, or Thomas Mulcair of the New Democratic Party.
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The trouble is that Harper's past actions and present situation make the "trust" theme quite risky. The Mike Duffy trial brings into question whether Harper is trustworthy himself. Originally, Harper said that he would never appoint an unelected senator but he ended up appointing many Conservative hacks, bag men, failed candidates, and Duffy, a journalist who pushed a conservative agenda as a popular talk show host. As Liberal Dr. Carolyn Bennett said way back in December of 2010:“For someone who vowed never to appoint an unelected Senator, Mr. Harper is now the all-time patronage king, having appointed 38 Conservative activists to the upper chamber."
This in itself would make it seem that Harper might just not be ready to be trustworthy. Duffy ended up in hot water over several issues including $90,000 in expense claims. On July 17, 2014 Duffy was charged with 31 criminal offences that included fraud, breach of trust, and bribery. The trial is ongoing with Nigel Wright, Harper's former chief of staff finishing his testimony this Wednesday. Duffy has pleaded not guilty to all 31 charges. Duffy repaid the $90,000 in expenses admitting that he had made a mistake in claiming them. However, the money was given to Duffy by Nigel Wright via a personal check. There was an agreement between Duffy and the Prime Minister's Office(PMO) that Duffy would admit he was in error and repay the expenses. Originally the plan was to secretly reimburse Duffy through a Conservative party fund but when it turned out the expenses were $90,000 rather than $32,000 as was at first thought, this plan was rejected by the head of the fund. Instead Duffy was reimbursed by Wright through his personal check for $90,000.
Prime Minister Harper has denied that he had any knowledge of the plan to have Wright issue a personal check to Duffy. Yet, some of the e-mails presented at the trial suggest he did know. One e-mail said that "we are good to go from the PM". Wright explains that the phrase meant only that Harper approved a plan that would see Duffy admit he made an error and would repay the expenses. Supposedly he knew nothing of the plan to secretly use Conservative party funds for the payment nor of the later plan for Wright to issue a personal check to cover the expenses. This is possibly true since part of the role of Wright would be to ensure there would be no evidence of Harper's involvement in such a devious plan. When the dirty tricks are discovered then Harper can claim that he held Wright accountable by firing him. Wright loyally kept to this narrative in his testimony swearing that Harper knew nothing either about the plan to use the Conservative party fund to reimburse Duffy or about Wright's issuance of a personal check for that purpose. Just how did Harper think that Duffy could be induced to pay these expenses when he thought he had done nothing wrong unless he were somehow reimbursed? He doesn't care to know. This dirty work is what Wright was hired to do.
Wright has an interpretation of not lying that only a lawyer could love. Wright claims to have told Harper that Duffy was going to repay the expenses when he knew that the plan was to have the Conservative fund pay the expenses. Wright said:"I don't think I lied to the prime minister. I don't feel it was a lie. I just felt it wasn't on my list of things I needed to check with him."Wright also claimed that the important issue was that the funds be paid back not who paid them. You would think that since Duffy incurred the expenses it was important that he paid them back not someone such as Wright who was paying Duffy to do what Harper wanted. Conveniently, Harper was blissfully unaware according to Wright's narrative as to what was going on. Apparently, the PM has no obligation to keep tabs on what his chief of staff is up to, particularly when it might be illegal or immoral.
Harper has insisted that his present chief of staff Ray Novak did not know about the check written by Wright. Yet Novak was slated to be part of a conference call in which the check was discussed. In an e-mail sent to Novak Wright wrote: "I will send my cheque on Monday". Benjamin Perrin a former legal advisor to the PMO, told the RCMP that Novak was part of the conference call that discussed Wright's check. Wright claims that he was not part of the call but just "popped in and out". Wright claims he did not hear the discussion of his check to Duffy. How convenient. Wright also testified that Novak did not read the email sent to him about the check. Obviously, Harper should fire Novak since he does not bother to read important emails sent to him. How can we trust a PM who hires a chief of staff who does not even read quite important emails and just pops in and out during crucial conference calls? A leader like that is just not ready to earn our trust.

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