What the PM said about what the PMO knew about what Nigel Wright did

Who was aware of the deal between Nigel Wright and Mike Duffy?

<p>Prime Minister Stephen Harper rises during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Wednesday Feb.6, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld</p>

Adrian Wyld/CP

On June 5, in response to the 17th and last question he would take that afternoon in Question Period, the Prime Minister made a fairly definitive statement about who in his office was aware of Nigel Wright’s decision to use personal funds to assist Mike Duffy.

“Mr. Speaker, as I have said repeatedly, it was Mr. Wright who made the decision to take his personal funds and give those to Mr. Duffy so that Mr. Duffy could reimburse the taxpayers,” the Prime Minister reviewed. “Those were his decisions. They were not communicated to me or to members of my office.”

Almost exactly a month later, the RCMP’s application for a production order was unsealed and contained therein was the report of a letter sent by one of Nigel Wright’s lawyers to the office of RCMP Corporal Greg Horton.

On June 21, 2013 my office received a letter from Peter Mantas, which I have read, advising that Mr. Wright recalls that he told the following people that he would personally provide funds to repay Duffy’s claimed secondary residence expenses:

a. David van Hemmen (PMO)
b. Benjamin Perrin (PMO)
c. Chris Woodcock (PMO)
d. Senator Irving Gerstein

By that account then, Mr. Wright’s decision would seem to have been communicated to at least three members of Mr. Harper’s staff, including the director of issues management and the special advisor and legal counsel. (Cpl. Horton’s report that Mr. Wright claimed that he “told the following people that he would personally provide funds” (emphasis mine) suggests that they were made aware before the funds were provided, not after the fact, but obviously it would be useful to have a copy of the letter or further testimony in this regard.)

So was the Prime Minister unaware on June 5 that three members of his staff—two current and one, by then, former—were aware of Mr. Wright’s decision to personally provide funds? I asked the Prime Minister’s Office and was told in response only that “this file was handled by Nigel Wright and he has taken sole responsibility” and that “the affidavit is clear that the Prime Minister was not aware of the payment.”