QP Live: When it was all the privy council office’s fault

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The Prime Minister’s inner circle has a defence at every turn. No matter the messy details that threaten the sanctity of Stephen Harper’s role in the Wright-Duffy affair, the team puts up a defence. Last night, we learned something new about former PMO legal adviser Ben Perrin. Everyone thought that Perrin’s emails from his time as an adviser, some of which could shed light on any contribution he made to the Wright-Duffy negotiations, were deleted. Oops, not so much. The Privy Council Office, the non-partisan branch of government that “provides essential advice and support to the Prime Minister” dug up emails that, as it turns out, were retained in relation to an unrelated matter. Truly, there is egg on some bureaucrat’s face.

The PMO’s defence came quickly. The National Post‘s Andrew Coyne had tweeted questions about how the PMO could have somehow not asked for the emails. Jason MacDonald, Harper’s director of communications, tweeted an explanation. “We did ask. Repeatedly. PCO said they were gone. Repeatedly. They were wrong. We told them to tell the RCMP. They’ve done that.” And that’s where the story rests. Bruce Anderson, the pollster and contributor to CBC’s At Issue panel, pointed out that the PCO  is “essentially PM’s dep’t”—in other words, he ought to take responsibility for its foul-ups.

But you can bet Paul Calandra, the PM’s parliamentary secretary, (and Pierre Poilievre, the Minister of Democratic Reform (who’s occasionally standing in for the PM and, apparently, Calandra)), will have none of it when he rises during Question Period. So goes the firewall he continues to build around his boss.

Maclean’s is your home for the daily political theatre that is Question Period, when MPs trade barbs and take names for 45 minutes every day. If you’ve never watched, check out our primer, which we produced with J-Source. Today, QP runs from 11:15 a.m. until just past noon. We tell you who to watch, we stream it live, and we liveblog all the action. The whole thing only matters if you participate. Chime in on Twitter with #QP.


Last week, Sen. Irving Gerstein’s role in the Wright-Duffy affair was the object of opposition scorn. He’ll likely continue to get airtime, but former PMO legal adviser Ben Perrin’s mysterious emails—once thought to be deleted, now revealed to still exist—will have the PM’s parliamentary secretary, Paul Calandra (and Pierre Poilievre, the Minister of Democratic Reform) once again playing defence on behalf of the boss’s office.




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