Contradictions emerge in the Wright-Duffy affair

A pair of Conservative senators allegedly tried to convince Mike Duffy to take a bailout

Devaan Ingraham/CP

When the Deloitte audit of Senator Pamela Wallin’s expense claims landed in Ottawa, few questioned its conclusions. I wrote that auditors, free of political allegiance and ostensibly guided by numbers alone, are untouchable in the nation’s capital. They’re not the only ones. Just ask anyone who works with, watches, or feeds information to Bob Fife. CTV’s Ottawa bureau chief in Ottawa, maybe the government’s least favourite reporter, broke news about the Wright-Duffy affair all spring and into the summer. Many days, he controlled the news agenda. Even now, in the lazy days of August, with few eyes on Ottawa, Fife continues to find sources.

Last night, Fife reported that two Conservative senators—David Tkachuk and Carolyn Stewart Olsen—allegedly worked with Nigel Wright, the prime minister’s chief of staff until May, to persuade Senator Mike Duffy to take a bailout and repay his improperly claimed expenses. This is problematic for a few reasons. At the time, Tkachuk and Stewart Olsen were heading up an independent audit into Duffy’s expenses. Stewart Olsen, who represents New Brunswick in the Red Chamber, was formerly a major player in the Prime Minister’s Office.

Fife’s key point: “Tkachuk allegedly told Duffy that if he went along with Wright’s bailout offer, the Senate committee would throw out the residency issue and go easy on him in the audit of his expenses.”

That’s not what Tkachuk told Maclean’s Aaron Wherry in May, when they traded questions and answers on the Senate’s apparent white-washing of a committee report into Duffy’s expenses. “We didn’t try to make it less hard on him,” said Tkachuk. “What we tried to do was … what we did is we acknowledged the fact, in a way, that he had paid back the money and he said he might have been mistaken.”

You’ll note, reading those two statements side by side, as well as many other parts of that Q&A, that something’s amiss.

UPDATE, 2:43 p.m.: Tkachuk and Stewart Olsen have released a joint statement, denying CTV’s claims:

The CTV News report is false. At no time did we have knowledge of Mr. Wright’s payment to Senator Duffy before it was reported publicly. Anyone who suggests that we were aware of Mr. Wright’s payment to Senator Duffy before it was reported publicly is lying. Our long standing position is that Senator Duffy should have immediately repaid all ineligible expenses to taxpayers.

What’s above the fold this morning?

The Globe and Mail leads with the western world’s continued march to intervention in Syria. The National Post fronts Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird’s skepticism that a diplomatic solution can be reached in Syria. The Toronto Star goes above the fold with two sisters fined for libel after they accused their uncle of sexual assault. The Ottawa Citizen leads with Senator Mac Harb’s resignation from the Red Chamber. iPolitics fronts 11 things we learned from Deloitte’s audit of Senator Pamela Wallin. CBC.ca leads with Syria’s plan to defend itself against any foreign intervention. CTV News leads with emails that show two Conservative senators threatened Senator Mike Duffy after he initially wouldn’t repay improperly claimed expenses. National Newswatch showcases CTV‘s revelations about the Wright-Duffy affair.

Stories that will be (mostly) missed

1. Antisemitism. Senator Romeo Dallaire pulled out of a speaking engagement at the Fatima Centre, a Catholic group accused of antisemitism—but his name is still being promoted by the group. 2. Attawapiskat. Off-reserve members of the aboriginal community say band council elections that mandate in-person voting are unfairly excluding those who can’t afford to travel.
3. India. Sukhbir Singh Badal, the deputy chief of Punjab, cancelled a trip to Canada after he allegedly wasn’t offered RCMP security detail when Sikh activists threatened to have him arrested. 4. Cycling. Kayla Smith, a Vancouver resident whose bike was stolen last week, stole it back when she spotted an identical listing on Craigslist and set up a meeting with the seller.
5. Afghanistan. President Hamid Karzai visited Pakistan to ask his the country to facilitate peace talks with the Taliban, a significant step for the country as NATO forces plan their withdrawal. 6. Burma. A Buddhist mob burned down dozens of homes owned by Muslims in the village of Htan Gone, a reaction to an apparent attempted sexual assault perpetrated by a local Muslim man.

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