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October 28, 2017 2:52 am

Harper’s responsibility in the Senate scandal

Friday, August 21, 2015 @ 3:45 AM

By Peter Ewart

 Stephen Harper’s former personal lawyer Benjamin Perrin took the stand on August 20th in the Mike Duffy trial in Ottawa and he had some quite astonishing things to say about Stephen Harper’s attitude towards the Senate.

Now, it has been a long desire of many Canadians, including small “c” conservatives , to reform or abolish the unelected, and much discredited, Senate of Canada. For its part, the Reform Party called for a “triple – E” Senate, i.e. equal, elected and effective.   Indeed, Stephen Harper himself was a strong advocate for an elected Senate when he was in opposition. 

Not a few conservatives were dismayed when Prime Minister Harper folded his cards a few years ago on Senate reform and proceeded to brazenly use the Senate as a patronage machine and appoint a couple of dozen new senators, including the now criminally charged Mike Duffy, as well as discredited Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau. 

In his testimony on August 20th, Benjamin Perrin revealed that he had a serious disagreement with Prime Minister Harper several years ago over Senate rules and that he was “taken aback” by Harper’s position “that an individual only needed to own $4,000 of real property in a province to be constitutionally qualified to represent” the region as a senator (1). According to Perrin and most other constitutional experts, this directly contradicts the Canadian Constitution which states that a senator “shall be resident in the province for which he is appointed.” 

For example, Perrin testified that “he wouldn’t consider himself a resident of Nunavut simply because he owned property there.” But Harper and the PMO “stood firm in its definition” despite the fact that it, in effect, made the Senate an even worse patronage machine. Using Harper’s logic, anyone from anywhere could be appointed to the Senate to represent any region. It is a sleazy patronage and party bagman dream. Conservative party insiders in Ottawa could literally be appointed to represent anywhere. 

Harper’s thinking on the residency definition explains why someone like Mike Duffy was appointed senator in the first place. It was well known by Harper and the PMO that Duffy had been living in Ottawa for years, that it was his primary residence and not Prince Edward Island where he kept a summer home. Yet Harper went ahead and appointed him anyway, and we are all witness to the mess that followed. 

Which brings us to issue of Stephen Harper’s culpability in this whole affair. Harper endlessly repeats that only two people were responsible – Nigel Wright and Mike Duffy. But what about Harper himself? If someone kicks down the door of a house and allows someone else to enter and gorge themselves on the taxpayers’ dime, shouldn’t they bear some responsibility? 

This is especially true for Harper in that he ignored the advice of his own legal counsel and went ahead and broke or, at the very least, severely bent the Canadian Constitution in order to allow Mike Duffy into the Senate.

Flashback to the 1984 federal election. In a televised election debate, Conservative Brian Mulroney famously challenged Prime Minister John Turner about controversial Senate patronage appointments that Turner had just made. Turner claimed he had no choice in the appointments. Raising his finger in the air, Mulroney exploded, “you had an option, sir.” 

Harper also had an option. And he should bear the responsibility. 

Peter Ewart is a columnist and writer based in Prince George, British Columbia. He can be reached at: peter.ewart@shaw.ca 

(1) Gollom, Mark. “Ray Novak, PM’s top aide, told twice that Wright would cover Duffy’s expenses, court hears”. CBC News. August 20, 2015.


Harper also had options about being truthful to Canadians about this issue, but he continues to absolve himself of any responsibility.

I find it amazing the contrast from the guy on the outside that was a zealot for reforming the senate to stamp out any abuse of that power by the Prime Ministers Office, and then once elected proceeds to be the worst violator of partisan corruption of the Senate in Canadian history.

It is becoming clear why everything was super micromanaged as usual and the election called this early. After the initial inevitable revelations and the ensuing public and media outrage, consuming a good many weeks, the mantra will be that no further comments are possible because the matter is before the courts. The media is only allowed five questions at every public appearance and it will give up asking the same questions for which there will be the same standard comment: No comment.

It is simply a well planned method to wear down the media and the public, to outlast them and still have time left to conduct an election campaign with the usual solemn promises – most of them will never be kept, of course!

End of the day Harper is the boss, as he said many times over the years when in opposition the buck and accountability lays on the shoulders of the leader of the Country not ministers or staff, how things change. This is becoming laughable and embarrassing at the same time.

Its interesting that the article above states that according to Perrin ** and MOST other Constitutional Experts** So it comes down to what do the OTHER Constitutional Experts think, and what is the actual meaning of residency.

We know as an example that we could be a resident of Vancouver but we can run in the Federal Election in a Prince George riding without owning any property. Provincially we can live anywhere in the Province and run in any City we chose. As an example we had a couple of people who lived in the Regional District running in the last Prince George Municipal Election.

So who knows whether owing property in an area is enough to make you a resident in the true sense. In any event Harper seems to think so, and he is the Prime Minister, and he made the decision.

The Duffy trial and all is consequences are getting to the point of being **boring**. Time we moved on with the election.

We also need to seriously consider looking at all the Candidates to see what they bring to the table. The constant harping from the left about Harper is also getting **boring**. Are we going to waste all our time and effort on Harper, and give Trudeau or Mulcair a free ride???

If Harper is such a bad guy. Who is the **Good** guy that could replace him?? People are pretty silent on that topic. Are they afraid to discuss the others because they have so many faults, that they would be quickly shown as unable to be effective leaders??

@Palopu that’s all well and good, except you don’t need to be a resident to run in an election. It’s not constitutionally required as it is in the case of being a senator.

Another reason for the long election is Harper doesn’t have to face these questions in the house. They had to know the trial was going to go in this direction and by dissolving the house early Harper doesn’t have to face the opposition in question period, just in very tightly controlled debates.

If he was a true caption or leader he be at the front of this issue and be “transparent” from day one.
But Its not in any way the Harpo way. He hides he lies it does many things that we really do not know about yet. Hope people remember to vote in the coming election or else he will be getting a 3rd term in a minority government. He lied in the 2008 promise of electing senators, but right after the election he appointed 18 unelected Senators like Duffy, Pamela Wallin etc…

Palopu, the requirements for senate appointments are clearly defined in our Constitution: Having real property of at least $ 4,000 dollars (the equivalent in today’s money of several hundred thousand dollars) and to be a permanent resident of that province! Period! Duffy had an old semi-maintained summer cottage where he had not lived permanently for decades, being a permanent resident of Ontario! Duffy’s appointment as senator for P.E.I. (about which he expressed misgivings)clearly violated the Constitution.

Well, there you have it! Prorogations, contempt of parliament, misleading the public, offering a bribe to an elected official – when will it be too much?

In my mind both the one who offers a bribe and the one who accepts it are equally guilty!

On October 19th we will have an opportunity to put an end to these shenanigans!

If the Prime Minister, at the time of the appointment, insisted that Duffy would qualify for P.E.I. residency, why did he say “darn right I told him he would have to pay it back”, when he claimed living expenses?

Why did he not stick up for Duffy and say the same things he said when he appointed him, that he would qualify because he owned property there?

Duffy (who was stating that he would rather be appointed as an Ontario senator) was apparently told to get P.E.I. drivers licenses for himself and his spouse! Why? To my mind it was an attempt to conceal that Duffy was not really and constitutionally qualified to be a P.E.I senator. Just to make it look good! Perhaps Duffy thought, oh well, then I might as well make it even more believable by claiming residency expenses? Once the first step is taken on the path of obfuscation the next ones become a lot more enticing.

A very difficult decision for local conservatives who want to vote conservative for the riding but in no way want to support Harper. It will depend on the quality of candidates that oppose Doherty. Unless Harper changes, just can’t see myself support the Cons….. who are acting like cons.

We know he is lying about what he knew and what the PMO knew. He knows we know he is lying. That he just continues with the same lines and expects us to become brainwashed into believing him is insulting.

Saw a video clip yesterday, a Harper interview from 2005 demanding answers from an opponent, stating that if a leader doesn’t know what is going on in his own office, he needs to step aside because he isn’t doing his job……. or is lying about not knowing.

I’m a conservative resigned to vote Liberal this time around, – mostly because I like Shaw better than Zimmer. But I remember when Mulroney came to power and made a big deal about M.P.’s opinions would matter, and in 8 years went from Mr. Consultation to Mr. MywayorHighway. It must be a conservative curse that when you finally get the keys to the car you push everyone else into the back seat and tell them to shut up, you’re driving.
Mind you PET wasn’t exactly interested in any opinions that originated East of Ontario. Hate to say it, but I miss Chretien – if anything, he was funny, and he did keep us out of the coalition of the willing.

There is an interesting juxtaposition of comments by Perrin and Teneycke, Harper’s spin doctor. Teneycke insists that Novak would have told Harper about the source of the payback money if he had known that it came from Wright. Perrin now insists in court testimony that Novak was present when Wright told a roomful of PMO staffers that he was personally providing the $90,000, and that Novak did know about it.

I emphasise that Teneycke insists that Novak would have told Harper what he knew. Now it is clear that Novak did know about the money. It follows, then, that based on Teneycke’s comments that Harper must have known because Novak must have told him. That is the only logical conclusion to draw from official statements coming out of Harper’s office.

Unless, that is, they now claim that Teneycke has lied about Novak’s ethics and his comments were just another attempt to deflect responsibility away from Harper once again.

There are a few other options ammonra:

1) They will suggest that Perrin lied under oath (I doubt they are so dumb as to suggest that).
2) They will ignore any questions that raise that discrepancy and instead regurgitate some standard line of bafflegab.
3) They will suggest that Novak was busy watching videos of cats on YouTube and he wasn’t paying attention to anything else going on around him.

My fav Harper stupidity was today while answering questions in BC, he answered a question not asked.. A bit strange..but so is he.. Then he answers it in French.. How stupid can this guy be.. A vast majority here does not speak French so why answer a question in French? Who’s is he sucking up to? Or what is he trying to hide? He just gets stupider the more he talks.. I was waiting for someone to ask two questions.

1. Please explain your government sinking canada 159 billion more in debt.
2. Please explain where the provinces are supposed to get the 36 billion you stopped paying in transfer payments, and what you have done with that money.

P Val. No one will ask your questions as long as they can dance around knocking Harper the trying to sell newspapers with the Duffy trial.

A veterans group opposed to the Harper government says it is planning to regularly picket campaign events, post lawn signs and use social media in its Anyone But Conservatives campaign, launched Monday.

Veterans launch Anyone But Conservatives campaign during Harper stop


All the caterwauling about what Harper knew, who told who what, etc; etc; is just so much hyperbole.

This trial is about Duffy. He has some 31 charges against him, and he and his lawyer are doing whatever they can to try and muddy the water.

Things will start to change soon when they start to interrogate Duffy and find out what he has been up to.

The bottom line will be whether Duffy is convicted, and whether he will serve some time in the pokey.

I notice that the Harper Carpers jump on some things that Perrin says, however they avoid the fact that he also stated that in his opinion here was not criminal activity taking place, and if there had been he would have said something about it.

So, no crimninal activity on the part of the PMO. There is no law against Wright making the $90,000.00 payment, so whats all the hullabaloo about??

What its about is the lefties think they have found an issue that will get them some votes and they are beating it to death.

It wont be long before we will be into the nitty gritty of this election and it will have diddly squat to do with Duffy and his trial.

P Val. The reduction in transfer payments to the Provinces started with the Liberal Paul Martin.

Harper has continued to cut transfers, and this will force the Provinces to be more fiscally responsible or raise taxes. It will be interesting to see what they do.

What we do know by watching Governments over the years is that if we give them the money they will spend it. What we fail to zero in on is that Governments are inefficient at best.

Lets not forget that all Government money comes from the taxpayers. It matters little whether its Harper, or the opposition. The question is, when it comes to fiscal responsibility who is the most competent. Hmmmmm. Harper perhaps.?

The question is, when it comes to fiscal responsibility who is the most competent. Hmmmmm. Harper perhaps.?


Palopu, you are confused on the facts.

The Liberals are the ones who ran surplus budgets and paid down the debt. The Reformers are the ones who ran deficit budgets and added to the debt. This is irrefutable.

Harper wanted to have Senators elected but the Supreme Court ruled that changes must be approved unanimously by all the provinces. So he appointed Senators, now do you think anyone would appoint opposition party members?

Duffy owed the Canadian taxpayer 90 grand. Duffy could not pay back the 90 grand. Nigel Wright gave Duffy 90 grand to pay back the Canadian Taxpayer. The person who did the wrong was Duffy taking 90 grand. Nigel did an honorable thing to reimburse the tax payer. Whether Duffy borrowed the money from a local bank, or maybe a lone from some relative, or gifted to him from Nigel Wright, what does it matter? The big media, the NDP and the Liberals are barking up the wrong tree and frankly looking really dumb right now.

The Liberals are the ones who ran surplus budgets and paid down the debt.

NMG – the Liberals were better at cooking the books. ;)

Cheetos, nice to see that you see the facts. Too many people are listening to the media slant and believing it. LOL.

What Harper knew, when he knew it and who told him is not hyperbole. It is evidence from a criminal court case. While true that Duffy will be found guilty or innocent at some point, that does not preclude other conclusions from being reached about other peoples’ involvement in the affair. Neither does it mean that other people’s actions are innocuous. It may mean they are not criminal, but elections are not run on the question of whether actions are legal, usually. They are run on who can be trusted, and the information coming out of the Duffy trial goes directly to that question. Can Harper be trusted? Can the staff in Harper’s office be trusted? Do they say one thing to voters and do something entirely different in private amongst themselves? It is questions like those that are being raised, and answered, by the information coming out of the trial. The hullabaloo is about that: trust.

Incidentally, some points have still not been answered, as an example Harper contradicted what the Constitution clearly said about a senator being required to actually reside in the province he represented, choosing to arbitrarily take the unconstitutional view that owning property was all that was required, and he was told that according to his lawyer, Perrin. So, was Duffy’s appointment knowingly wrong from the start? If so was he ever legally a senator since he didn’t actually meet the requirements? Should this false senator repay his salary to Canadians as he was paid for doing something he was not permitted by our most fundamental law to do? Should Harper repay it since he knew Duffy did not meet the requirement to be a senator? These are questions that need to be discussed since they go directly to the question of trust in our Prime Minister and how he conducts himself in office.

“Duffy owed the Canadian taxpayer 90 grand”


Legally, that’s debatable. Per the Ottawa Citizen:

“Under cross-examination, Wright conceded that he thought Duffy’s expenses were likely “technically” permissible – and that he only thought they should be repaid because they were “morally” wrong and politically indefensible for Harper’s governing Conservatives”

Morally wrong and politically indefensible. Why? Because they knew he lived in Ottawa when he was appointed to sit as a PEI senator? Why then would they appoint him to represent PEI in the first place?

“Nigel did an honorable thing to reimburse the tax payer.”

So Harper dumped Nigel Wright for doing an honorable thing? Apologies are in order!

Perhaps Harper should have done the honorable thing and reimbursed the taxpayer because it was Harper who strong armed Duffy into becoming a senator representing a province where Duffy had not lived permanently for decades! Even after Harper’s lawyer advised Harper about this being not in accord with the laws of the Constitution!

An honest politician is indeed very hard to find!

We could argue all night about whether or not PEI was Duffys official residence. How many days/nights do you think that you have to stay in an area before it becomes your official residence. Personally I think that Harper is right. As an example. In order to claim your home owners grant you have to spend at least one night in the home being claimed to make it your official residence, for the rest of the year you can live anywhere you please.

There is no law that says you have to live in your official residence,. We have many Canadians with dual citizenship that have official residences in Canada, but live out of the Country. If you have the $4000.00 dollars, a piece of property and an address, and you chose to call that your official residence, then that’s what it is. Its not up to the population at large to decide what your official residence is.

The problem for Duffy was not that PEI was or was not his official residence, but that he claimed expenses for this residence that were not legitimate expenses. That’s why he is in court to-day, and that’s why this issue will be settled by the courts.

Arm chair quarterbacks, sidewalk superintendents, pseudo lawyers, disgruntled lefties, etc; will not decide this issue.

Didn’t someone in this trial commit perjury ? Or is a difference of memory acceptable now that we are living on Harper time .

Harper has stopped appointing senators. How long would it take for the Senate to disappear by attrition if the PM office stopped appointing altogether? Would this even be legal?

No Ataloss. That started on Mulroney time.

@ibear it cannot disappear by attrition because that would be unconstitutional and the GG would be compelled to step in and appoint . Legal , constitutional ? Tough call . DI Mulroney time?

“So, no crimninal activity on the part of the PMO. There is no law against Wright making the $90,000.00 payment, so whats all the hullabaloo about??”

Palopu… I couldn’t give a crap about the $90,000. What I personally have issue is with the PMO’s office trying to change/hide the portion of the Senate audit that shone a light on their gratuitous spending.

That is inexcusable, legal or not. If you find that defensible, that is sad.

The true Conservative supporters will always choose ignorance and ideology over reality and truth.

Ataloss… getting away with perjury was Mulroney’s Teflon trick. Lied about taking money from Shrieber, sues the government of Canada for defamation, gets a couple million bucks, then later admits that he actually took money from Shrieber.

Teflon Steve has had everything slide off of him since the very beginning of his political career.

What the home owner’s grant has to do with what determines where a senator has his province of residence is beyond me. The home owner grant is a provincial grant, not part of the federal constitution. Bringing it in to the conversation is just an attempt to distract attention away from the fact that Duffy did not live in PEI and Harper knew that, but appointed him as a senator anyway.

There4 is a law that says a senator must have his primary residence in the province he represents. That law is the constitution. You can’t get more basic than that. Duffy did not, he lived in Ontario and had done for many years. Harper knew, and was warned, that he did not meet the constitutional requirements to be a senator from PEI, but chose to appoint him anyway. All the obfuscation in the world, and all the pooh poohing of what has been said during the trial is not going to change that fact.

The residency is a canard. The real issue is the use of a senator for a paid party organizer, and the abuse of using senate appointments to instal those party bag men.

The real early on scandal was that Duffy was expending claims for travel expenses not so much while in Ottawa, but rather while on tour doing the fund raising circuit for the conservative party. Living and traveling and partisan electioneering all the while collecting a senate paycheck and expending all the travel to the taxpayer.

The PMO recognized this is a massive political corruption scandal if they tried to ride it out, so they paid back the expenses relating to Duffy’s work for the conservative party last election almost as soon as they could.

They had to remove the part about expenses billed to the tax payer for partisan politicking for Harper. Now they try to say the whole issue is about his expenses relating to residency… but I’m not sure the criminal proceedings are limiting their scope to just the ill gotten residency expenses, but rather also the whole expense issue around doing the fundraising circuit while expending the travel cost to the senate.

The conservative party admitted their guilt when they paid back the fundraising related travel expenses. They hoped Duffy would come clean on his share relating to residency and it would all go away quietly… when Duffy didn’t play ball they tossed him under the bus and made the whole political issue about Duffy, Nigal Wright, and residency expenses.

What is missing now is Harper taking ownership, as he is the only one that could have appointed Duffy to be used as a paid conservative fundraiser. Harper is in denial that he can continue to evade any association with how this all unfolded and his actions of cost him respect and trust from Canadians that want honest government.

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