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{Mike Duffy and the Prime Minister’s Office move toward openwarfare}
OTTAWA — Sen. Mike Duffy signalled Monday that he will no longer be silent about allegations of misspending, as his lawyer accused the Prime Minister’s Office of approving the embattled senator’s housing allowance and choreographing how he should respond to reports critical of his expenses.Conservatives around Parliament Hill have long worried about what Duffy might say on the spending scandal should he ever decide to talk, and they caught a glimpse of his approach when his lawyer, Donald Bayne, told reporters the PMO okayed Duffy’s housing expense arrangements as late as December 2012. Duffy, who represents Prince Edward Island, had been claiming expenses for a secondary residence in the capital, before the Senate itself determined that his Ottawa home was his main residence. Independent auditors had said the spending rules were not clear.Bayne’s allegations, made during a lengthy and explosive press conference, suggested the PMO was involved in the audit of Duffy’s housing expenses, telling him what to say to the media, what to give to the independent auditors who were reviewing his claims, and even, allegedly, trying to have the third-party Deloitte auditors “not even be involved.”Bayne’s remarks are sure to colour the debate, set to begin Tuesday in the Senate, on whether to suspend Duffy, Sen. Pamela Wallin and Sen. Patrick Brazeau without pay, in effect leaving them only their titles with no resources, duties or Senate privileges. Bayne said Duffy was considering legal action should the Senate go through with the move.Wallin is also mulling legal action. Her lawyer, Terrence O’Sullivan, told Postmedia News Monday he didn’t have time to comment.There are already rumblings of discontent over the motions to suspend the three, with divisions among both Conservative and Liberal senators.The divisions could be more pronounced on the Tory side as Senate sources say that the government is looking at forcing its senators to vote for the motions, known as whipping the vote. The last time the government threatened such a disciplinary tactic on a traditionally free vote, a faction of Conservative senators broke ranks and voted to gut a government-backed bill on union finance disclosures.Government Senate leader Claude Carignan’s office wouldn’t say whether Carignan intended to pursue the motions, which would politically banish the three former Conservative senators for what Carignan called “gross negligence” with their expense claims — specific criminal-law wording that Bayne and O’Sullivan have taken issue with.Bayne said Conservative senators who want to suspend Duffy from the upper chamber without pay are acting like a mob demanding a sentence before a trial. If Duffy had a fair hearing, Bayne said, he could present evidence to prove his innocence, but the Tories have decided to try to politically bury Duffy because the scandal has not died out.From the Conservative point of view, “the problem still hasn’t gone away, so Duffy has to go away,” Bayne said.“The whole political decision-making about this has been a fiasco,” he said. “Rather than letting the truth out – that there are flaws in the Senate system and the rules – it’s the old story: the cover-up is more damaging than the original issue.”In Duffy’s case, the Senate determined that he must pay back $90,000 in wrongly claimed expenses, and it was eventually revealed that the payment came personally from Nigel Wright,[url=]sac lancel pas cher[/url], then Stephen Harper’s chief of staff. Harper has repeatedly said he knew nothing about the deal; Wright resigned over it. RCMP court documents have alleged that three senior PMO staffers were informed about the payment plan, along with Sen. Irving Gerstein, head of the Conservative party’s fund.Asked if Harper personally knew about the $90,000 repayment, Bayne would only say that he had “information” that was “germane” to the question, but wouldn’t share it Monday.Bayne also declined to provide copies of emails or internal memos that he read from during the press conference. He said the RCMP has all the documents at its disposal.According to Bayne, former government Senate leader Marjory LeBreton’s office originally cleared Duffy to claim a home in Prince Edward Island as his primary residence, which permitted him to make an expense claim for a secondary residence in Ottawa. Bayne said there was an internal Senate memo from LeBreton’s office, written in January 2009 when Duffy was appointed, to this effect.“He had the good sense to ask and clear this with the Senate leader. He has not been for years surreptitiously trying to make inappropriate living allowance claims, he was cleared from day one,” Bayne said.LeBreton said the memo in question would have had to do with whether he qualified to be in the Senate under the constitutional residency requirement, not with his expenses.“I simply stated publicly what is fact — that Senator Duffy met the residency requirements to represent PEI — in that he met the requirements of the declaration of qualification that is signed under oath by all senators at the beginning of each (parliamentary) session,” LeBreton said in an email to Postmedia. “This declaration has nothing to do with the claiming of expenses.”When questions about his living expenses were raised late last year, Duffy “immediately spoke to the Prime Minister’s Office,” Bayne said, which checked “the validity” of all his living claims. Bayne claimed that, in an email dated Dec. 4, 2012, Wright told Duffy he had “complied with all of the applicable rules and that there would be several senators with similar arrangements.”By early February, a Senate committee had decided to send Duffy’s expenses to an outside auditor, and sought a legal opinion about his residency. It was at this time, Bayne said, that the pressure built on Duffy to pay the money back, to get rid of a political problem for the prime minister.Bayne said that in an email dated Feb. 20, 2013, Duffy emailed his lawyer (Bayne was not his lawyer at that time) and talked about several scenarios the Prime Minister’s Office had drawn up for him, including cash for repayment, that Wright had outlined to him in a conversation on Feb. 19.“It remained for the PMO, a liability,” Bayne said. “Sen. Duffy was told by the PMO that despite the truth of the matter, for political reasons, mainly because the Tory base – the voting base – would not like this, meaning the optics of the state of Senate rules governing principle residence designation, he had to repay all four years of the living allowance claims that they already told him were perfectly valid.”“Sen. Duffy is not a wealthy man. Not only for that reason, he strongly objected to this,” Bayne said. “His objections were met with  pressure and threats by the Prime Minister’s Office.”Bayne said the PMO, even threatened to expel him from the Senate over the residency issue without a hearing, which Bayne called “wholly unconstitutional and illegal. Bayne said Duffy was told that senators David Tkachuk and Carolyn Stewart Olsen, then the two ranking Conservatives on a committee overseeing Duffy’s audit, were willing to go along with this.“The threat is, if you don’t go along with this, we’ll kick you out of the Senate,” Bayne said.“That’s the hammer. The threat seems obvious: You take the dive, or this subcommittee will throw you out on the residency issue before you’ve had any kind of a hearing, exactly what they’re proposing to do now. No justification for it, contrary to everything they’ve said … but as a political tactic.”Tkachuk, in an interview Monday, said he never threatened Duffy. He said the internal economy committee, which he then chaired, didn’t have the power to recommend Duffy be expelled on constitutional grounds.“I’m tired of denying things that never happened. I don’t know how many times I can say it. I didn’t threaten him,” Tkachuk said in a telephone interview from his home in Saskatchewan.Tkachuk said he didn’t know about the deal that saw Wright dip into his personal funds to cover Duffy’s repayment, nor that he was involved in any scheme.“People have said a lot of things that are not true. I’m just telling you what I did. There was a problem, there was an issue, it was referred to an auditor, I gave him every opportunity to defend himself,” Tkachuk said.In question period in the House of Commons, Harper deflected questions, and maintained the Prime Minister’s Office has handed over to police all the information it has in its possession.“We’ve given all information to those authorities who are looking into this matter, and we’ve been very clear, if anybody doesn’t respect the rules, they will be held accountable,” Harper said.“Mr. Wright, by his own admission, is solely responsible for the decisions that he took. He has accepted full responsibility and my office has provided authorities with all available information.”It did not satisfy the opposition. “Why will he not come clean with what he knew and what his office was involved in in this very disturbing secret payout?” asked NDP ethics critics Charlie Angus.— With files from Jason Fekete, Postmedia articlesMike Duffy visited PMO days after housing claims referred to auditors, documents show (

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