Sunday, July 07, 2013

The Duffy Deal: Is PM Stephen Harper from Barcelona?

I know nothing!
Poor Manuel, the harried waiter in Fawlty Towers, is often denigrated by Basil Fawlty with the words: "He's from Barcelona".

Now we face an equally valid question: Is Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper, from Barcelona?

In this famous episode of Fawlty Towers, Basil Fawlty tries to get Manuel to agree that he knows nothing about a horse that Basil bet on. The video is here, and the exchange is here:

Basil Fawlty: Shhh-shh-shh-shh-shh. You know nothing... about... the horse.
Manuel: [parroting] I know "nothing... about... the horse."
Basil Fawlty: Yes.
Manuel: Ah. Which horse?
Basil Fawlty: What?
Manuel: Which horse I know nothing?
Basil Fawlty: My horse, nitwit!
Manuel: Your horse - Nitwit.
Basil Fawlty: No-no-no. Dragonfly.
Manuel: It won!

Basil Fawlty: Yes, I know!
Manuel: I know it won, too!
Basil Fawlty: What?
Manuel: I put money on for you. You give me money; I go to betting shop.
Basil Fawlty: Yes, I know, I know, I know.
Manuel: Then why you say I know nothing?
Basil Fawlty: [desperately] Look, look, look, you know the horse?
Manuel: Uh, Nitwit or Dragonfly?
Basil Fawlty: Dragonfly! There isn't a horse called Nit... YOU'RE the Nitwit!
Manuel: What is Witnit?
Basil Fawlty: It doesn't matter. Look, it doesn't matter. Oh, I can spend the rest of my life having this conversation. Now, please, please, try to understand before one of us dies.
Manuel: I try.
Basil Fawlty: You're going to forget everything you know about Nitwit.
Manuel: No, no. Dragonfly.
Basil Fawlty: Dragonfly!

Given the twists and turns of the Senator Duffy expenses debacle, Harper must sometimes wonder what is Dragonfly and what is Nitwit; which side is up and which side is down.

It's a wonder Harper hasn't twisted himself into a pretzel, given all the answers he and  others have given to questions about who did what and who knew what and when.
I know nothing

Harper claims he knew nothing about Nigel Wright's efforts to save taxpayers money by giving Senator Duffy some $90,000 so that Duffy could pay back expenses he had wrongly claimed.
Harper also says nobody else in the Prime Minister's Office knew anything about Wright's decision.
Here is Harper's statement to the House of Commons (my underlining and bolding), as reported by Aaron Wherry in Macleans:

The NDP leader wondered finally how the Prime Minister’s spokesmen could thus comment on this matter if they were not involved.
Mr. Harper now at least clarified the extent of his staff’s ignorance.
“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.”

Wherry reports how Mulcair moved on to members of the PMO:

Mr. Mulcair later proceeded through the PMO staff list.
“Would the Prime Minister tell us if his lawyer, Ben Perrin, was involved in any way, shape or form in this transaction with Mike Duffy?”
Mr. Harper’s response was something of a curlicue.
“Mr. Speaker, Mr. Perrin, who is now a private citizen, speaks for himself on these matters,” the Prime Minister offered. “I believe, in fact, he has answered these questions and, obviously, would be prepared to answer the questions from anybody else, just as I have done here.”
Mr. Perrin’s statement thus remains to be parsed.

MP Libby Davies has a good set of quotations about the differences that have now come spilling out – see here.
What is the issue?

It is very simple.

When Harper rose in the Commons to assure Parliament that Wright's decision to help poor old Duffy was not communicated "to members of my staff", on what was Harper basing that statement?

Had Harper spoken to members of his staff to find out if it had been communicated to them? Who and when? Or had someone been asked by Harper to speak to all members of his staff to find out if it had been communicated to them? If so, who did this little bit of investigation, and who said what to them?
Why is this important?

Because an affidavit filed in court by RCMP Corporal Greg Horton says Wright's lawyers told him Wright had told four members of the PMO about his decision to give poor old Duffy a helping hand in the form of some $90,000:

Harper has avoided the question:

Perrin, who has since left the PMO, has denied he was consulted or participated in any arrangement between Duffy and Wright.
On Saturday, Harper did not address the claim in the document that Wright told senior members in the PMO about his plans to make a payment.

So, Perrin says No; Wright's lawyers say Yes; the Prime Minister says I know nothing, and Manuel is still waiting on tables in Fawlty Towers.

Perhaps some intrepid journalist might focus on the PM's non-answer.


  1. I was thinking more in terms of Hogan's Heroes, Sgt Schultz ..."I know Nut-ting! Nut-ting! Nut-ting!

  2. Those four people - don't the names sound a bit like a composer group? Ala Rogers & Hammerstein? Something a little out of date, but endearing to seniors... The same old song they've heard so many times before: Bill Clinton's definitions; Tricky Dick's Watergate Concerto ....

  3. We will wait anxiously to hear from Janice Payne, senior partner at Ottawa's prestigious Nelligan, Powers firm, who acted for Duffy in the Wright-Duffy transaction. She apparently received Nigel Wright's cheque which is said (but not yet verified) was accompanied by a "letter of understanding" drafted by Perrin. It's unclear whether the Wright cheque was payable to Duffy directly or to Nelligan Powers. That too would be highly probative.

    At the end of the day it was Duffy's big mouth that landed everyone in the manure pile. Duffy e-mailed his confidantes, possibly half of Ottawa, to proclaim he was getting an under the table bailout, that he was under orders from the PMO to dummy up and not cooperate with the Deloitte auditors and that the senate report would be laundered to "go easy on" him. All of that transpired, every bit of it., And then one or more of the initial recipients of Duffy's e-mail forwarded it to others.and eventually a copy found its way to CTV;s Bob Fife.

    There is a gaggle of high-profile, powerful and accomplished people who now stand behind the investigators' and prosecutors' crosshairs. Lots of people either participated in or were privy to this scheme and, beginning with Nigel Wright, they're cooperating with the cops and rolling over on others. Once that begins it can open floodgates.


Thank you for commenting; come again! Let us reason together ...

Random posts from my blog - please refresh page for more: