Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Duffy & Senate Scandal: Email snippets

Going squirrelly
Nigel Wright is on the stand, and a blizzard of emails is being released (see here and here about them and how to access them).

In no particular order, here are a few extracts from the emails that The Cat finds either curious, worthy of further exploration, raising questions about the morality of actions taken by senators and others during these events, or amusing. I’ve added underlining or bolded some words.

Here and there, I’ve tacked on a few questions I have.

Item 1:

About the core residency issue, this intriguing snippet right at the start of the Volume I emails released today:

Some of the attached emails refer to a parallel policy process initially intended to develop brightlinedemonstrations of Senators' residency for constitutional qualification purposes. The PrimeMinister did not agree with this initiative, as he viewed the matter to be long-settled historicallyas requiring ownership of a residence in the province of appointment, so the process was shutdown within a few days.

·       Why did the PM regard this matter as long-settled?
·       What legal advice If any) did he get, and from whom (the Constitution applies to senators)?
·       What political advice did he get? From whom, and when?
·       Who was concerned enough to wish to develop “brightlines” about the residency question? What did they tell the PM their concerns were?
·       Why did the PM “shut down” the process within a few days? Would clarity not have helped improve the behaviour of our senators?

Item 2: Tab 1-1

But let this small group be under no illusion. I think that this is going to end
badly. That is what Sen. Tkachuk strongly implies. I will try to understand the facts,
but David is not an alarmist and is not a poor manager of this process.

What exactly concerned this non-alarmist senator so much that Wright expected a bad ending to “this”?  What did he say to Wright? What did he say to others? When and were did he say this? Did senator Tkachuk put any of his concerns in writing? What did he say in those messages?

Item 3: Tab 1-2

Concurrently a separate release would go out stating something like "with respect to Sen. Duffy, the Chair I Committee has requested external legal advice on the meaning of the terms resident and primary residence."
The purpose of this is to put Mike in a different bucket and to prevent him from going squirrelly on a bunch
of weekend panel shows. Ray, Mike is very pleased with this, so it will give us a bit of time if David can
pull it off. David is making his calls now to the Senate Clerk and the other two committee members, but I
think he will get it done. Marjory is fully on board.

Why did Wright think Duffy would go squirrely?

My limited experience with squirrels is that they rush around finding food and burying it, in between hurling insults at humans from high branches. I’m pretty sure that is the kind of squirrelly behaviour that Wright feared Duffy would exhibit.

So, what exactly did Wright fear Duffy would say? Did he discuss his fears with anyone else in addition to this email? Did he voice a bit of concern about squirrelly behaviour to the PM?

And why were the senators so agreeable to Duffy being squeezed into a separate bucket – what did they think Duffy could do or say that would harm them? Or harm the senate? Or harm the PMO? Or harm the Conservatives? Or harm the PM? The question is: Who knew what Duffy knew that made them fear his going squirrelly enough to provide him a separate bucket, and then did they know this?

Let’s face it, if there is a reasonable risk that one or more of our appointed senators is capable of “going squirrelly” so much that other senators are finding separate buckets for them, surely ordinary Canadians wandering on sightseeing tours through Ottawa should be alerted to this potential inconvenience? Or given enough advance notice so that they could don anti-squirrel gear as a protection? That’s not too much to ask, is it?

Oh, and another thing: in all these discussions about Duffy perhaps going squirrelly, did none of those involved call into question the legality or morality of a separate bucket for one senator? No voice of dissent? No let the chips fall where they may and damn the torpedoes full steam ahead kind of response? Did everybody simply agree to the different bucket treatment of the Duff? Or murmur that all senators are equal when it came to buckets, when others said one senator was more equal than others? See Tab 1-3 where Wright writes:

Mike is pleased that he is being differentiated in some way. I think it buys a bit of time.

Item 4: Tab 1- 3

Christopher Montgomery writes:

On the advice of the Clerk, they are going to say that the Chair and Deputy Chair of the committee have requested independent legal advice as opposed to referring to the Steering Committee so as not to make it an official process in order to protect Senator Duffy.


Item 5: Tab 1- 5

Nigel Wright distributes an email with Duffy’s statement that he will retain counsel and vigorously defend any attack on his right to be a senator, with this comment:

FYI. This is manageable.

“Manageable”?  What exactly did Wright mean when he told the recipients this? Maneagable by whom? To what ends? Why was management required?  Who was being protected by such management? What dog was not then barking in the dark night?

Perhaps Snoopy was involved by this time:

Item 6: Tab 1- 6

Wright writes to people about Duffy’s pending press release and desire to pay back expenses without an audit being necessary, and says:

I met with Duff today. He will repay, with a couple of conditions, including that admitting to a primary residence in Ottawa does not disqualify him from representing PEI in the Senate. I am meeting Sen. Tkachuk tomorrow. Can the leadership PLEASE coordinate every move with us before taking ANY steps?

Let me get this straight:

·       A very senior adviser to the PM begs the “leadership” to “coordinate every move with us”.
·       What “leadership” is he referring to? The leaders of the Conservative Party of Canada? Or the Conservative senators in the Conservative controlled senate?
·       Why did Wright think such coordination was needed?
·       Why did he not voice any concerns in this email about a political advisor to the PM trying to manage the actions of “leaders” of the chamber of sober second thought, a chamber set up in our Constitution to act independently of the House?
·       Why did any of the recipients of the email not point out the staggering assumption implicit in this statement? If they did, what did they say, to whom and when?
·       Was the PM aware that his advisor was sending out this email with its plea for the PMO to coordinate the action taken by senate leaders investigating possible breaches of senate rules and of the constitution? What did the PM say?
·       If Wright did not mention this to the PM, why not? This request appears to be an extraordinary departure from the doctrine of the separation of powers that plays some role in our constitutional law?

Item 7: Tab 1-8

Chris Woodcock email:

I'm worried about this fines issue. These fines add up to maybe $3SK? I don't see how we could explain to our people that we're waiving fines for the Senator the public wants to see kicked out of the Senate.

You go, Chris! Right behind you!

Item 8: Tab 1- 10

Duffy sends Wright a short email referring to a press release by Senator LeBreton, the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Wright responds:

I had no foreknowledge of it. When I learned of it I asked for all unilateral action from that office to cease before being cleared with me. I was not pleased

Huh? A political advisor to a Prime Minister “asks” that all “unilateral action from that office” cease until cleared with him.

Huh? Some questions:

·       What exactly does Wright think the role of the Senate under our constitution is?
·       What powers does Wright think he – an advisor to a prime minister – has in that office, that would give him the constitutional right to make such a demand?
·       Did Wright clear this with the PM?
·       Was he acting – to the knowledge of all parties involved in this event – on behalf of the PM? Or did they all think the office of an advisor gave such an advisor constitutional rights to manage the manner in which a senate leadership should conduct an inquiry into incorrect payment of expenses by a senator?

I think I have to dust off my constitutional law textbooks and do some serious re-reading. That’s is not by any stretch of the imagination what I thought our constitutional laws provide for.  Silly me, eh?

Item 9: Tab 1 –14

Wright about an issue, voices his view of the media and the NDP:

#3. This is how I read the Senate rules about indictable offences, and this makes sense to me. You cannot put someone on a leave of absence that permits them to show up once or twice a session to avoid being kicked out, yet fine them for the days they don't show up. I think that even the media and the NDP will get that.

Come on, Nigel! Tell us what you really think the political and legal IQ of the media and of the NDP is?  Low fifties, perhaps? Seems right now that the NDP certainly gets a helluva lot of things; and so do some of the media. And the election campaign is barely begun and the trial has a long, long way to go.

Well, that’s enough for now.

Have fun with the rest of the emails!

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