Monday, August 17, 2015

Duffy trial: Nigel Wright and Emails change the ballot box question

The Plausible Deniability chickens come home
Stephen Harper, blinking furiously, tries to stick to his two self-chosen ballot box questions (security and economic growth), while disregarding question after question about what he knew about the cesspool of misdirection and lies that a group of senior Conservatives indulged in while trying to make the Duffy matter disappear.

Donald Bayne, the methodical, effective barrister defending senator Duffy from 31 serious charges, has gone through the hundreds of emails tabled in court, walking state witness Nigel Wright through each one, and exploring who said what, to whom, when and why.

In the process, the answers Wright has given, the glaring statements in the PMO and other emails, and the prime minister’s evasive answers to legitimate questions from journalists, have achieved one major shift: they have changed the ballot box question.

The ballot box question is now Integrity.

Lawrence Martin has  a must-read article in today’s Globe & Mail on this dramatic change:

I was speculating a while back that if integrity becomes a big issue in this campaign, Mr. Harper is in serious trouble. It is indeed becoming an important issue. The campaign still has two months to go. That’s two months for the Conservatives to move Canadian minds onto something else. They need to hope that the people, like Mr. Novak, don’t read the e-mails.

Stephen "I know nutting" Harper
I believe that Martin’s conclusion is spot on.  Prime Minister Harper is now the one in the political witness box, with the obligation to explain, in plausible detail, to voters what the heck took place in his Prime Minister’s Office during the months in question.

In particular, Harper has to give adequate answers to these actions that Martin clearly summarizes in his article, if he is to stand a snowball’s hope in hell of holding on to his seats in this election:

The Mike Duffy trial is proving to have significant public value. With the thousands of e-mails tabled, it opens a window on the operation of the Prime Minister’s Office. It’s not as good as an oral record like the Nixon White House tapes. But it’s the next best thing.

Serial abuses of power are something that have long been suspected of Stephen Harper’s team. They’ve been written about in books and articles by some journalists starting many years ago. Other scribes have pooh-poohed the notion, saying it’s being too tough on the Conservative Leader. But with the text traffic, we get harder evidence of some of the activities. A trove of exhibit A’s.

On the Senate controversy alone, the work of PMO operatives included: promising Mr. Duffy he would be removed from an independent audit; concocting a secret plan to have the taxpayer-supported Tory treasury pay Mr. Duffy’s debts while telling the public a different story; planning to create a puppet-on-a-string Senate subcommittee to create a constitutional formula that would allow Mr. Duffy to continue sitting as a Prince Edward Island senator; repeatedly ordering up blatantly false party responses to questions in the Commons on the controversy.
Stephen "Mr Accountable" Harper

Nigel Wright, as Mr. Harper’s chief of staff, was an architect of much of the scheming. On Friday, journalists wrote of him being in a “shaken” state while Mr. Duffy’s lawyer Donald Bayne pinned him to the wall with one e-mail revelation after another. On Monday, the grilling continued with Mr. Wright trying to hold to the line that Mr. Harper was kept in the dark about repayment plans for Mr. Duffy’s expenses.

On the hustings, the Senate controversy continued to dog Mr. Harper, keeping him on the defensive, the media continually challenging his version of events. Mr. Harper, who confers with his senior staff several times a day, repeats daily he was kept out of the loop on the scandal. He may well sustain the belief that he didn’t know specifically of the infamous $90,000 payout. But all the other nefarious plotting? Will the public believe he didn’t know about any of it?

There it is, spelled out so clearly that anyone thinking of voting for this government needs to have a ready answer to his or her conscience for each of the questionable actions that Martin so deftly sets out.

Can you trust a man who runs an office where his most important advisors are party to such actions?

As for me, I want my democracy back, and I will vote accordingly come election day.

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