After days of people not talking about the whole ClusterDuff affair, suddenly there was plenty being said today. First, Aaron Wherry at Maclean’s got in touch with Senator Tkachuk of the Board of Internal Economy (who had been away after scheduled surgery), who insisted that he took no direction from Nigel Wright about scrubbing his audit report, and that they decided to tone down the language simply because he had paid the money back already. Tkachuk also praised the media for uncovering more of Senator Mike Duffy’s questionable spending, as it gives them more to work with. Outside, the CBC spoke with several Senators, most of whom were outraged by the situation, including Conservative Senator Nancy Ruth (3:55 on the clip), who said point blank that she believes that what Duffy did was fraud. Ouch. From the Senate, we learned that the RCMP had asked for documents related to the affair including copies of the Senate rules going back a decade. Later in the day, Duffy himself finally spoke with reporters – albeit somewhat fleetingly, saying that he wants an open inquiry and insisted that he wasn’t going to resign – sounding utterly dismissive at the very notion – but what was most interesting was the way he caught himself when asked what he believes Nigel Wright told the Prime Minister. “I have no idea,” he said and paused. “I would find…” And then caught himself. “I just don’t know.” But rather than answer other questions, he insisted that everyone wait for all to be revealed by the investigations. Given that more of his campaign expenses being billed to the Senate are being turned up, well, a lot more may be revealed than he counted on. Elsewhere in the Senate, Liberal Senator George Furey, who was in the minority when the Duffy report was edited and released, says that Tkachuk should step aside from the committee during the review of the Duffy audit, and that the executive of the committee – himself – recuse themselves to do away with hints of bias. The CBC, meanwhile, has acquired some of the letters between Duffy and Tkachuk around the audit. And in Colombia, Harper himself was actually answering more questions from the media, and apparently sounded a bit more contrite on the whole ClusterDuff situation, and admitted that maybe he should have acted sooner when he learned of the cheque from Wright.
Still in the Senate, here is a particularly churlish exchange between Senators Mercer and Lebreton over the new expenses rules, where Mercer invariably calls Lebreton out as a hypocrite. Conservative Senator Don Plett says he’s still a friend of Duffy, while much of the rest of the caucus turns their backs on him. (He’s also a friend of Brazeau – though not as close). Conservative MP Eve Adams took to Power & Politics to say that until there was substantive Senate reform, the PM wouldn’t make any more appointments – only to quickly be countered by the PMO, who said that no, that was not in fact the policy. Oops. (And there goes Adams’ future TV appearances). Justin Trudeau has tabled Order Paper questions on the Wright/Duffy affair. And it turns out that Conservative Senator Irving Gerstein earned some $290,000 last year for work serving on corporate boards (which is another rule that the Senate may have to consider revising).
The Federal Court has thrown out the case alleging election fraud in those six ridings, but said there were misleading calls made – just not enough of a threshold for him to overturn the election results. That doesn’t mean that everyone involved hasn’t declared victory – including the Conservatives, whose release conveniently omitted the fraud findings. The Council of Canadians is considering an appeal to the Supreme Court. (The full judgement is here).
While the government continues to insist that there is no “iPod tax” in Canada, a group of importers are alleging that CBSA plans to retroactively collect tariffs against MP3 players and televisions, and are questioning the requests for end-use certificates.
Jim Flaherty has not given up on his dream of a national securities regulator, and is restarting the process, which will wind up either with a negotiated agreement with the provinces or a regulator that deals with areas of federal jurisdiction as identified by the Supreme Court.
While in New Brunswick, Justin Trudeau said that he had some environmental concerns over the proposed West-East pipeline, which led to outrage by the premier.
The Privacy Commissioner delivered a position paper on the changing digital environment and the need for enhanced privacy laws – including the ability by her office to levy fines in the eight-figure range for offenders.
A radical pro-life group has decided to target the riding of Conservative MP Michelle Rempel – who has declared herself pro-choice and who has voted against the various backdoor abortion motions in the Commons – with their graphic postcards.
An international survey commissioned by the BBC says that Canada’s international reputation is improving – though many diplomats will dispute that fact.
And Graham F. Scott of Canadian Business talks about the price gap between Canada and the US.