Roundup: Inconsistent timelines and poor vetting

The ClusterDuff continues to be the gift that keeps on giving, the more we look into it. The big question raised yesterday was with regards to the timeline of what Harper knew when, which doesn’t add up to his established statements once you factor in when CTV’s Robert Fife started asking questions to the PMO, which should have raised flags to Harper that something was going on. (Global posts their own timeline of events here, while Maclean’s has an infographic to explain how everything fits together to date). As well, despite the PMO characterizing it as normal that they would be in communication with Commons and Senate committees in order to draft lines in response to their studies and reports, Liberal Senate leader James Cowan says those kinds of conversations are not normal. It would also seem to be a bit of a red flag about the PMO interfering into committee and Senate business. It also seems that Duffy and his lawyer were in the room at the time when then Internal Economy Committee voted to make the edits to his report that toned down the language (or “whitewashing” it, as it were), which also seems pretty peculiar.

As if that weren’t enough, we also find that Duffy had problems with claiming expenses in the past and was hauled before the Tax Court before he was appointed to the Senate. Hard to see how this wasn’t discovered during the vetting process and didn’t raise any flags in the PMO – or his DUI conviction for that matter – but given this round of appointments, they should have also caught the red flags with Patrick Brazeau and either didn’t, or they ignored them. Oh, and if you were counting on the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner to home down hard on Wright, well, don’t – she has very limited powers, and she tends to define her mandate so narrowly that almost nothing is her responsibility. Paul Wells writes about how the effect of this whole affair has further isolated Harper within his own party. John Geddes writes about the mounting number of problems on Harper’s desk, of which the ClusterDuff is but one.

Senator Pamela Wallin’s own audit is apparently being broadened to ensure that she too wasn’t claiming refunds from the Senate when she wasn’t on Senate business. Apparently the external auditors have found a pattern of claiming expenses for personal business or for the boards that she sits on. This too could get interesting.

The Senate Speaker has ruled against Senator Mac Harb’s claim that his privileges were breached by the audit process, saying that the Senate has a duty to protect itself more than it does the personal reputation of any one Senator. We’ll have to see what kind of legal challenge Harb will put forward as he tries to challenge the audit. Trudeau says that he is comfortable with Harb’s handling of the situation – in that he walked away from caucus – in order to pursue what avenues he feels he needs to. After all, due process is still the way things work in this country.

What’s that? Francophone groups outside of Quebec are upset that the NDP has increased the volume on their Senate abolition campaign? You don’t say! It’s like the NDP are too ideologically tone deaf to realise what work the Senate does for minority language communities, especially as it’s the only place many Francophones outside of Quebec actually get federal representation. Meanwhile, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall demonstrates that he has zero clue about federalism, the constitution or the actual role of the Senate as he has added his personal voice to the call for abolition.

And in case you’re down about the Senate in the wake of a couple of bad apples, here are five (well, six) reasons to love the Red Chamber.

Oops – NDP MP Tyrone Benskin has lost his critic portfolio after it was revealed that he owes some $58,000 in back taxes. Also owing is fellow MP Hoang Mai, but we don’t know how much he owes either. But you know, it’s only Senators who break rules and elected MPs – especially NDP ones – would never do that sort of thing, etcetera, etcetera.

The Conservatives are claiming victory now that Qatar has withdrawn their bid to relocate the International Civil Aviation Organization’s headquarters to their country. Apparently it was because of Conservative government’s brilliant lobbying efforts, rather than Qatar simply having pulled a stunt that was never going to be followed through on or anything…

Despite all of the attention paid to the new Ibbitson/Bricker book The Big Shift, Susan Delacourt counters that the demographics may not actually work in favour of the Conservatives as the new natural governing party after all. But while Delacout pays heed the Broadbent Institute study that “proves” Canadians are getting more progressive, Chris Selley takes it apart, comparing it to kinds of Manning Centre studies that “prove” Canadians are getting more conservative, both being predicated on a number of ridiculous questions and responses and then applying meaning to them.

And Andrew Coyne grinds on the Conservatives, who are playing the victim card in the Federal Court judge’s decision on the misleading robocalls – since it wasn’t them, apparently, who used their own database to launch a systematic campaign of voter fraud. It must be some skilled hacker group then, while the party was obstructing the court proceedings for the sake of it. Apparently.