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Letter to Suzanne Legault, Information Commissioner of Canada

November 17, 2013

Ms. Suzanne Legault
Information Commissioner of Canada
Place de Ville, Tower B
112 Kent Street, 7th Floor
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 1H3

Dear Commissioner Legault:

I am writing to lodge a formal complaint to a response that I received from the Privy Council Office to an Access to Information request.

One June 7th, 2013, I submitted a request to the Privy Council Office for the following information:

“All records in the control or custody of the department related to Senator Mike Duffy’s and Senator Pamela Wallin’s expenses (excluding public media reports) including all records relating to the Senate audit of their expenses, including but not limited to:

-Any records concerning the understanding or agreement between Senator Mike Duffy and Nigel Wright (or their agents) regarding Senator Duffy’s expenses;

-A copy of the email of February 20, 2013 written by Senator Mike Duffy;

-All emails, correspondence and other records from or to Benjamin Perrin relating to the arrangement between Nigel Wright and Senator Mike Duffy;

-All emails, correspondence and other records from or to Nigel Wright relating to the arrangement between Nigel Wright and Senator Mike Duffy.”

On June 28, 2013, I received a response from the Privy Council Office that stated,

“A thorough search of the records under the control of PCO was carried out on your behalf; however, no records relevant to your request were found.”

At the time of receipt of this response, while I found it implausible that no documents existed in the Privy Council Office, I accepted it at face value.

However, nearly four months after receiving the response to my request, Senator Mike Duffy, in a speech to the Senate on October 22nd, stated the following:

“I immediately contacted Nigel Wright, the prime minister’s chief of staff, and explained that I was doing nothing improper. Nigel Wright e-mailed me back, saying he had my expenses checked and he was satisfied that my accounts were in order, that all was in compliance with Senate rules. In fact, he said, there were several other senators in the same situation. This was in December 2012. Mr. Wright said: The story is a smear.”

Senator Duffy further went on to say:

“There were elaborate undertakings negotiated among the several lawyers involved in this. They were taking instructions from their clients: at least two lawyers from the PMO, one I know of from the Conservative party and my own lawyer. There was an undertaking made by the PMO, with the agreement of the Senate leadership, that I would not be audited by Deloitte, that I’d be given a pass; and further, that if this phoney scheme ever became public, Senator LeBreton, the leader of the government of the day, would whip the Conservative caucus to prevent my expulsion from the chamber.

PMO officials confided it wasn’t easy to get this commitment to do as they were told from senators LeBreton, Tkachuk and Stewart Olsen, but the e-mail chain shows it took hours of shuttling back and forth as the lawyers checked with their principals about the guarantees they were going to give to ensure that I wasn’t censured for going along with this PMO scheme.

Given all of those e-mails, you can imagine my shock when I heard there’s not a single document about all of this in the PMO, not one. In response to an access-to-information request, CBC was told there’s not one single document related to this matter in the PMO.

Well, if they’re not in the PMO, they’re in the hands of my lawyers and I suspect in the hands of the RCMP. Why don’t I release those documents now? Because the people involved have rights, which under our system, must be protected. Are the police looking at possible criminal charges? Are they wondering about bribery, threats and extortion of a sitting legislator? This is serious stuff, and the people who were involved and there’s more than those I’ve mentioned here today deserve to have their rights protected. It’s the Canadian way. It will all come out in due course when all of the players are under oath and the e-mail chain can be seen in its entirety.”

On October 28th, Senator Duffy again addressed the Senate, and he stated the following:

“What more evidence do honourable senators need than the e-mail train among the highest levels in the PMO detailing the contract negotiations? The links to the $90,000 payment, and now the further $13,000 payment from the party lawyer to my lawyers, shows that this monstrous fraud was the PMO’s creation from start to finish.

When you have an opportunity to read these e-mails, you will see the back and forth as the PMO lawyers checked with their principal on the language which would be used to direct the future actions of Senator LeBreton and others in the Conservative Party leadership. As a senator, it saddens me to see that at one point, when Senator LeBreton actually tried to act independently, Nigel Wright wrote me a letter saying he was displeased by this freelancing by Senator LeBreton and her colleagues. His tone was, who do they think they are?

He ordered the Senate leadership and the Conservatives on the steering committee of the Board of Internal Economy to fall into line and stop unilateral action. It’s all here in writing.”

Senator Duffy went on to say the following:

“Senator LeBreton, some Conservative MPs and some PMO spinners have been attacking me for saying I had gotten a loan at the RBC. Some people, colleagues, just have no shame. That line about RBC was part of a script written for me and e-mailed to me by the PMO.

On Feb. 21, after all of the threats and intimidation, I reluctantly agreed to go along with this dirty scheme. The PMO spin machine was in high gear. Cellphone and PMO telephone records from February will show there were numerous phone calls and e-mails to me as the PMO developed their version of events, and rehearsed with me right up until minutes before I went on television the lines I would use with the media.

Early on, in those discussions with the PMO, the PMO experts predicted the media would ask, “Where did you get the $90,000?” When they heard that I had been using a line of credit to renovate my home in Cavendish, they jumped right on it. It was suggested I go to the RBC, borrow the cash to pay off that line of credit, and then, when the media asked, “Where did you get the money to pay the $90,000?” the PMO told me to say, “My wife and I took out a loan at the Royal Bank.”

Well, that’s technically correct, we took out a loan, but that loan wasn’t to repay money, the $90,000 that the PMO agreed I didn’t owe. That line was written by the PMO to deceive Canadians as to the real source of the $90,000.”

Senator Duffy also tabled some of the documents that he referred to in the speech in the Senate.  Copies of these documents are attached.

While I understand that complaints should be received by your office within 60 days, it was not until nearly four months after the response was received that new information came to light.  Based on what we have now learned from Senator Duffy in his speeches before the Senate in which he outlines numerous points of contact, as well as the documents that he tabled, it is simply not plausible for the Privy Council Office to maintain that they have no records on this issue – an issue that has essentially paralysed government operations for months.  Furthermore, the Prime Minister explicitly stated that Nigel Wright acted in his capacity as Chief of Staff, not a private citizen, when he made the payment to Mike Duffy.

Based on all of this information, I would request a full investigation by your office.

I am attaching the formal complaint form and other relevant documentation.

Thank you for taking the time to consider this very important matter.

Sincerely,

 

Honourable Ralph Goodale, P.C., M.P.