Liberals Ask RCMP to Investigate Possible Criminal Offense under Parliament of Canada Act

OTTAWA– Liberal Justice Critic, Sean Casey, sent the following letter to the Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police today regarding RCMP allegations that before Nigel Wright wrote Senator Mike Duffy a $90,000 cheque, there may have been an earlier plan to have the Conservative Fund pay Senator Duffy’s expenses. Mr. Casey has requested an investigation to determine whether this constitutes an indictable offence under section 16 of the Parliament of Canada Act:

Robert Paulson
Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police
RCMP National Headquarters
Headquarters Building
73 Leikin Drive
Ottawa ON K1A 0R2

Dear Commissioner Paulson,

I am deeply troubled, along with many of my Parliamentary colleagues, by the contents of an RCMP Information to Obtain (ITO) Production Order released by the courts on November 20th 2013.

The ITO contains numerous emails from staff inside the Prime Minister’s Office, Conservative Party officials, and Conservative Senators, as well as summaries of interviews conducted by RCMP officers that were collected during the RCMP’s investigation of Nigel Wright and Mike Duffy for several possible breaches of the Criminal Code.

The document suggests that prior to Mr. Wright’s decision to personally reimburse Mike Duffy for $90,172.24 in expenses, there may have been an earlier decision to have the Conservative Fund make a payment to Mr. Duffy, in exchange for Mr. Duffy going along with a plan designed by the Prime Minister’s Office and Conservative Senators to materially affect a committee’s investigation into the appropriateness of Mr. Duffy’s expense claims.

According to the ITO, on June 19th, 2013 Mr. Wright’s lawyers advised the RCMP that: “The Conservative Party was initially going to repay the money for Senator Duffy from a Conservative Fund, when it was believed that the amount owed was approximately $32,000. The fund is controlled by Senator Gerstein.” (p. 12)

The document provides greater details about that plan on pages 31 to 34.

Page 31 contains an email from Janice Payne (Mr. Duffy’s lawyer) to Benjamin Perrin (legal counsel in the Prime Minister’s Office). That email contains a five-point plan. The first point suggests that there would be an effort to affect the proceedings of a Senate committee. It reads: “The Internal Economy Committee will confirm that Senator Duffy has been withdrawn from the Deloitte review and it will assure him that his expenses are fully in order to date and will not be the subject of any further review by the Committee, the Senate, or any other party.” (p. 31)

The third point indicates the plan included a payment to Mr. Duffy. It reads: “As his apparent ineligibility for the housing allowance stems from his time on the road on behalf of the party, there will be an arrangement to keep him whole on the repayment. His legal fees will also be reimbursed.” (p. 31)

Mr. Perrin forwarded the five-point plan to Mr. Wright who replied to Perrin and others in the PMO with his comments.

In response to the first point about having the Senate committee withdraw the Deloitte audit, Mr. Wright wrote, “that understanding is a commitment I will receive from Sens. LeBreton, Tkachuk and Stewart-Olsen.” (p. 32)

In response to point three, Mr. Wright wrote, “The Party is open to keeping Sen. Duffy whole since it is clear that any overpayments were innocently received. I have a call into the Party to confirm this as I think that the Senator has a right to have it confirmed.” (p. 32)

Mr. Perrin responded, “Point 3 requires follow-up from her end (Payne) and us. She will provide info on her rate and hour for legal fees… you spoke of further communications with the party.” (p. 33). To which Nigel Wright responded that he would try to speak with Senator Gerstein, Chair of the Conservative Fund.

Later that day Mr. Wright informed Mr. Perrin, “I now have the go-ahead on point three,” and that “funds disbursed from the Party under point 3 would be paid to Ms. Payne’s law firm, since a good portion of them are in payment of their fees.” (p. 33)

The emails also indicate that Mr. Duffy was expected to commit to several courses of action. For instance, Mr. Wright wrote that: “I would like to understand who if anyone Sen. Duffy ever intends to inform about point 3 (or, for that matter, the entire arrangement). I assume that I know the answer, but I would like it to be explicit. For its part I know the Party would not inform anyone.” (p. 33)

Further, the ITO states: “…Duffy still has to send the letter to the Steering Cttee, mimicking his public lines, saying ambiguity in the rules, might have made a mistake, desired to repay, needs to know the amount…” (p. 34)

These emails strongly suggest that a plan may have been proposed, developed and agreed upon which included a payment to a sitting Senator from the Conservative Fund, including a commitment from that Senator to undertake certain courses of action to support a plan to affect the outcome of a Senate committee’s investigation into that very Senator’s expenses.

Under section 16 of the Parliament of Canada Act, it is an offence to offer or promise prohibited compensation to a Senator “for the purpose of influencing or attempting to influence any member of either House.” Specifically a payment cannot be offered or promised “in relation to any bill, proceeding, contract, claim, controversy, charge, accusation, arrest or other matter before the Senate or the House of Commons or a committee of either House.”

It is important to underline that under the Act it is an indictable offence, punishable by imprisonment for up to one year and a fine, to make an offer or to make a promise of prohibited compensation to a Senator, regardless of whether the transaction itself actually proceeds.

The ITO suggests that Senator Gerstein as Chair of the Conservative Fund authorized the use of Conservative Fund money. The ITO also includes emails from Nigel Wright, the Prime Minister’s former Chief of Staff, wherein he suggests that he conferred with the Prime Minister on the five point plan.

Accordingly, I am requesting that you investigate and determine if a promise for payment to a Senator was in fact made by someone authorized to distribute funds from the Conservative Fund in relation to a matter before a Senate committee. It is our belief that such an action may have violated section 16 of the Parliament of Canada Act, or may constitute a conspiracy to violate the Act, and could, therefore, potentially constitute an indictable offence.

For your information, I have enclosed the pages of the ITO that describe the original plan to “make Senator Duffy whole.”

Sincerely,

Sean Casey, Q.C., M.P.
Liberal Party of Canada Justice Critic