Of all the questions left over from last week’s release of a treasure trove of documents from the RCMP’s investigation into the Senate scandal, one of the most nagging is this: Why is it that the one person who raised a red flag is no longer working in government?
Christopher Montgomery served as director of parliamentary affairs in the office of Conservative Senator Marjory LeBreton when she was government leader in the Senate. Montgomery’s name comes up time and again in the RCMP paper trail. Unlike others, though, the image that emerges is overwhelmingly positive.
When staffers from the Prime Minister’s Office were pressing a Senate committee to amend its report into Senator Mike Duffy’s expenses to go easy on him, the RCMP documents show Montgomery resisting.
On one page, police outline how “he (Montgomery) advised the PMO, specifically Patrick Rogers and Chris Woodcock, that they should not be involved in the Senate audit and reports regarding Senator Duffy.”
“During his seven years in the Senate,” the report continues, “he (Montgomery) cannot recall other times when representatives from the PMO actually attended meetings and insisted on wording of a Senate report.”
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As negotiations reached their heated conclusion, Rogers sent an email to Woodcock and Nigel Wright, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's former chief of staff, to complain. "This is epic. Montgomery is the problem."
In the end, the Duffy report was amended. By July, LeBreton had announced she was stepping down as government leader in the Senate, leaving Montgomery without a job.
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In situations like these, a position is usually found in a minister’s office or elsewhere in government.
But a senior Conservative source says there was nothing for Montgomery, blaming his run in with the PMO.
A friend of Montgomery said he felt out of favour; that he was not seen as a team player.
Montgomery eventually found work with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. Contacted at his office in Calgary, he would not comment on the RCMP documents, the ongoing police investigation or his decision to leave Ottawa.
Montgomery is still highly regarded on Parliament Hill.
“He’s a very good guy,” said Senator Claude Carignan, who replaced LeBreton as government leader in the Senate.
“He’s very good, very competent. He’s an expert in Senate rules. We don’t have a lot of persons with this expertise.”
Carignan said he was in contact with Montgomery over the summer, before he was confirmed as the new government leader in the Senate, and before he could offer him a position in his office.
“During this time, he received an offer from the private sector that he could not refuse,” Carignan said.
Others named in the RCMP documents had a far easier time finding work, including Rogers and Woodcock, the two PMO staffers who Montgomery scolded for trying to alter the Senate report on Duffy.
Rogers now works for Heritage Minister Shelly Glover. Woodcock is chief of staff to Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver.
When Glover appeared before the House of Commons Heritage Committee this week, Liberal MP Stéphane Dion tried to ask whether she hired Rogers or if he was placed in her office by the PMO. The question was ruled out of order.
Oliver faced questions about Woodcock the day before when he appeared before the natural resources committee.
“At the time that you hired Mr. Woodcock, were you aware that he’d been involved in the whitewash of a Senate report?” asked Liberal MP Geoff Regan.
Oliver called his question “appalling” and said his chief of staff brings “a wealth of experience” to his office.