Inside Politics

Liberals want investigation into allegations of missing Wright/Duffy docs

Deputy Liberal Leader Ralph Goodale wants the federal information watchdog to look into why Privy Council Office was unable to provide a single document in response to his request fot all records related to the now infamous $90 K payment arrangement between former PMO Chief of Staff Nigel Wright and then-Conservative Senator Mike Duffy.

In a letter sent to Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault over the weekend, Goodale notes the request was submitted on June 7th, 2013.

Just 21 days later, PCO replied: "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."

Even at the time, Goodale recalls, he "found it implausible that no documents existed in the Privy Council Office," but "accepted it at face value."

That, however, was before Duffy's incendiary October 22 speech to his Red Chamber colleagues, in which the expense controversy-embattled senator referred to several emails between himself and Wright -- who, at the time, was still the PM's right-hand man.

Not surprisingly, Goodale's letter quotes extensively from those remarks, particularly Duffy's recollection of an "email chain" that, he averred, "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," Duffy mused aloud, "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."

Goodale acknowledges the 60-day deadline to refer an access-related dispute to the commissioner has long since passed, but points out that the "new information came to light ... nearly four months after the response was received."

Still, he's clearly hoping that Legault will overlook that technicality, and launch a "full investigation."

Meanwhile, since the House of Commons reopened for business last month, the parliamentary Order Paper has been slowly but steadily filling up with similarly themed written questions.

Both Goodale and Liberal MP Sean Casey have filed follow-up queries that would give the PCO access to info coordinators the opportunity to rethink, based on new evidence, their initial assertion that no relevant documents could be found.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has also submitted two Duffy-Wright record-related requests, while New Democrat ethics critic Charlie Angus has posed what would seem to be the simplest of questions: "On what date and in what manner did the government receive a payment from Senator Mike Duffy or his associates for expense claims?"

Under the Standing Orders, the government has 45 days to reply to written questions, which means the first batch of answers will likely be tabled in early to mid-December, barring a very early holiday adjournment.

Unlike an access to information requests, however, there are no provisions that would allow for an extension -- if the government fails to meet the deadline, the matter is automatically referred to committee, which must meet within five days to consider what, if any, further steps should be taken.

For your watch file, here's the full text of the six Wright/Duffy-related questions currently awaiting an official response from the government:

Q-111 -- October 24, 2013 -- Mr. Goodale (Wascana) -- With regard to the Privy Council Office, and to the following documents: the Information to Obtain a Production Order and a Sealing Order, made on June 24, 2013 by Corporal Greg Horton of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Ottawa, Ontario, before Chantal Dominique Marie Lurette, a Commissioner for the Taking of Oaths in the Province of Ontario, in which he states he has reasonable grounds to believe and does believe that offences contrary to an Act of Parliament have been made by Michael Duffy; the statements made in the Senate by Senator Michael Duffy on October 22, 2013, and statements made to the press on October 21, 2013 in Ottawa by Donald Bayne, a lawyer of that city acting on behalf of Senator Duffy: (a) does the Access to Information Directorate of the Privy Council Office still conclude that no records exist with regard to Access to Information requests A-2013-00231, A-2013-00232, A-2013-00233, A-2013-00075, A-2013-00076, A-2013-00077, A-2013-00080, A-2013-00085, A-2013-00099, A-2013-00101, A-2013-00103, A-2013-00104, A-2013-00105, A-2013-00106, A-2013-00113, A-2013-00114, A-2013-00116, A-2013-00120, A-2013-00125, A-2013-00126, A-2013-00131, A-2013-00132, A-2013-00139, and A-2012-00751; (b) will the Directorate re-examine the handling of those requests in light of the new information outlined above; (c) did the Privy Council Office formerly hold records which would have satisfied one or more of those requests; (d) if so, were the records transferred, removed, or destroyed; (e) if transferred or removed, to whose custody or control were they transferred or removed; (f) if destroyed, when were they destroyed, on what date or dates was the destruction approved, and what is the file number of any order, instruction, directive, or authorization concerning their transfer, removal, or destruction?

Q-112 -- October 24, 2013 -- Mr. Goodale (Wascana) -- With regard to Senate motions No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 seeking to suspend Senators Brazeau, Duffy and Wallin without pay: (a) was the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) or the Privy Council Office (PCO) consulted or involved in the drafting of the motions, and, if so, who was involved; (b) what are the details of the emails, briefing notes, reports or other documents that were prepared by, or provided to, the PMO or the PCO for the purpose, in whole or in part, of drafting the motions, specifically the titles or files or reference numbers of those documents; (c) what meetings have the PMO or the PCO had, or been involved in, regarding, in whole or in part, the motions; (d) who attended the meetings in (c); (e) what are the details of the emails, briefing notes, reports or other documents that were prepared for or provided, in whole or in part, at these meetings, specifically the titles or files or reference numbers of those documents?

Q-125 -- October 28, 2013 -- Mr. Trudeau (Papineau) -- With regard to the Prime Minister's Office and the Privy Council Office: (a) how many records exist regarding the letter of understanding between the Prime Minister's former Chief of Staff, Nigel Wright, and Senator Mike Duffy regarding the payment of $90,127 to cover Senator Duffy's living expenses; and (b) what are the details of each record?

Q-126 -- October 28, 2013 -- Mr. Trudeau (Papineau) -- With regard to the Prime Minister's Office and the Privy Council Office, what are the details of the letter of understanding between the Prime Minister's former Chief of Staff, Nigel Wright, and Senator Mike Duffy regarding the payment of $90,127 to cover Senator Duffy's living expenses?

Q-136 -- October 30, 2013 -- Mr. Angus (Timmins--James Bay) -- On what date and in what manner did the government receive a payment from Senator Mike Duffy or his associates for expense claims?

Q-145 -- November 6, 2013 -- Mr. Casey (Charlottetown) -- With regard to the Privy Council Office, and to the following documents: an e-mail, dated December 4, 2012, between Nigel Wright and Senator Duffy, tabled in the Senate on October 28, 2013 as Sessional Paper No. 2/41-112S; e-mail correspondence, dated February 11, 2013, between Senator Duffy and Nigel Wright, tabled in the Senate on October 28, 2013 as Sessional Paper No. 2/41-113S; an e-mail, dated May 15, 2013, between Senator Duffy and Chris Woodcock, referred to on the CBC News Network program "Power and Politics" on October 28, 2013, and published on the program's web site; and the statements made in the Senate by Senator Michael Duffy on October 28, 2013: (a) does the Access to Information Directorate of the Privy Council Office still conclude that no records exist with regard to Access to Information requests A-2013-00231, A-2013-00232, A-2013-00233, A-2013-00075, A-2013-00076, A-2013-00077, A-2013-00080, A-2013-00085, A-2013-00099, A-2013-00101, A-2013-00103, A-2013-00104, A-2013-00105, A-2013-00106, A-2013-00113, A-2013-00114, A-2013-00116, A-2013-00120, A-2013-00125, A-2013-00126, A-2013-00131, A-2013-00132, A-2013-00139, and A-2012-00751; (b) will the Directorate re-examine the handling of those requests in light of the new information outlined above; (c) did the Privy Council Office formerly hold records which would have satisfied one or more of those requests; (d) if so, were the records transferred, removed, or destroyed; (e) if transferred or removed, to whose custody or control were they transferred or removed; and (f) if destroyed, when were they destroyed, on what date or dates was the destruction approved, and what is the file number of any order, instruction, directive, or authorization concerning their transfer, removal, or destruction?

Tags: access to information, blackberry jungle, ralph goodale, suzanne legault

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