Politics

Duffy-Wright affair: A who's who of key Conservatives involved in a plan to repay the senators' expenses

Here's a look at some of the key people around Conservative Leader Stephen Harper who, according to emails filed in the criminal case of Mike Duffy, were aware of a secret plan to repay the senator's ineligible expenses.
The criminal trial of Senator Mike Duffy, centre, has heard about emails between Stephen Harper's former chief of staff Nigel Wright, left, Harper's current chief of staff Ray Novak, right, and other senior members of the Prime Minister's Office and Conservatives in the Senate. (Justin Tang and Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

In June 2013, Prime Minister Stephen Harper told the House of Commons that his former chief of staff, Nigel Wright, was the only one who knew Wright had given $90,000 to Mike Duffy.

"Those were his decisions," Harper said. "They were not communicated to me or to members of my office."

But emails filed as evidence at Duffy's trial in August suggests otherwise.

Here's a look at some of the key people around Harper who, it turns out, were aware of the secret Duffy repayment plan:

Nigel Wright

Harper's former chief of staff, now an executive in London, England at private equity firm Onex Corp.

Wright was the central figure in talks between Duffy and the Prime Minister's Office — talks that culminated in the arrangement that saw Wright foot the bill personally for Duffy's $90,000 in disputed Senate expenses.

Ray Novak

Harper's current chief of staff and a senior campaign director, as well as one of the people in the party and the government who is closest to the prime minister.

Novak was copied on emails that explicitly stated both that Duffy was unwilling to repay his own expenses, and that Wright — Novak's boss at the time — was planning to do it. Through a spokesman, Novak denied Thursday that he'd been aware Wright had paid. Novak also participated in part of a key conference call with Duffy's lawyer in March 2013, shortly before the payment was made.

Irving Gerstein

Conservative senator and longtime chairman of the Conservative Fund of Canada.

Wright asked Gerstein if the party would foot the bill for Duffy's expenses and legal fees, which at the time were $32,000. Gerstein told the RCMP he was prepared to consider. The plan fell apart when the total soared to $90,000. Wright also informed Gerstein he had personally borne the cost of repayment.

Chris Woodcock

Former director of issues management inside the Prime Minister's Office, now an executive at Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corp.

Woodcock was an active participant in the discussions about Duffy's repayment, penning an early document called "Scenario for Repayment." He was told about the plan to cover Duffy's expenses, and was also informed Wright wound up paying.

Benjamin Perrin

Associate law professor at University of British Columbia, and former PMO lawyer.

Perrin was a key point of contact as the office negotiated with Duffy's former lawyer Janice Payne on having Duffy tell the public he had repaid. Perrin was told that Wright would repay the expenses, and was on a conference call with Wright, Payne and Novak a few days beforehand.

Stephen Lecce

Deputy director of communications inside the Prime Minister's Office, and currently a campaign worker inside the Conservative war room.

Lecce was copied on the initial scenario for Duffy that included a plan to keep the senator "whole" by having the party repay the disputed expenses. Lecce also helped to develop the media plan for Duffy that had him declare publicly in media interviews that he was going to repay his expenses.

Arthur Hamilton

Conservative party lawyer.

Hamilton had contact with Duffy's lawyer at the time, Janice Payne, over an agreement on repayment. Hamilton was told Wright had repaid the expenses.

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