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The Duffy Affair: Just how many more could there be?

There is no going back on The Duffy Affair, the breach of trust and scar to the Conservative brand will last a while. The story is on people's minds and despite an aggressive effort to get it off the agenda, the fall session of Parliament is picking up where the spring session left off - in an interrogation room setting with an opposition playing whack a mole with a defiant prime minister.

To think the initial news of a $90,000 cheque disrupted the subtle flow of politics in Ottawa, it would have never been known if it weren't for a leak to an experienced and well-networked journalist. As time evolved, more leaks were made, expanding the scandal to more people and more clout. Again, we see information that would have been deeply under the rug if it weren't for the right openings in a tightly sealed gate.

This begs the question: How far does this scandal reach?

The only people who can tell you how deep the mess is are the people who made it and these people either aren't talking or are in the process of back-room deals trying to cover it up.

The story from May has changed. Mike Duffy went from a state of avoiding the media and being called honourable for repaying $90,000 in inappropriate housing claims to the criminal of the hour conspiring behind closed doors to fraud taxpayers and today is the victim trying to save his job. They say when your livelihood is in danger, you're more likely to sing like a canary and if the chain of events continue, Duffy's bombshell allegation that Prime Minister Stephen Harper threatened him to repay the money is only just the beginning.

Duffy affirmed that whatever paper trail the PMO refused to pull up is either in the hands of the RCMP or his lawyers and deleting emails is only as effective as finding their meta data traced back in the roots of servers.

Harper's attitude has also changed on the matter. Progressing from a story that isolated the scandal to "a matter [Nigel Wright] kept to himself" to a scenario where Wright told "only a few people." A contradiction from a man who has hid behind trade deals and parliamentary secretaries, along with simple and pointed attacks to the opposition.

May 28

"Mr. Speaker, the facts here are reasonably simple, whether or not the opposition or anybody else particularly likes them. 
The facts are simple and they are clear. It was the belief of Mr. Wright—in fact, I think it is fair to say the belief of all of us—that Mr. Duffy should repay any inappropriate expenses. Mr. Wright ultimately decided, on his own, using his own resources, to assist Mr. Duffy in that repayment, a matter he kept to himself until Wednesday, May 15."

June 5

"Mr. Speaker, as I have said repeatedly, it was Mr. Wright who made the decision to take his personal funds and give those to Mr. Duffy so that Mr. Duffy could reimburse the taxpayers. Those were his decisions. They were not communicated to me or to members of my office. They were Mr. Wright’s decisions, but he takes full responsibility for them."

October 23

"Mr. Speaker, I addressed this issue some months ago. Mr. Wright has been absolutely clear in terms of who he told he intended to repay Mr. Duffy’s expenses to. He did not say Ray Novak was one of those people. He has named those people. He has been very clear. He has also been very clear that one of those people was not me, because I obviously would never have approved such a scheme.

Mr. Speaker, of course, I addressed this issue publicly in July. Mr. Wright has been very clear about who he told or who he informed of his intentions. He has also been very clear that he undertook this action on his own. It was his own decision, using his own resources. He has admitted to me and to others that the decision was a mistake. He has resigned and is accepting his responsibility."

October 24 

"Mr. Speaker, Mr. Wright has been clear. The decision to repay Mr. Duffy with his own money was his and his alone. He informed very few people. 
The allegations contained in that question are completely false and designed to do one thing and that is to deflect attention from the fact that it is the Liberal senators and the Liberal Party that refuse any reform in the Senate and refuse any attempt to discipline any senators who have behaved inappropriately.

Once again, Mr. Speaker, I addressed that matter months ago. 
Mr. Wright made this decision. He has been very clear. He informed very few people.It was his own decision and his own initiative. Any insinuation or any suggestion that I knew or would have known is incorrect. As soon as I knew, I made this information available to the public and took the appropriate action.

Again, Mr. Speaker, he alleges that many people knew about this. That is simply not correct.
It was Mr. Wright’s decision, using his own resources and by his own admission, documented, he told very few people
The fact of the matter is that it is the virtually universal view in this party that if a person cannot follow rules, cannot respect the standards of integrity in their behaviour, people do not want them to be a member of the caucus of the Conservative Party."
This isn't the only contradiction Harper has made. In the Wallin Affair, Harper said, "In terms of Senator [Pamela] Wallin, I have looked at the numbers, her travel costs are comparable to any parliamentarian travelling from that particular area of the country over that period of time." However, senate audits have found her owing to be staggering.

Add to the scandal, Patrick Brazeau who is rigorously fighting for his political life and has recently said Canadians have something to be worried about with Harper's conduct throughout the scandal, adding that Harper has "lost [his] vote."

While the Duffy Affair is the big story because it hit the PMO hard, allegations read the same people involved with the Duffy Affair are implicated in the Brazeau and Wallin affairs. On a rare Friday sitting, Brazeau dropped a bombshell after the new senate leader Claude Carignan offered an easier ride for apologizing to Canadians.

While this scandal has hit the airwaves and kitchen tables across the country, this abuse in taxpayer money isn't new to the Conservatives. Canadians were outraged when Bev Oda changed hotels on taxpayer's dime to get $16 orange juice and 5-star service. The Conservatives didn't look any better when then-Defence Minister Peter MacKay changed his hotel suite, and when he started using taxpayer-funded helicopters for free rides. Going back a bit more, how have the gazebos in Tony Clement's riding been fairing with funds that were allocated to border security? It appears hundreds of thousands of dollars in misused senate allowance is only part of a trend, albeit one with much more embarrassing consequences.

Harper too enjoyed this kind of luxury, using his taxpayer funded jet on occasions to take his family to sporting events - although he claims to have refunded the consumer cost of the flights.

In a time when Canadians are met with a government that has campaigned relentlessly on accountability and instead decided to build firewalls and hide, it is hard to distinguish truth from lies and everything in-between. Duffy has yet to add substance to his claim that Harper threatened him, but already we see Harper responded to the bait. When it came time to look strong, of course Harper told Duffy his actions were wrong, but did Harper sing the same tune this spring when he offloaded the scandal to Nigel Wright?

However, let's return to the root of the scandal. Would we have known if it weren't for the leak? Likely not? Was there an attempt to cover up the scandal? Very likely. Given this, what are the odds there is more under wraps  we don't know of? That, only time can tell.

It is without saying then, that as easily as this scandal can be isolated to the handful of senators and PMO staff currently under scrutiny, it can be a chronic issue and there are many layers to dig before reaching the truth. Is this scandal isolated or chronic? Share this article and join the discussion and let us know what you think: Facebook, Twitter, Google+.

Stephen Harper on Integrity: The Duffy Affair

What started as a $90,172 claim of inappropriate expenses seen as an outrage as part of abusive senate behaviour quickly escalated to a scandal with many more questions than answers. Get up to date with the full timeline.
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