Whitewashing of Senate report on Duffy scrutinized at trial

The way members of Stephen Harper’s staff handled both Mike Duffy and a powerful Senate committee is under scrutiny in court.

OTTAWA — The way members of Stephen Harper’s staff handled both Mike Duffy and a powerful Senate committee is under scrutiny in court.

Harper’s former chief of staff Nigel Wright is completing his last day of testimony at Duffy’s fraud, breach of trust and bribery trial.

Defence lawyer Donald Bayne is taking Wright through events that occurred in early May 2013, as the PMO believed they were putting a political headache to rest.

At the time, the Senate’s internal economy committee was preparing a report on Duffy’s living expenses, based on an independent audit by the firm Deloitte.

After encouraging Duffy not to work with Deloitte, Harper’s staff pressured Conservative senators to soften the language in their report on Duffy.

The idea was to make it appear he was a victim of unclear Senate forms.

“I just met with CSO (Sen. Carolyn Stewart Olsen). I gave her our changes. She agreed with them 100%,” former parliamentary affairs manager Patrick Rogers wrote to colleagues.

“I reinforced with her that the implementing of all of the changes to the report was the fulfilment of her commitment to Nigel and our building.”

Wright said that he viewed the discussions as simply ensuring the Senate report reflected the findings of the Deloitte audit. Two other reports released that day, into Liberal Sen. Mac Harb and Conservative Patrick Brazeau, included stronger language about their expenses.

During that time, Duffy had also been coached to tell the public that he had repaid $90,000 in challenged expenses, even though Wright had paid.

“You didn’t think that was a misrepresentation to Canadians?” Bayne asked Wright.

“I didn’t attach a significance to that distinction,” Wright responded. “I just didn’t think it was a bad misrepresentation.”

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