Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Posted: 05/17/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0
Farmers and gardeners are spreading their spring manure, but the biggest stink wafting across the land has its origin in Ottawa, where a Senate scandal has tainted the prime minister's office and raised more demands for the excretion of the moldering Red Chamber from the national body politic.
Sen. Mike Duffy accepted a $90,000 gift from Prime Minister Stephen Harper's top aide, Nigel Wright, so that he could repay the living expenses he wrongly claimed for his residence in Ottawa, where he has lived for years, despite the fact he represents Prince Edward Island.
Two other senators also are under scrutiny for claiming living expenses they were not entitled to, but Mr. Duffy is the only one to get special treatment from Mr. Harper's office, including false praise for his leadership in paying back the money.
More allegations have surfaced that Mr. Duffy claimed expenses while campaigning for the Conservatives in 2011 and he's also under scrutiny for claiming expenses while on holidays in Florida.
Two federal ethics officers, including one for the Senate, are looking into the matter, which appears to violate the Senate Conflict of Interest Code. But the case calls for a broader investigation, possibly by the RCMP, to establish the facts.
Mr. Wright's so-called $90,000 gift has been described as a simple gesture of friendship, even though there is no evidence of a special relationship between the two men. Once the money was repaid, moreover, Mr. Duffy refused to co-operate with an ongoing audit into his and two other senators expense claims.
None of it passes the smell test and until the odour is cleared, the Prime Minister's Office and even Mr. Harper will be under a cloud of suspicion.
Until then, the senator needs to finally do one honourable thing and resign. It's also incomprehensible that Mr. Harper has allowed him to remain in the Conservative caucus. Late Thursday, Mr. Duffy himself resigned from caucus.
It might turn out that no technical wrongdoing is involved, but the pile of manure Mr. Duffy has created in Ottawa should not be allowed to continue to force Canadians to hold their noses.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 17, 2013 A12
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