Duffygate Paralyzes Harper Government
Tongues are still wagging non-stop at the lunch-counters and salad emporiums across Ottawa as the relentless public scandal, colloquially dubbed “Duffygate” continues to embroil the office of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and both Commons and Senate caucuses of the Conservative Party of Canada.
This time it comes with the latest revelation in a spate of investigative journalism disclosures in the parliamentary precinct–this one by Jennifer Ditchburn of Postmedia.com who (we don’t think it really matters who came first, just that they came)–and/or possibly in tandem with, or slightly after, or at the same time, as CTV News and CBC news bureaus–was first to cross the public disclosure finish line with a comparison of the original version of the Senate’s ostensible “internal investigation” report on Sen. Mike Duffy’s $90K in impugned housing “expense” claims to its final “sanitized” edition.
According to Ditchburn’s on-line story which ran late on Wednesday evening:
The order to sanitize an audit of Sen. Mike Duffy’s expenses came from two key Conservatives on the Senate’s internal economy committee: chair David Tkachuk and Carolyn Stewart Olsen, CTV News has learned….The original version of the audit report said Duffy broke the rules when he declared a Prince Edward Island cottage as his primary residence and noted that the senator refused to co-operate with independent auditors.
Substantial “character deficit” in report retouched by Tory Senators
Turns out, between the original version of the report, which was penned with the participation of Liberal Senator George Furey, and the one that was presented days later, there are significant alterations amounting to a glaring 470-word (or 2,446 individual keystrokes) gap in the doctored version. Actually, “nursed” may be a better description, given Senator Stewart-Olsen’s pre-political career as an RN.
And it turns out, the editing and excising was done by the two Tory Senators –Tkachuk and Stewart-Olsen–presumably, when Senator Furey was elsewhere.
The Tory pair apparently altered and then presented a final version that contained a deficit of 2,446 characters, which appear to some, at least (cynical bastards), to have been removed in order to, as the saying goes, “whitewash” Senator Duffy’s alleged malfeasance.
Today, Senator Stewart-Olsen objected to the characterization of the product of her PMO-quality co-editing as a “sanitized version” of the Duffy report. And, inasmuch as she and her internal economy committee cohorts are scheduled to give, forgive our grade school naïveté, a “sober second look” to the doctored report, who knows how many other last-minute touch-ups will find their way into the final-final report.
Happily, if you want to see with your own eyes what secretarial gap-creating or legerdemain was brought to bear by the two Tory co-editors,, major media including CTV News have–in contrast to the Tory upper chamber loyalists, at least–made publjc a side-by-side excerpt of the relevant portions available for viewing at this weblink:
All of which spells “MORE BAD NEWS” for Prime Minister Harper, who presumably thought he would be able to skate away from the mess while contining on his whirlwind tour of Peru and Colombia this week.
One of his many quickly multiplying challenges in the face of the time warp velocity of Duffygate has been the fact that its hard to stay “on message” when all your top aides are being sucked into its tornado-like vortex.
So instead of being able to repeat his mantra talking point about the Tory Economic Action Plan , the PM is now confronted with the fact that yet another of his most stalwart and loyal servants–Senator Stewart-Olsen–has apparently thrown judgment and propriety out the windows of the Senate of Canada in order to salvage the sinking ship that is the PMS Stephen Harper.
All the Prime Minister’s Men, er, and Women…
A digest of the Senator’s resumé from Wikipedia tells the all too familiar tale of a devoted acolyte who would apparently resort to anything to protect the Prime Minister and his coterie of boosters, including her crony, er, fellow honourable senator, Mike Duffy:
“Stewart-Olsen was born and raised in Sackville, New Brunswick, and worked as a nurse for 20 years before becoming a political staffer. In 1993, Stewart-Olsen became a volunteer in the communications office of the Reform Party of Canada under Preston Manning, newly settling in as a major party in the House of Commons. “
“She later came on staff as a media officer or press aide until 2000, serving through the creation of its first successor party, the Canadian Alliance, and the leadership of Stockwell Day, who defeated Manning for the Alliance leadership.”
“[Later]…Stewart-Olsen went to work for Deborah Grey, the first Reform MP and a Manning loyalist, and in 2001, she was identified as a press aide to the Democractic Representative Caucus, a group of dissidents including Grey who broke with the party under Day’s leadership….]”
“In the 2002 Canadian Alliance leadership election, she became press secretary to Harper in his successful challenge to Day, planting a strong reciprocal loyalty between the two that would strengthen through the 2004 leadership race of its successor the Conservative Party of Canada, and Stewart-Olsen’s frequent contact with Harper in their work; a 2005 Globe and Mail report said that Stewart-Olsen and executive assistant Ray Novak, “mid-level staffers,” were “seen as having his ear, much more so than many higher-ranking staff in the [Opposition leader's] office of about 100.” “
“As Harper’s press secretary, Stewart-Olsen survived several periods of significant turnover in Harper’s communication staff; in opposition in 2005, amid one such transition, media reports stated that Stewart-Olsen was widely tipped to succeed Geoff Norquay as communications director, but she remained in her position as press secretary. When Harper became prime minister after the 2006 federal election, Stewart-Olsen moved with him into government.”
“Accounts of Stewart-Olsen vary widely. On the 2005-06 campaign trail, a reporter for The Record who had been physically restrained from asking a question by a member of Harper’s RCMP security detail found Stewart-Olsen “diminutive and soft-spoken;” she defused the situation and arranged a short interview. Calgary Sun writer Licia Corbella calls her “competent and charming”.”
“However, a fellow Conservative strategist, speaking anonymously to the Canadian Press in 2005, said that “Carolyn Stewart Olsen is an issue for a lot of people — her relationship with the leader and her inability to work well with people.” Editorialist Adam Radwanski suggested in his blog that she may “reinforce all the leader’s worst, most paranoid instincts.” “
“In February 2006, after the departure of Harper’s communications director William Stairs, the Toronto Star described Stewart-Olsen going to the “unusual lengths of holding down reporters’ hands when they’ve tried to ask questions or shouting at journalists who don’t abide by her rules for press dealings. The fact that Harper chose to keep Stewart-Olsen and eject Stairs was seen last night as largely a cosmetic answer to the deeper issue of his public-relations problems and Harper’s distrust of anything related to the media.”"
“Reinforcing this perception of media relations, in April 2008 it was reported that Conservative Members of Parliament were required to carry at all times a wallet-sized, laminated card entitled “When a Reporter Calls”. The card provided instructions as to questions a Member of Parliament was expected to ask of a reporter, prior to seeking permission from the Prime Minister’s Office to speak to the journalist.”