Yves Engler: Three of Canada’s unelected Senators filed ineligible expense claims and have been told to repay $277,000 in wrongfully claimed expenses
JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore. And welcome to this edition of The Engler Report.
Now joining us is Yves Engler. He’s a Canadian commentator and author, and his most recent book is The Ugly Canadian: Stephen Harper’s Foreign Policy.
Thanks for joining us, Yves.
YVES ENGLER, AUTHOR AND POLITICAL ACTIVIST, MONTREAL: Thanks for having me.
DESVARIEUX: Yves, there’s a huge political scandal happening in the Canadian Senate. Can you just give our viewers a sense of what is happening and just update us on the situation?
ENGLER: Yeah. Basically, Stephen Harper is finding himself under the biggest political heat he’s probably been under in his seven-plus years as prime minister, and it sort of centers around three senators that he appointed to the Senate, of course, being involved in filing unfair or incorrect expense reports going back about a year. And three senators were found to owe a bunch of money back to the government.
And one senator, Mike Duffy, who was a sort of star of–former journalist who was a star of the Conservative sort of fundraising network, he had $90,000 that he incorrectly expensed paid back by Nigel Wright, who was Stephen Harper’s chief of staff, back in May. Nigel Wright was forced to resign when it came to light that he had actually paid back this money.
At the time, it was supposedly just Nigel Wright who did this on his own. In recent weeks and recent months, more and more details have come out about how it wasn’t just Nigel Wright. Three other people in the prime minister’s office at least were aware of it. The RCMP is investigating, the police are investigating. And now Harper is being pointed out specifically as having been involved in the payback.
And a couple of days ago, Mike Duffy, the senator, came public and said that there was actually a second check that had been paid, of his legal fees that were paid for by Nigel Wright. And apparently the Conservative Party had been involved in plans to pay some of the ill-gotten expenses of the senator. And basically Stephen Harper, who came to office as this I’ll clean up the corruption in Ottawa kind of politician, is now finding himself tied in to this sort of corrupt practices of the Canadian Senate.
DESVARIEUX: Let’s talk a little bit more about corruption in the Harper government. What does this one scandal tell us about just the nature of corruption within the Harper government?
ENGLER: Well, Nigel Wright, who was Harper’s chief of staff, who was forced to resign, who was kind of the center of the sort of corruption with–or the payback of the senator’s expenses, he was–about a year ago now, it came to the light that he was lobbying for Barrick Gold after the Conservative government had taken a position on the Falkland Islands with Argentina. And Barrick Gold has significant operations in Argentina. It wasn’t happy with that position of the Canadian government.
And Nigel Wright is somebody who’s the godfather of Aaron Munk, who is on the board of directors of Barrick Gold and who is the son of Peter Munk, who is the CEO of Barrick Gold or the head of Barrick Gold, founder.
So this was against Canada’s laws around lobbying and around conflict of interest. Nigel Wright should have reclused himself from doing so. There’s a number of serious corruption allegations and court case around the elections, the robo calls of the Conservative Party being involved in trying to confuse voters about where they were supposed to vote, to basically phone voters who were not seen as Conservative Party supporters and tell them to go to the wrong place as a way to try to drive them from voting in the last election. And there’s a series of different other sort of allegations of corruptions.
And this is a very secretive government, probably one of the most secretive governments in Canadian history, and [incompr.] very intense sort of controlling of the message, you know, from scientists to not letting politician–or not letting reporters or, you know, government bureaucrats speak to reporters, not letting reporters, you know, in on press conferences, and stuff like that.
So it’s not–usually corruption stories come out after the fact. It’s still a government in power. So I’m sure there’s many, many more stories there.
But it’s important to note that a big part of what the Conservatives’ appeal in coming to office in 2006 was they were supposed to wipe out the decade-long sort of corruption that had–13-year-long sort of corruption that had built up with the former Liberal Party. So all allegations, and certainly the Senate scandal, are, you know, pretty strong allegations of corrupt practices. All allegations sort of hurt that much more for Stephen Harper because he tries to portray himself sort of as a very clean kind of politician.
DESVARIEUX: Alright. Yves Engler, thank you so much for joining us.
ENGLER: Thanks for having me.
DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
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