06/11/2013 05:04 EDT | Updated 08/11/2013 05:12 EDT

Political Traction: 'Secret' PMO fund drives Senate traction

Jaime Watt joins CBC News Networks' Power & Politics host Evan Solomon each week to look at how issues making waves in Ottawa resonate with Canadians.

Monitoring the House of Commons' question period, mainstream media and the conversation on social media, Watt and his team at Navigator Ltd. determine which issues gained the most attention in official Ottawa, and then measure how much traction those issues managed to find with Canadians outside the nation's capital.

This week: More Canadians tuned into the Senate expenses scandal after new information emerged on a secret fund controlled by the Prime Minister's Office, according to Watt.

"This story is getting more complex with more questions, rather than getting more settled and sorted in Canadians' minds," said Watt. "That's why (Canadians) continue to tune in."

Last week, CBC News learned that Stephen Harper's former chief of staff, Nigel Wright, had control of a secret fund when he cut a $90,000 "personal cheque" to Senator Mike Duffy.

Canadians are linking the Senate expenses scandal directly to the actions of Harper and Wright, according to Watt.

The Senate controversy is generating more traction than previous weeks because it looks like Harper isn't disclosing all the facts surrounding the PMO fund and the $90,000 cheque to Duffy, according to Watt.

Rathgeber quits Conservative caucus

Alberta MP Brent Rathgeber's resignation from the Conservative caucus is also causing problems for the government, according to Watt.

Rathgeber quit Harper's team last week, saying the Prime Minister's Office has too much control over Conservative MPs.

"Legislators like myself have to take a stand," Rathgeber said at a press conference in Edmonton last Thursday. "We have to take a stand that we're not going to read these talking points that are written by PMO staffers, that we're not going to vote like trained seals based on how they tell us."

Canadians connect Rathgeber's resignation with the Senate controversy, according to Watt. The PMO's secret fund and Rathgeber's public departure from Harper's caucus are separate issues, but Canadians see them as one and the same.

"Canadians understand that problems are like bananas. They come by the bunch and the prime minister seems to have a bunch of problems right now," Watt said.