With new details emerging about the PMO's involvement in the Duffy-Wright affair, any hope Conservatives had that a RCMP investigation would take the story out of the headlines have been dashed.
And a new poll suggests that as bad as things already looked before the latest news, they could get much worse.
The survey by Ipsos-Reid for CTV was conducted at the end of June, before the revelations from the RCMP investigation came to light. Those new details have put into doubt the narrative of Nigel Wright acting alone in his reimbursement of Senator Mike Duffy's ineligible expense claims and have blown holes in the prime minister's version of events.
Even so, only 30 per cent of Canadians polled by Ipsos-Reid said they approved of the way Stephen Harper has handled the scandal, compared to 70 per cent who disapproved. As Darrell Bricker of Ipsos-Reid points out, no party can win an election with 30 per cent support.
More worryingly for the prime minister is that only 6 per cent strongly approved of how this has been managed, while 41 per cent strongly disapproved — including 10 per cent of Conservative voters. Add the 28 per cent who said they somewhat disapproved, and you have more than 1-in-3 Tory supporters (a group whose ranks have already been whittled down) not exactly enamoured with Harper's handling of the issue.
But, again, these sorry numbers were from a poll taken before the recent news emerged. And with the prime minister sticking with his story, there does not seem to be any chance his approval ratings on the scandal are going to go anywhere but down. Even if Harper was kept out of the loop, allegations the party was considering using taxpayer-subsidized funds to repay Duffy's bill cannot help but tarnish the image of the Conservative Party in the eyes of Canadians — not to mention the eyes of their donors.
Up to now, it had appeared that the Duffy-Wright affair had done all the damage it was going to do to the Tories' poll numbers. The party had sunk to 30 per cent or a little less, but had stabilized at that level. Whether that is their absolute floor will be determined in the coming weeks, when the fallout from the latest news has its effect on public opinion. A silver lining for the Conservatives, however, is that Canadians may have tuned out for the summer. The impending cabinet shuffle may be an opportunity to change the channel, but that potential has been (and always is) blown out of proportion — how many Canadians can name more than one or two cabinet ministers anyway?
It should be remembered, however, that despite Harper managing only 30 per cent approval on this issue, the prime minister managed 41 per cent approval overall in the same poll. This would suggest that while many Canadians are wholly unimpressed with Harper's performance on this particular question it has not pulled down his personal numbers dramatically. But again, this was before the latest revelations.
At some point, Harper might lose the benefit of the doubt.
Éric Grenier taps The Pulse of federal and regional politics for Huffington Post Canada readers every week. Grenier is the author of ThreeHundredEight.com, covering Canadian politics, polls and electoral projections.
Also on HuffPost:
1) He probably took a BIG pay cut
It is believed that Wright was <a href="http://thewalrus.ca/mister-right/?ref=2011.04-politics-mister-right&page=" target="_blank">earning more than $2 million</a> in salary and bonuses at Onex, but made around $300,000 working on Parliament Hill.
2) He's unmarried
Along with John Baird, Jason Kenney, and James Moore, Wright was one of four <a href="http://www2.macleans.ca/2011/09/12/harper%E2%80%99s-single-white-males/" target="_blank">“single, white males”</a> profiled in Maclean’s magazine in 2011 as holding immense power in Harper’s inner circle. Moore has since tied the knot.
3) He's a big runner
Wright would apparently run a half-marathon each morning before starting a <a href="http://thewalrus.ca/mister-right/?ref=2011.04-politics-mister-right&page=" target="_blank">14-hour work day at Onex.</a> <a href="http://www2.macleans.ca/2011/09/12/harper%E2%80%99s-single-white-males/" target="_blank">He has kept that pace after he began working in Ottawa</a>. He is said to be fond of telling a story of once being surrounded by several snarling dogs during an early morning run - <a href="http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2010/09/28/travers_nigel_wrights_job_is_to_restore_order_to_pmo.html" target="_blank">a perfect metaphor for politics.</a>
4) Harper isn’t the first PM he's worked for
Wright was a <a href="http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/story/2010/09/24/harper-chief-of-staff.html" target="_blank">speechwriter and policy adviser</a> to former prime minister Brian Mulroney. He was also <a href="http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/editorials/wright-you-are-mr-harper/article1380288/" target="_blank">policy co-ordinator</a> for Kim Campbell's leadership campaign.
5) He almost became a priest
Wright considered joining the Anglican priesthood as a young man. <a href="http://thewalrus.ca/mister-right/?ref=2011.04-politics-mister-right&page=" target="_blank">He is currently a subdeacon at St. Thomas’s Anglican Church in Toronto. </a>
6) He was the subject of a conflict of interest probe
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/01/08/nigel-wright-conflict-of-interest-chief-of-staff_n_2435040.html" target="_blank">The federal ethics watchdog cleared Wright of conflict of interest allegations in January. </a> Ethics commissioner Mary Dawson investigated Wright after it was reported he was lobbied on three occasions by Barrick Gold Corp, despite deep personal connections to the company’s founding family. Dawson found there was no violation of the Conflict of Interest Act.
Next: Wright Helps Duffy Reaction
Also, not for naught: what the hell is Mike Duffy doing with his money that he can't pay back his improper expenses?
Mike Duffy: "I stayed silent on the orders of the PMO." For whatever reason, the sentence just sends chills up my spine.
Mike Duffy is such an idiot. I wish Frank Magazine was still around to really savage him properly.
There's only one explanation - Wright expected SEX in return for his gift of $90K to Mike Duffy. Happens all the time. #cdnpoli
Welfare cheats are kicked out for $90 but PM Harper gave Mike Duffy Senate job and he cheated $90,000 #cdnpoli #HarperHistory #BadEconomy
Karma, Mike Duffy. Karma. #CutTheChequeNigel
This Mike Duffy story just keeps getting better and @RobertFife hasn't slept in 5 days!
The $90,172 Nigel Wright covered considered a gift that Sen. Mike Duffy will have to pay taxes on. #cdnpoli
Why didn't Mike Duffy mortgage his PEI house to pay for the $90,000 repayment? #cdnpoli #CPC #cronyism
Next: If I Had $90,000
#IfIHad90000 I'd buy you a nice fur coat, just like Tom Flanagan's (because that's cruel) #cdnpoli
#ifihad90000 I'd buy an economic action plan ad. Jk, those cost millions... like twenty!
#ifihad90000 I'd buy you a blue vest, but not a real blue vest that's cruel. And I don't actually wear vests, my warm centrist persona does.
#ifIhad90000 I sure in hell wouldn't be giving it to Mike Duffy! #Cdnpoli
. #ifIhad90000 I'd fund a War of 1812 #cbc miniseries that was historically accurate - and to be proactive, one on WWI as well.
#ifihad90000 I'd buy a mediocre journalist and make him into a senator.
#IfIHad90000 I’d have one of Canada’s search & rescue helicopters pick me & my pals up to go fishing
#IfIHad90000 I'd buy an Economic Action Plan ad, But not a real Economic Action Plan ad because that's cruel
#IfIHad90000 I’d buy property in PEI and I would actually spend time there too
#IfIHad90000 I'd buy you less than 1/10 of one percent of an F-35, because those things are crazy expensive / Like a Picasso or a Garfunkel
#IfIHad90000 We wouldn't have to eat PEI Lobster / But we would eat PEI Lobster / Of course we would, we'd fly it in
#IfIHad90000 I'd buy you membership in the UN Convention to Combat Desertification / Haven't you always wanted a talkfest?
#IfIHad90000 I'd still eat at Hy's..lunch AND supper..what's Kraft Dinner?
I'd buy you a panda. Haven't you always wanted a panda? #IfIHad90000
#IfIHad90000 I'd buy Condy's looooooooove (as in Rice, ya'know!) #EhMacKay
Aside from poking fun at Duffy, I imagine the hashtag #IfIHad90000 will have a lot of people contemplating Dijon Ketchup & tree forts today
Perhaps I'm the only one who wonders why a 67-year old making a 6 figure salary is in such a precarious financial situation... #ifihad90000
#IfIhad90000 Well, I’d buy you a monkey, Haven’t you always wanted a monkey? #NamedDuffyOfCourse #TrueLyrics
#IfIHad90000 I'd buy a potato patch, (but not a real potato patch, that's cruel) ... #EhMacKey