07/17/2014 05:17 EDT | Updated 09/16/2014 05:59 EDT

Harper Must Answer For Duffy's Crimes

mike duffy is healthy and back at it at ctv (Photo by Colin McConnell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

It's a terribly sad day for Parliament when a member of the Senate gets hauled before the criminal courts to face 31 charges of fraud, bribery and breach of trust. The formal trial of Mike Duffy is about to begin.

But his personal fate is no longer "the main event."

Duffy fell from grace in the eyes of Canadians a long time ago. His unravelling circumstances have become almost farcical. The most important aspects of this painful saga are now his intimate interconnections with the Prime Minister, the Conservative Party and the Harper government.

The damage Duffy has done flows directly from the fact that he was a duly appointed Senator -- i.e., a legislator in the Parliament of Canada. So who put him there? Who gave him that position? Stephen Harper cannot escape responsibility. He demonstrated enormously bad judgment in making Duffy a Senator.

Furthermore, what was Duffy's mandate in the Senate? What did the Prime Minister want him to do? Was he there primarily to represent the interests of Prince Edward Island, his original home, but a province in which he had not actually lived for some decades? Or was he, first and foremost, a political personality and fund-raiser for the Conservative Party?

And after Mr. Harper's favourite Senator ran so badly amok, what about the management of the crisis he had created?

What did the Prime Minister know and when did he know it? What did he do about it? What questions did he ask to get to the bottom of it?

Was a scheme hatched to influence the course of a forensic audit of Duffy's affairs and edit a Senate report about that audit? Whose scheme was it and who executed it?

Was Duffy coached to provide misleading information about his situation? If so, by whom?

Why would the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff (Nigel Wright) think it appropriate to make a $90,000 payment to Duffy? What sort of operating culture in the PMO would trigger that sort of reasoning?

Who else in the Prime Minister's Office, or the Senate, or the Conservative Party had any knowledge of Duffy's situation and/or played any role in handling it? Apart from Mr. Wright, why has no one else been disciplined?

These and many other questions have been asked of Mr. Harper repeatedly. His response is always to deny, deflect and obfuscate. Canadians need their Prime Minister to provide fulsome, accurate answers. It seems a criminal proceeding in a court of law is the only way to get all relevant testimony on the record under oath.

This originally appeared on Ralph Goodale's blog.


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