The Conservative government and one of its senators would appear to have spent the better part of the last year discreetly blackmailing each other. Now they are doing so openly.
What began as allegations of misappropriation of funds against Sen. Mike Duffy soon escalated, to hear Duffy’s lawyer tell it, to lies, hush money, and possible obstruction of justice. Donald Bayne may not have succeeded, in the course of Monday’s press conference, in lifting his client clear of the muck. But he has certainly dragged the rest of the Tory hierarchy down into it.
If we are to believe Bayne, officials in the Prime Minister’s Office blackmailed Duffy into taking a bribe. He had done nothing wrong, but was forced to go along with a “scenario” in which the prime minister’s chief of staff would repay his ,000 in disallowed expenses — and he would keep quiet about it — with the threat that otherwise they would remove him from the Senate.
Duffy’s reluctance to go along with the plan was apparently out of concern for his good name: accepting the money would imply accepting his guilt. He was only persuaded to overcome those qualms — and to participate in a months-long scheme to deceive the public, stonewall an auditor’s investigation and doctor a Senate report — by the thought of losing his Senate salary.
So we know the price of his good name. Though not, apparently, his silence. Duffy may be the only person in Canada who would see taking cash and a Senate seat as the way to salvage his reputation, but the PMO are almost certainly alone in thinking the biggest mouth in Ottawa would stay shut for long.