A few days ago it was revealed that Nigel Wright, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s chief of staff, had picked up a $90,000 tab that senator Mike Duffy had rung up for expense account irregularities related to him representing PEI as a senator while living in Ottawa. Initially, Wright tried to portray the act as one of charity on his part in service of the public interest. But Opposition MPs viewed the matter in a different light, alleging that it was a behind-the-scenes attempt by the Conservatives to short-circuit a Senate investigation into Duffy’s actions.
When the scandal first broke the PM released a statement expressing support for Wright. But today it was announced that Wright had resigned from his position as chief of staff. With Harper set to jet to South America on Tuesday for an official visit to Peru and the Pacific Alliance Leaders Summit in Cali, Columbia May 22-23, the PMO released this statement concerning Wright’s resignation:
“It is with great regret that I have accepted the resignation of Nigel Wright as my Chief of Staff. I accept that Nigel believed he was acting in the public interest, but I understand the decision he has taken to resign. I want to thank Nigel for his tremendous contribution to our Government over the past two and a half years.
“Our Government’s top priority is, and will continue to be, securing jobs and economic growth for Canada. This is the focus of all our efforts and attention.”
Both Duffy, and senator Pamela Wallin from Saskatchewan, whose expense account claims are also being scrutinized by an auditor, have withdrawn from the Conservative caucus. The Opposition, meanwhile, is pressing for further investigation of what it regards as a serious breach of ethics.
As for the government, maybe the Conservatives should consider expanding the scope of their mandate beyond “securing jobs and economic growth for Canada [or at least their backers in the resource sector]” to include principles like honesty, integrity, compassion, peace, stewardship of the environment, promotion of knowledge, creativity and innovation and other ideals that have served this country reasonably well over its 140 plus year history.