Thursday, May 30, 2013

What about Minister Responsible for Senate Expenses?

Duffy sought cabinet perks for 'expanded role, email says
An email exchange with Conservative in 2009 advises caution with travel claims

Thursday, May 30 2013
An email obtained by CBC News shows that six months after being named a Conservative senator, Mike Duffy was discussing his 'expanded role'with the party and how he could 'get a staff, car and more resources.' (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

Six months after he was appointed to the Senate, Mike Duffy was in consultations with Conservatives about an expanded role in the party and expectations of increased compensation, including his own suggestion he be named a minister without portfolio to get a car and staff, according to an email exchange obtained by CBC News.
The email, with the subject line "Duff" and dated July 2009, appears to be sent from Duffy's private email account to an unidentified Conservative Party insider.
In a reply, the party insider advises Duffy to keep any expenses for additional staff or resources with the party, and out of his office budget, "or it will hurt you down the road."
The email asks for advice about how Duffy should be compensated for what the email calls "my expanded role in the party." In the message, Duffy says he'll be speaking with Conservative Senator Irving Gerstein at a Senate golf banquet, but seems to indicate he'd already spoken with Gerstein.
The email goes on, "I suggested they make me a min without portfolio, so I get a staff, car and more resources to deal with the pr fallout etc. he laughed and said he didn't think THAT was within the realm of the Cons fund."
Conservative Fund Canada is the party's war chest, funded by supporters' donations, and is chaired by Gerstein. Gerstein, a former president of Peoples Jewellers and chair of the Senate banking committee, was appointed to the Senate on the advice of Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the same time as Duffy, in January 2009.
So, continues the email, "What do I demand?" Then, in a bracketed sentence, he seems to answer his own question: "(That the Cons fund hire my private company, and I use the cash to hire additional staff to assist with these gigs?)"
Finally, the email asks whether he should have a separate meeting with "Marjory," in apparent reference to the government Senate Leader Marjory LeBreton. He adds, "Should I request a one on one with Stephen? To what end?" He signs off, "Mike, at home."

Advised to be cautious with travel

Five hours later, he receives a reply, advising him to "keep the discussion with Irving." Any money, staff or resources should come from the "fund," the adviser says, seemingly nixing the idea of asking for a cabinet position.
The reply continues that it's important for Duffy to have the fund pay for his travel. "So you don't get into trouble or run out of points."
"Points" likely refers to the 64-point system used by the Senate to fund senators' travel. Each point is usually worth a return flight.
The reply concludes, "Don't take a credit card, just expense to them," meaning Duffy shouldn't use his own credit card, or his Senate-issued American Express corporate credit card. His Senate credit card was used to track his whereabouts by the accounting firm Deloitte when it conducted its audit this year on his expense claims.
Duffy, using his celebrity as a former popular TV host, carried out extensive fundraising and election campaign events for the Conservative Party, appearing with candidates across the country. During the last general election, he acted as master of ceremonies at an event featuring the prime minister.
On Tuesday, a Senate committee voted to refer the matter of Duffy's expense claims to the RCMP. Reports indicate that Duffy at times claimed Senate expenses while he was appearing at election campaign events.
Contacted by CBC News Thursday, Duffy responded to a series of specific questions about the email, with this:
"I don't golf and don't have a record of any banquet."
CBC News attempted to contact Gerstein Thursday afternoon and was told he was not in his Senate office. A request was made for an interview.

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