Thursday, April 09, 2015

"Helicopter Pete" MacKay on his way to buddy Mike Duffy's trial!

Duffy diary: Peter MacKay claims set up in chopper-fishing flap

Paul McLeod/Ottawa Bureau
Wednesday, April 8, 2015

According to notes in Mike Duffy's diary, Peter MacKay believed former senior Conservative staffer Dimitri Soudas was responsible for leaking the story about the then-Minister of Defence taking a search and rescue chopper from a private fishing lodge. (The Canadian Press)

Peter MacKay believed he was set up by a former senior Conservative staffer who leaked an embarrassing story about MacKay taking a search and rescue chopper to leave a fishing vacation, according to evidence entered in the trial of suspended senator Mike Duffy.

According to Duffy’s personal journal, senators were enraged by the story and MacKay privately claimed he was burned by Dimitri Soudas, former director of communications for Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

MacKay, then the minister of defence, was hounded for months in the fall of 2011 by media reports he was picked up from a private fishing lodge in Newfoundland and Labrador so he could make his flight at the Gander airport.

MacKay told reporters he was observing a search and rescue demonstration. But documents obtained by media outlets showed the search referred to the flight being done “under the guise” of a search and rescue exercise.

According to Duffy’s journal, MacKay later confided in the senator that he believed he was set up by Soudas. The conversation apparently happened at or after a national caucus meeting on May 9, 2012.

“Peter MacKay tells (Mike Duffy), Dimitri Soudas ordered him to fly out of Nfld to do photo op — then leaked the helicopter story to the media,” Duffy wrote in his highly detailed daily diary.

In the same calendar entry, he mentions that Harper “doesn’t like Conrad Black” and notes the NDP are beginning stalling tactics.

The entry was redacted by a black marker but was still clearly legible.

A week earlier, on May 1, Duffy noted the helicopter story came up at the Senate Conservative caucus meeting.

“7 or 8 Sens express anger at (the Prime Minister’s Office)’s media & comms strategy (Newfoundland senator) Fabian Manning & others enraged by Peter MacKay’s handling of Search and Rescue.”

MacKay did fly from Newfoundland to London, Ont., for a media event but it’s not clear what authority Soudas would have had to make that order.

Soudas was previously director of communications for the prime minister and would later return to the fold as executive director of the Conservative Party of Canada. But during the fall of 2011, Soudas was executive director of communications for the Canadian Olympic Committee.

Soudas would later be forced out of his job running the party when he was alleged to have interfered with a nomination race involving his partner, member of Parliament Eve Adams.

Earlier this year, Adams left the Conservative caucus to join the Liberals.

Reached Wednesday, MacKay’s office said there would be no comment on the evidence of an ongoing trial.

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