Liberals try new tack to explore PMO interference in Duffy audit | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Liberals try new tack to explore PMO interference in Duffy audit

Senator James Cowan in the Foyer of the Senate on May 23, 2013 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

OTTAWA - Liberals are trying a new tactic to get to the bottom of allegations that the Prime Minister's Office interfered in an independent audit of Mike Duffy's expenses.

James Cowan, Liberal leader in the Senate, will argue today that the interference constitutes a breach of senators' privileges.

And he'll ask Senate Speaker Noel Kinsella to rule on the matter.

If Kinsella determines there was, at face value, a breach of privilege, the matter would be referred to a Senate committee for further study.

That could give Liberals another opportunity to try to call two key witnesses alleged to have been involved in the audit interference: Conservative Sen. Irving Gerstein and Deloitte managing partner Michael Runia.

Two previous Liberal attempts to get Runia to testify have been defeated by the Conservatives, who hold a majority in the Senate.

According to witness statements and emails obtained by the RCMP and filed in court, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's chief of staff, Nigel Wright, enlisted Gerstein to talk to his contacts at Deloitte to ensure the audit would make no finding as to whether Duffy's primary residence was in Ottawa or Prince Edward Island.

Gerstein, the head of the Conservative party's fundraising arm, spoke with Runia, who audits the party's books.

Gary Timm, lead auditor on the Duffy file, has confirmed Runia called him. He's said Runia wanted to know how much Duffy would owe if his living expense claims were invalid; he reminded Runia the audit was confidential and cut the call short.

Timm and two other members of his audit team have insisted their findings were not influenced by anyone.

However, Cowan notes that the RCMP documents show Wright and other top PMO aides knew — one month before the audit results were disclosed to the Senate — that it would make no finding about Duffy's primary residence because the senator was refusing to speak to auditors.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2013
The Canadian Press

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