As has been reported, Senator Duffy improperly claimed the sum of $90,000 as living expenses for his Ottawa home.
After Duffy agreed to reimburse the government for this sum, apparently he did not have sufficient funds to repay this amount. Accordingly, Nigel Wright stepped in and paid that amount from his own personal resources on Duffy’s behalf.
Mr. Wright claimed that he in effect paid this amount without the knowledge and consent of Prime Minister Harper.
I do not know Nigel Wright, the former chief of staff in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). I do know, that prior to his appointment to the PMO, as a managing director of the Onex Corporation, he was very well-respected on Bay Street as a very intelligent and successful deal-maker and investor.
People whom I trust and who know Mr. Wright personally, describe him without qualification, as a man of principle and integrity with strong religious beliefs.
Until the Duffy Affair, Wright was viewed by both Conservative insiders and critics of the Harper government as a very calm, effective and professional chief of staff, administrator and political fixer.
Wright was also considered an excellent intermediary and bridge between the Canadian business community and the Harper government.
I do not know why Wright did what he did.
I can only speculate.
Based upon my knowledge of the man and the personal knowledge of my friends who know him personally, Wright was a problem solver. A very hard-working gentleman. A doer. A closer. A mensch.
I firmly believe that he had the best of intentions in assisting Duffy in paying off Duffy’s questionable living expenses. He wanted to help out Duffy who claimed that he did not have the funds to pay this $90,000 amount. And Wright apparently wanted to make the Canadian taxpayer whole, with respect to the Duffy file.
Also, Wright wanted to solve this matter so that the Harper government could pivot from the Duffy affair and instead focus on its more important economic and trade policies (i.e. the ongoing negotiations for a European Union free trade agreement) that would benefit millions of Canadian working men and women.
When the facts of this Duffy payment were disclosed publicly, Wright had no choice but to leave his position in the PMO.
Recently, prime minister Harper stated that Wright was dismissed for his role in the Duffy Affair, and that he did not merely resign.
Unfortunately, under the circumstances, Wright had to go. Resignation or dismissal. Just words. Just a question of semantics. Describing the same effect.
In a recent Toronto Star column on the involvement of Nigel Wright, Chantal Hebertspeculated: “Only a saint or alternatively a man with a guilty conscience would continue to play dead as his former boss wreaks irreparable damage on his or her reputation.”
I have great respect for Chantal Hebert. She is one of the most astute political analysts in Canada. Her knowledge and understanding of Quebec politics is — Comment dit-on en anglais? — sans pareil. When it comes to Quebec politics, Hebert has no equal.
However, in this case, the normally flawless Chantal Hebert is clearly out to lunch on her understanding of Nigel Wright.
I am speculating here of course. But my instincts tell me that Nigel Wright considers himself to be neither a saint, nor a man with a guilty conscience.
I believe that he is a man of principle and a man of action. Who was forced to do what was necessary to arrest the cancer, that was Duffy. For the greater good of the country, the prime minister, the Conservative party and their critical economic policies.
Wright does not have a guilty conscience. Nor should he have a guilty conscience.
Furthermore, Hebert is clearly off the mark when she suggests that Wright is playing dead.
Wright is keeping silent. And he will remain silent and not budge from his stated position. He is showing commendable courage, self-control and self-discipline.
Compare Wright’s silent, stoic and courageous conduct with that of that ol’ Duffy, who is pathetically spewing verbal garbage, lies, half-truths and whining like the pompous stuck pig that he has become with his snout caught in the political trough.
Hebert is also wrong to suggest that Harper has wreaked irreparable damage on Wright’s reputation.
I know the culture and the players on Bay Street very well.
I know this turf, like Hebert knows Quebec.
I believe that Bay Street still has great respect and admiration for Nigel Wright.
Bay Street knows that politics is a nasty and thankless business.
Notwithstanding, Wright temporarily gave up a very lucrative career as a very successful private equity investor to help out his country. To bring his incredible business and commercial sense and expertise in the service of his country.
When it comes to Bay Street, Chantal Hebert, is completely clueless.
Wright does not have to salvage his reputation. Nigel Wright’s reputation has not been destroyed
On Bay Street, among those who count, the reputation of Nigel Wright has never been higher.
Wright took a risk and went to his own pocket to solve a problem quickly and decisively.
Whereas in Ottawa, the politicians dither. On Bay Street, the dealmakers get things done.
Wright did not steal money from the public. He returned money back to the public. So as to salvage a character like Duffy who did not deserve such consideration.
Oscar Wilde’s classic cynical aphorism comes to mind. In the case of the noble Nigel Wright helping out the despicable Duffy,
“No good deed goes unpunished.”
I predict that Nigel Wright will survive this Duffy debacle, with grace, courage and his reputation enhanced.