Monday, August 17, 2015


I just wanted to make a short post today to point out a problem in logic that no one seems to be talking about.

The opposition leaders have been rightly doubting the claim that Harper's chief of staff didn't know about the Wright cheque to Duffy. The problem for the  Conservatives has been obvious - if Ray Novak was intimately aware of what was going on here, not only does that mean he should be fired (obviously an electorally devastating potential move for the Cons in the middle of an election), but it also broadens the scandal to the point where it because implausible to claim that Harper was out of this loop.  The Cons have been laughingly claiming that Novak didn't open the March 23rd email from Nigel Wright to Ben Perrin and Ray Novak. In itself, this is a highly dubious claim becomes, as many have pointed out, Wright was Novak's boss.

But the opposition has failed to asked the right question regarding this email. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that Ray Novak didn't open this email. The email was sent at 11:36 AM, maybe Novak started drinking early that day and lost the next 24 hours in a drunken stupor and failed to return to the email. But there is still a huge problem here. Nigel Wright wrote an email, the entire text of which is these two simple sentences "I think her approach works. I will send my cheque Monday." Here is what the opposition should be pointing out - a simple email like this implies that the receivers understand the context, that is to say that they know what is going on. Nigel Wright saying to his associate "I will send the cheque Monday" implies by its nature that this associate knows what the cheque is and what it is for. Otherwise, the email would have provided this contextual information. In other words simple logic dictates that Novak already knew the context of this email, that he knew of Wright's intention to write a cheque for Duffy. Thus the rather pathetic "Novak didn't open the email" explanation is only coherent if Novak had ignored a whole bunch of other emails of explanation or had stopped listening to his boss at important meetings. There is absolutely no way around it -Ray Novak knew about the cheque. And given that nowhere in the emails do we see an instruction from Wright to insulate the PM from this information, there is NO way that Novak, one of Harper's closest and most intimate advisors would fail to talk to Harper about the cheque.

In other words, logic dictates that the simplicity of Nigel Wright's March 23rd email to Ray Novak, is in fact THE SMOKING GUN of the Duffy affair. This seems to be something that has been missed by the media and the opposition leaders.


The Mound of Sound said...

And don't forget that Wright's statement to the investigating officer fingered every top aide in the PMO, Novak included, as being in on it. I can't wait until Novak has to take the stand under oath.

It strikes me,Kirby, that Harper is flailing. His completely implausible denials leave him unable to move past this scandal and that trial has a long way to go. His only way out is to tell the truth and he can't do that without admitting that he's been lying through his teeth to the press, the public, and especially his loyal base.

Harper is accustomed to quickly seizing the narrative in an election campaign. He turned his previous campaigns into public referenda on Paul Martin, on Dion and on Ignatieff. That eclipsed any troublesome discussion of policy and his record.

This time he's lost control of the narrative. Look at the photos of Harper at campaign appearances. He looks tired, almost defeated. His message, whatever that is, can't break through the scandal. Chantal Hebert today wrote that the Conservative faithful seem lethargic.

Pamela Mac Neil said...

You're right the MSM and the opposition missed this smoking gun.There's not much critical thinking these days, but if Novak is called to testify you can bet Donald Bayne won't miss it.

Scotian said...

I had the exact same thought when I read that e-mail, and you are right, it is obvious what it means, and so far that has apparently escaped both the media and Mulcair/Trudeau. Whether it is "the" smoking gun or not, it is clearly "a" smoking gun in all of this, for the reason you so clearly articulated in your post.

Well Done Kirby!

Anonymous said...

I am not sure I understand your point. Perhaps you could clarify?

I think a reasonable rebuttal to Novak not seeing that e-mail from Wright, or claiming that he had left in the conference call before the question of payment was raised, would have been why he did not enquire later on about: (a) what Wright had meant with his subsequent e-mails about keeping things secret and the tons of e-mails going around gloating about Duffy admitting he was wrong and ponying up the cash, and (b) why Novak had apparently not bothered to find out what happened after he had left the conference call. It would only be normal for someone to find out what had transpired if one is forced to leave a conference call early, no?

Thus the absence of any e-mails from Novak enquiring about these two issues could be viewed as being consistent with the fact that he already knew what was going on. I do not, however, think this absence would count as a smoking gun.

However, I figure it really does not matter as it is the overwhelming evidence of cover up perpetrated by the PMO under Harper that is more important now than whether it can be proven that Harper knew or did not know about the details of the payment. After all, Harper had only held Wright responsible even after he had been made aware that the cover up involved a lot of other people.

CuriosityCat said...

Good catch. The only response is the production of other emails, or else "denial creep", something we're seeing with Harper every day now.

the salamander said...

.. That's an inspired observation Kirby ..
I'm sure Bayne is spending massive billable hours with Duffy, mapping out the sequences with the players and the critial chronologies. And surely the RCMP with their massive resources did are are doing the same with the Crown. And likely, deep in the Harper War Rooms, hordes of enablers, PMO, Senators and Justice Lawyers (cough cough) are seeking the escape hatch re Novak, Harper, Wright..

The problem is also ... where Ray Novak lives.. If as I suspect, its Sussex Drive.. and he dines with Harper as he likely has for almost 20 years, the idea he kept zharper out of the loop becomes ridiculous. OK.. lets pull out even heavier threats to the fallacies of Harper. Have the RCMP accessed all of Ray Novak or Stephen Harper's communication devices.. ie Blackberry or other phones or texting devices or private social media? If not, why not? Or is this a repeat where the Conservative database logs were successfully tampered with after the Election Fraud of 2011 ?

We will get down to the need for Bayne to 'ask the right question' .. of Wright, Novak, Hamilton, Perrin and all the other witnesses and see who cracks & topples the first domino in the chain. How many would risk perjury, knowing one or more plans to bail out for one reason or another.. or some whistleblower or hacker will at some point nail them anyway..

When will Bayne ask Nigel to be very specific about his oral - phone or in person conversations with Ray Novak ? Instead of the focus on what Nigel told Harper ? Its if people don't realize who the Novak/Harper cutout works.. and always has..

Scotian said...


Kirby's point is the very short nature of that email shows that the sender clearly believed the receiver was already well aware of the relevant context in which it fit, to wit the Wright/Duffy repayment scheme and deception scheme, otherwise it makes no sense why his boss would send such a short email expecting it to be understood. It is the fact that Wright did not feel the need to provide any context to that email which makes it so damning, because there is no other way to read that than Wright already knows that Novak is informed enough to understand it without needing the context spelled out, and the only way that is possible is if Wright already knows that Novak knows from prior conversations on the matter with him. IOW, this shows regardless of Novak having read the email or not he HAD to be already well informed about the entire scheme for this to be able to make any sense to him in the first place, and that this was known to the sender, Wright. THAT is what makes it a smoking gun in all of this, and this is the point Kirby so ably wrote about.

Kirby Evans said...

@ Anonymous - I am not sure what problem you are having Anonymous. A 'smoking gun' is simply a fact that points inexorably toward a specific conclusion. The question is not - did Novak see the email or did he leave a meeting early. The reason this is not the question is fairly simple - no one (and certainly not an effective lawyer like Nigel Wright) would send an email, the primary information of which consisted of "I will send the cheque on Monday," unless the person they are sending the cheque to knows what the cheque is! Novak had to have been aware of the cheque before the email of March 23rd for the email to have made any sense at all. Thus, logic tells us for certain that Novak, at the very least knew that Nigel Wright was paying the expenses. This, in itself, is a smoking gun concerning the PM lying, at this point he has to know, at the VERY least, that Novak knew. This means he has been routinely lying to the press and the public. However, it is worse than this for the simple reason that Ray Novak is the closest political operative that Harper has in the world. To believe that he was aware of this and wasn't discussing it with Harper is a) either beyond the boundaries of the credible or b) relies on the assumption that there was a conspiracy to insulate the PM from this information. The conspiracy theory is difficult to believe for 3 reasons. One, it is reasonable to assume that if there were a conspiracy to shield the PM from this information there would be a sign of this conspiracy in all these emails, which there isn't. Two, it is simply unreasonable to believe a conspiracy of silence when so many emails were being freely exchanged between so many people with so many CCed on them. And 3, given the degree to which Harper is a controlling manager, it is incredible to believe that something so important and potentially damaging would be beyond his knowledge. However, even if one were gullible enough to believe all of those possibilities, it is still a terrible indictment of Harper as a Chief executive officer because it would mean that he had fostered a context in which a large number of his staff (including more than one well known lawyer) were willing to act unethically (and illegally) and think it was ok to do and ok to hide from their boss. The overall conclusion is this - the email sent from Nigel Wright to Ray Novak on March 23rd with the simple sentence "I will send my cheque on Monday" is the smoking gun that indicts Stephen Harper.

doconnor said...

Kirby, almost everyone in Canada accepts that Harper knew about the payment to Duffy. 70% of them aren't voting for the Conservatives for this or other reasons. 30% of them think that the paying to Duffy was worth it to get "taxpayer's" money back, even though it may have been technically illegal (just because they paid a Senator, if it was anyone else, it would have been legal). They even accept Harper lying about it because of its technical illegality.

Hoping these revelations to bring Harper down won't work. They are already accounted for in his current polls. On the bright side reminding Canadians of this will help prevent his numbers from going up.

Kirby Evans said...

Thanks doconnor. Though I don't entirely disagree with you, I think you are overstating the case a little, for these reasons - One is that though you are right that a large percentage of the Con base doesn't care that Harper has been lying, there is a small number of potential Con voters who do. These are people who know some wrongdoing has occurred but are willing to give the benefit of the doubt to Harper. Now that it is clear that Harper has been lying, some of these people will be willing to finally abandon the Cons. Second, I think once the lying has been made very clear there is a certain percentage of the Con base that will be disgusted enough to simply stay home on election day. Though these two groups may be small, in a race this tight it doesn't take many people to change the outcome.