To start with, here's CTV's reporting on the drafting of the agreement between Mike Duffy and Nigel Wright:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s former special counsel and legal adviser worked on the legal deal between Nigel Wright and Sen. Mike Duffy’s lawyer that called for Wright to help Duffy pay off $90,000 in invalid expense claims, CTV News has learned.
Sources told CTV’s Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife that back in February, Benjamin Perrin helped draft the letter of understanding that called for Duffy to publicly declare that he would repay the money. In return, sources say, Wright would give a personal cheque to Duffy to cover the $90,000. Sources say the agreement also stipulated that a Senate investigation into expense claims would go easy on Duffy.
Perrin left the Prime Minister’s Office in April and has returned to his position as an associate professor at the University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Law.As I noted earlier, it seemed dubious that any lawyers at all would be involved in drafting trust conditions or agreements around a merely personal gift. But Perrin's involvement raises some additional questions - no matter how one interprets the chain of events.
On one hand, it's possible that Wright was treated as being the "client" giving instructions to Perrin. That possibility raises its own set of questions: is it normal practice for publicly-funded counsel at the PMO to deliver personal legal services to staffers? Did Wright pay the PMO for receiving those services from the office's counsel? Would Wright have the authority to release the relevant documents as the client of record - and indeed, might he have waived any solicitor-client privilege by allowing the PMO to take control of them?
The PMO also declined to release the letter of agreement, saying it is now in the hands of Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson, who is investigating Wright’s $90,000 cheque to Duffy.On the other hand, it's possible that the story is one of Stephen Harper's legal advisor acting in his official capacity, taking instructions from Stephen Harper's Prime Minister's Office to draft an agreement in which Stephen Harper's chief of staff paid a Stephen Harper Senate appointee to keep quiet.
That might give the PMO a slightly better claim to try to withhold access to the relevant documents from its end (though Duffy and his lawyer would presumably have copies as well which would be relevant to any RCMP or Senate investigation). But the second scenario also includes a rather obvious common denominator - and no matter how determined he is to flee the country, it's hard to see Stephen Harper avoiding full responsibility if every aspect of the Duffy payout was carried out in his name.