Nigel Wright Takes Stand at Duffy Trial. Will it Hurt Harper?

Justin Trudeau and Thomas Mulcair must be licking their chops, hungrily awaiting the fallout from Nigel Wright and his much awaited testimony at Senator Mike Duffy’s fraud trial, due to start this week.

Yesterday, Mulcair got things started by alluding to the trial in a tweet:

(In English: “The Prime Minister promised to get rid of corruption. But his record tells a different story.”)

Sen. Duffy, 69, has been charged with 31 offences including fraud, breach of trust and bribery. The resumption of his trial could not come at a worse time for Stephen Harper, who has already begun answering a barrage of questions regarding his office’s involvement in the sordid affair.

Wright, Harper’s former chief of staff, will take the stand to answer questions concerning the $90,000 cheque he cut for Mr. Duffy to cover the now suspended Senator’s illegal spending habits. The Crown hopes to prove that Wright wrote the cheque in return for a service that would benefit the government. Wright claims he gave Duffy the money simply to make sure taxpayers would not be stuck with the tab to cover the Senator’s spending.

On the election trail, Harper has already begun facing questions on his involvement. He will try to distance himself and his office from the whole affair, saying:

“I did not know that Mr. Wright had made a payment to Mr. Duffy. As soon as I learned that, I made that public. And Mr. Wright has been clear about that. This is the purpose of the process and those who are responsible and I’ll let the court do its work.”

Even if Harper somehow manages to skate through this scandal without being directly linked to the notorious cheque (which, at a paltry $90,000, seems a ridiculously small sum to ruin a political career) his reputation is bound to be dealt a blow. Plus, with the media and the other leaders determined to make this a referendum on Harper’s credibility, it will distract attention away from the Conservative’s election platform.

The only silver lining for the PM is that Duffy himself is not due to take the stand until November, saving him from answering more embarrassing questions until well after the federal election has been contested.