OTTAWA—Nigel Wright, Stephen Harper’s right-hand man, has quit his post, saying he takes “sole responsibility” for his $90,000 payment to Sen. Mike Duffy.
Harper made the announcement Sunday morning, saying he accepted Wright’s resignation with “great regret.
“I accept that Nigel believed he was acting in the public interest, but I understand the decision he has taken to resign. I want to thank Nigel for his tremendous contribution to our Government over the past two and a half years,” Harper said in a statement.
In his own statement, Wright confirmed he was quitting because of the furor surrounding his payment to Duffy, meant to cover the senator’s repayment of improperly claimed expenses.
“My actions were intended solely to secure the repayment of funds, which I considered to be in the public interest, and I accept sole responsibility, Wright said.
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“I did not advise the Prime Minister of the means by which Sen. Duffy's expenses were repaid, either before or after the fact,” Wright said.
The former Bay St. financier said he regretted the “impact” of the controversy on the government and caucus.
“I came to Ottawa to do my part in providing good government for Canada, and that is all that I ever wanted and worked for in this role,” Wright said.
Ray Novak, who was Harper’s principal secretary, has been named as permanent chief of staff. Novak has served with Harper from his days in opposition and is seen as a trusted, loyal confidante.
“He’s been around for a long time, has the full confidence of the PM, caucus, has been around every table for the last 12 years. He’s well placed,” a source told the Star.
Wright’s announcement is the latest resignation to rock Harper’s administration. Duffy quit the Conservative caucus Thursday because of the $90,000 payment and questions around whether he had double-dipped, collecting Senate expenses while campaigning for Conservative candidates in the last election.
Harper's office had insisted as recently as Friday that Wright retained the full backing of the prime minister, even as questions mounted about the propriety of the payment.
“The prime minister had full confidence in Mr. Wright and Mr. Wright is staying on,” Andrew MacDougall, Harper's director of communications, said at the time.
Reached Sunday, MacDougall would not comment on the circumstances around the abrupt change in heart.
“Nigel is a very honourable man. Sometimes you realize the way it’s got to be,” MacDougall said.
However, a Conservative source said that Wright spent his birthday weekend – he turned 50 on Saturday -- contemplating the growing controversy and realized that he had to go in a bid to spare the prime minister’s office further damage.
“This is a guy who looked at the situation and thought he was a liability to the prime minister, the party,” the source said. “It was going to continue to haunt the PM if he stayed on.”
Duffy had been at the centre of a Senate spending probe over questions whether he improperly collected living expenses for his suburban Ottawa home.
According to the report by the auditors, Duffy himself declared the expenses were inappropriate and repaid the cash, a move fellow Tories hailed as showing leadership.
However, it was revealed last week that Wright was behind the repayment.
Wright, a millionaire, had cut Duffy a personal cheque for $90,000 out of concern that the senator himself, who earns $132,000 a year, would be unable to repay the improperly claimed living expenses.
The prime minister's office and Tory MPs tried to paint Wright’s payment as honourable. But others, including former chiefs of staffs, said the payment, made as the audit of Duffy's expenses was still ongoing, was inappropriate.
Once Duffy made the repayment, he stopped cooperating with the auditors and refused to provide them with requested information that would have shed more light on his expenses.
On Friday, Sen. Pamela Wallin quit the Conservatives caucus as she awaits the outcome of an audit into her own travel expenses.
Liberal MP Bob Rae was quick to say that this development isn’t the end of the matter.
“Mr Wright's resignation doesn't end the matter,” Rae said on Twitter in the minutes after the announcement. “How and why was this deal done ? By paying, an audit was stopped. Who else knew?”
The resignation is a double-blow for Harper, not only for the controversy that ensues but also the loss of Wright, seen as a talented administrator who brought a steady hand to a pressure-filled post.
Wright has been widely respected for the ways in which he brought quiet, business-like efficiency to the Prime Minister’s Office. The news that he was involved in paying off Duffy’s debts -- without approval from Harper-- had perplexed many who knew Wright.
In his statement, Harper said his government would stay focused on “securing jobs and economic growth for Canada. This is the focus of all our efforts and attention.”
Yet that has proven impossible in recent weeks as the questions surrounding Wright’s mysterious payment to Duffy dominate the agenda in Ottawa.
Harper is due to leave Tuesday on a trade mission to Colombia and Peru.
But before that he plans to hold a meeting with his caucus to make plain his displeasure at recent ethical missteps.
Just how long does Prime Minister Stephen Harper hope to float, butterflylike, above the Senate scandal that is ravaging his Conservative party’s credibility? Sen. Mike Duffy’s abrupt exit from the Tory caucus in the Red Chamber to sit as an independent settles exactly nothing about this sordid affair.
Canadians deserve to hear directly from the Prime Minister, not from his minions, on what he thinks of a scandal that has been building for the better part of a year, and how he intends to make things right. Harper’s silence is no longer just hurting his party brand. It is undermining public confidence in his leadership. It appears to condone the dubious actions of a Conservative senator and the PM’s right-hand man.
Does Harper believe it was appropriate for his chief of staff, Nigel Wright, to secretly cut Duffy a cheque for $90,172 — in the midst of an audit into Duffy’s affairs, no less — to help bail him out of a problem with improperly claimed housing expenses? Does Harper think that squares with Senate ethics rules that prohibit sizeable gifts? How can Wright not have kept Harper informed? Did anyone else in the Prime Minister’s Office know? How can someone so high-placed have been so blind to the political and ethical implications? And how can Harper profess “full confidence” in him? It strains belief.
Liberal MP Ralph Goodale says the arrangement “has the appearance of a payment that was designed to prevent further examination” of Duffy’s expenses.
Does Harper think it OK that the Tory-dominated Senate committee on internal economy chaired by Sen. David Tkachuk subsequently went easy on Duffy for improperly expensing housing allowances even as it came down harder on two other errant senators saying they should have known better? What about the concern as to whether Tkachuk tipped off Duffy to the contents of the audit report before it was completed? And what does Harper have to say about Duffy’s refusal to co-operate further with the auditors after he repaid the housing allowances? The optics are appalling.
Does Harper have anything to say about the latest revelations that Duffy may have charged Canadian taxpayers for expenses related to Senate business on days when he was engaged in partisan campaigning for the Tories during the 2011 election? The New Democrats are now raising concerns about possible Elections Act violations.
Then there’s the separate controversy over whether Duffy is even qualified to represent Prince Edward Island in the Senate, given that he doesn’t live there.
This sordid saga of improper Conservative behaviour, high-level secrecy and winking at wrongdoing has infuriated Canadians, disgraced the unelected Red Chamber, and spurred renewed interest in its abolition. It has also drawn the attention of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and of Parliament’s ethics commissioner, Mary Dawson. Even the Senate itself has been shamed into taking a second look at Duffy’s expenses.
And on Friday night, Sen. Pamela Wallin compounded the government’s embarrassment by also quitting the Tory caucus amid allegations of dubious expense claims.
If Harper hopes to salvage some shred of credibility from this fiasco, he should use his Senate majority to bring an end to the Senate’s cosy habit of policing its members’ spending from behind closed doors, with a minimum of public accountability and a maximum of self-indulgence. Henceforth, senators’ expenses should be public and itemized. The Senate has long since forfeited the taxpayers’ trust.
All this leaves even loyal Conservatives gnashing their teeth. Now that the PMO is involved, it’s no longer a matter of a few rogue senators. This scandal goes directly to issues of respect for the taxpayers, political accountability and transparency, and the government’s disregard for all three.
Harper promised better. At the height of the Liberal sponsorship scandal back in 2005, he vowed that his party would restore integrity in government. “Bend the rules, you will be punished; break the law, you will be charged; abuse the public trust, you will go to prison,” he said. After seven years in office that promise is dust in the wind.
Two questions were likely chewed over at a lot of cottage-openings, urban farmers’ markets and fun-runs or cycle-a-thons this Victoria Day weekend.
How can Mayor Rob Ford’s base of supporters — despite mounting evidence of his personal troubles and spreading doubts about his fitness for office — continue to back him?
And is it remotely possible — despite international infamy that would have Toronto’s austere and abstemious founders spinning in their graves — that he could be re-elected?
In recent years it has usually taken the weirdness of a decapitation for Canada to make news reports abroad. It’s almost unprecedented for Toronto goings-on to make both the BBC and the New York Times. Yet this week, Mayor Rob Ford managed to pull it off.
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The possibility that Ford might have smoked crack cocaine in the company of suspected drug dealers was so mind-bogglingly outrageous that suggestions he uttered homophobic slurs and ethnic disparagements while doing so became mere background noise.
What must be obvious to most by now is that Ford has never seemed comfortable in his own skin as mayor. At worst, he may have unaddressed substance-abuse issues that are ruining his career, his reputation, and could ultimately threaten his life. At best, he seems to share the same predicament described more than a century ago by L. Frank Baum about another gentleman whose ascent in the world exceeded his abilities. He is not a bad man; he is just a very bad mayor for a cosmopolitan city with a budget of about $10 billion a year.
In any event, city Councillor Josh Matlow, for one, was aghast at the notoriety flowing this way as a result of a video made (and subsequently viewed by two Star reporters) of Ford’s alleged misbehaviour.
On Saturday, Matlow tweeted his surprise to learn from friends in New York that Toronto’s crisis at city hall had made the Times. Then the councillor did his best to staunch the hemorrhaging of his city’s image.
“Toronto is a vibrant and diverse city of 2.8 million people, North America’s fourth largest city and a global capital for finance, arts and culture,” Matlow tweeted. Followed by the plea: “Dear international media: please include the contents of my last tweet into your stories about Toronto. ps — We have no wild moose.”
For his part, the mayor’s response to the latest of his serial scandals has not been a textbook study in crisis management. Ford did his cause little good with a few sentences of muttered indignation Friday, calling the allegations “ridiculous” and merely the product of this newspaper’s alleged campaign against him.
Since then, Ford has essentially gone to ground and, it was announced Saturday by Newstalk 1010, even cancelled the Sunday talk-radio program that he and brother Doug use as a weekly bully pulpit to defend the mayor and retaliate against perceived enemies.
Doug Ford did reportedly speak to the station Saturday. But his statement sounded to be something less than a thoroughgoing denial on his brother’s behalf. “I have never seen my brother involved with anything like coke.”
As the author Joyce Carol Oates has said, “in the end, all drama is about family.” So too, it seems, is the phenomenon of Rob Ford.
His formative years as the son of a hard-nosed self-made man, his frequently unruly domestic life, then his unlikely political rise and his unseemly dependence on his brother, are root and branch about both the stunting and supportive nature of family — and its attendant aspects of tribe and class.
In many ways, Rob Ford is a tribal descendant of the Mike Harris provincial government of which his father was part, a phenomenon powered by twin resentments against the shiftless undeserving poor and arrogant undeserving elites.
If Harris brought overt class warfare to the local political scene, and made it permissible to campaign against government itself, he also rebuilt Toronto’s institutional infrastructure in a way that made the election of Rob Ford possible.
It was the Harris amalgamation of Toronto that ultimately let the city suburbs take revenge on the downtown elites, and their support of Ford seems as tribal (and hence irrationally tenacious) as anything described in the novels of Dennis Lehane about the toughest precincts of Irish Boston.
Such a state of affairs has both admirable and appalling aspects, not least of which, on the one hand, is dogged loyalty and, on the other, a wilful obliviousness to the nakedly apparent.
At present, that is both the strength and weakness of Ford Nation — and makes anything possible.
To other tribes of Toronto — the bourgeois bohemians of Riverdale sauntering past sunny Carrot Common, the Lululemoned pram-pushers of Bloor West village, the discerning North Toronto patrons of Pusateri’s — this mayor and his supporting army of strangers from a strange land is mystifying, maddening . . . and more than enough to ruin even the most virtuous yoga high.
Councillor Doug Ford broke his uncharacteristic silence Saturday, commenting on reports of a video that seems to show Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine.
“I have never seen my brother involved with anything like coke,” Councillor Ford told radio station Newstalk 1010 Saturday.
The councillor, usually a vocal defender of his brother, had previously been silent since the Toronto Star reported on the video, which shows the mayor apparently inhaling from a crack pipe and calling federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau a “fag.”
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Councillor Ford cancelled a pre-scheduled appearance on CP24 Friday afternoon and the brothers’ weekly radio show, on which the pair frequently discuss controversies involving the mayor, was cancelled. He was absent from city hall Friday and his office assistant said in the early afternoon that she hadn’t spoken to him.
The silence is unusual for the councillor, who typically faces his brother’s controversies head-on, delivering bombastic defences. When the Toronto Star reported in March that the mayor was asked to leave the Garrison Ball due to apparent intoxication of some sort, Councillor Ford took to the airwaves the day the story appeared, saying the Star lied and that he’s “never seen Rob drink at any event. Ever.”
Councillor Ford could not be reached by phone or at his home Friday. He did not return a voicemail left by a Star reporter Saturday.
Mayor Ford, speaking to reporters outside his home Friday morning, said the allegations were “ridiculous.”
“Anyways, like I said this morning, these allegations are ridiculous, another story with respect to the Toronto Star going after me, and that’s all I have to say,” he said later in a brief statement outside of his office. When asked twice directly if he smokes crack, the mayor did not respond.
In the video, Mayor Ford appears to refer to the players on the Eagles, a football team he has coached for a decade at Don Bosco Catholic Secondary School, as “just f---ing minorities.”
Dennis Morris, a lawyer retained by Mayor Ford, said it is impossible to tell what a person is doing in a video.
“How can you indicate what the person is actually doing or smoking?” he told the Star.
He later told other journalists that the public should be able to judge the video for themselves.
“I don't know whether or not such a video exists, but I think it would be fair for the public to see such a video and make their own conclusions,” Morris said, according to the CBC.
Star reporters Robyn Doolittle and Kevin Donovan viewed the video earlier in May after being contacted by a source trying to sell it. The source of the video also supplied a photo of Ford posing with three men in front of a house.
One of the men in the photo is Anthony Smith, a 21-year-old promising basketball player gunned down in March outside Loki Lounge on King St. W. Another man was injured in the shooting.
The pair of Star reporters viewed the video May 3 in a car parked in an apartment complex near Dixon Rd. and Kipling Ave. They watched the video three times and separately made notes on what they heard and saw.
The source of the video shopped it around to various news outlets with the goal of getting “six figures” for it. The Star did not pay money and has not yet obtained a copy of the video.
A group of Canadian actors, writers and politicians is calling on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to change the name of Victoria Day.
The group — which includes author Margaret Atwood, Green Party leader Elizabeth May, and actor Gordon Pinsent — has signed an online petition to rename this Monday’s public holiday “Victoria and First Peoples Day.”
Peter Keleghan, an actor and spokesman for the group, says the name would provide a chance to honour both the Crown and the indigenous peoples of Canada.
He says it would help create a better understanding of the various peoples who helped shape Canada.
National Aboriginal Day is celebrated every year on June 21 but it’s not recognized as a national holiday.
Victoria Day marks the birthday of Queen Victoria and is celebrated every year on the last Monday before May 25.
Quebec celebrates National Patriots’ Day on the same day, to honour the rebellion against the British in 1837.
Northern Ireland's Michael Hoey was disqualified from the US PGA Championship after the second round for failing to "recreate his lie" after removing a ball from sand.
American Scott Verplank withdrew from the US PGA Championship with a hip problem half-way through his second round at the Ocean Course.
By John Strege
His was a life in two acts, neither of which he would have scripted for himself. It was not particularly easy, and often not fair, but Ken Venturi took his cues from its challenges.
"Fate," his friend and colleague Jack Whitaker once told him by way of encouragement, "has a way of bending the twig and fashioning a man to his better instincts."
Fate cast Venturi with "an incurable" stutter that had him seek the isolation of golf and he became a U.S. Open champion. Fate robbed him of the dexterity in his hands and he became the longest-running lead analyst in television sports history.
"The full body of work, spanning everything involved in golf, there's nobody in that Hall of Fame that's done what he's done," his friend and long-time pupil John Cook said. "Maybe some have better records, more tournament wins, but the whole thing? None. He transformed television. He's been the biggest philanthropist in golf history of the things he's involved in that people don't even know about. Lifetime achievement? That barely covers it."
Venturi, 82, died on Friday, little more than a week after his induction in absentia into the World Golf Hall of Fame. He had been hospitalized following surgery for infections in his back.
When he was elected to the Hall of Fame last fall, he summed it up this way: "The greatest reward in life is to be remembered."
Venturi will be remembered on a variety of fronts. When he was 13, "the doctor told my mother that I would never be able to speak as long as I lived, because I was an incurable stammerer. And I went out and found the loneliest sport I could find and took up golf."
At 24, he took a four-stroke lead into the final round of the Masters in a bid to become the first amateur to win at Augusta National. "For three dazzling days Venturi was within reach of a prize no amateur in the history of the Masters has ever been able to seize," the legendary writer Herbert Warren Wind wrote in Sports Illustrated. "But the Masters is a drama in four acts, not three, and on the fourth day it was exit Ken Venturi and enter Jackie Burke." Venturi finished second, still the best performance by an amateur in the history of the Masters.
Venturi would turn pro and win 14 PGA Tour events, including the U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club in 1964, when against doctor's orders he played the second 18 of a 36-hole day with temperatures upwards of 100 degrees and humidity in the 90s.
"When I came in off the 18th hole in the morning, I laid down next to my locker and Doctor Everett said, 'I recommend you don't go out, because it could be fatal,'" Venturi said last year. He defied the doctor's advice, shot 70 and won his only major championship.
Carpal tunnel syndrome in both hands ended his career in 1967 and the following year, CBS Sports Producer Frank Chirkinian offered the "incurable stammerer" a job as an analyst on its golf telecasts. He would hold the job until his retirement in 2002.
Underscoring his accomplishments on the course and in the broadcast booth was the quiet philanthropy to which Cook alluded.
"Kenny was emphatic about not getting publicity for it, but his life was dedicated to philanthropy," CBS' Jim Nantz, Venturi's broadcast partner for 17 years, said recently. "He had so many different charities he was involved with, and it was under the radar. He was building a home for abused women and children in Florida. Every offseason he traveled to Ireland to throw something for the mentally-challenged kids there. He was a huge figure in bringing golf to blind people.
"He moved mountains, and people didn't know that about him. I remember there was a piece of machinery at Loma Linda (Calif.) Hospital that was one of the forerunners to really being able to treat some forms of cancer. They had that piece of equipment in large part because of money that Kenny had raised through various charitable events throughout Southern California and the Palm Springs area. That machine by the way ended up being the machine that would reach Paul Azinger when he had cancer in his shoulder."
He was only following instructions. "I was taught by Byron Nelson and I asked him one time, 'how could I ever repay you for all you've done for me?'" Venturi said. "He said, 'Ken, be good to the game and give back.'"
[Photo: The Washington Post]
Kia Classic La Costa Resort and Spa Carlsbad, Calif. Final-round notes and interviews March 25, 2012
Rolex Rankings No. 1 Yani Tseng captured her third victory of the 2012 LPGA season and her 15th career win after shooting a final-round 70 to secure a six-shot victory at the Kia Classic. Tseng entered Sunday leading by three shots over Rolex Rankings No. 8 Jiyai Shin but her lead shrunk to just two shots after Shin’s birdie on the second.
Even though Shin inched a little closer to the world’s No. 1, there never seemed to be a question that this would once again be Tseng’s day. A birdie by Tseng on the par-4 fifth extended her lead back to three and from there, she never looked back. The only blip in her round came with a bogey on the 18th hole when her win was already well in hand. In addition to the $255,000 first-place prize check, Tseng also takes home a Kia Optima Limited following the win.
The victory is Tseng’s second-consecutive following last week’s triumph at the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup and the third in five attempts this season. She has led or co-led after each of the last eight rounds dating back to the first round in Phoenix last week and has won seven of the last eight times she entered the final round with a lead. Tseng’s round of 70 on Sunday also marked her 10th consecutive under-par round dating back to the Honda LPGA Thailand last month.
Making her mark: With her win at the Kia Classic, Tseng becomes the second youngest LPGA player to reach 15 career victories at the age of 23 years, 2 months, 2 days. The only player to reach the mark faster than Tseng is Nancy Lopez, who was 22 years, 5 months and 18 days when she won her 15th career victory at the 1979 Lady Keystone Open on June 24, 1979. Closing Time: This marks the 7th time in Yani Tseng’s career that she has won an event after leading or co-leading heading into the final round. She went 0-for-4 to start her career in 2008 and 2009, but since then she’s 7-for-8, her only loss coming at last year’s Kraft Nabisco Championship, where Stacy Lewis became a Rolex First-Time Winner in 2011.
It’s also the second straight week that Tseng has captured a victory when holding a 54-hole lead. Tseng was tied for the lead with Ai Miyazato heading into the final round of last week’s RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup before shooting a final-round 68 to capture the victory.
“I feel much more comfortable than the first time, of course,” Tseng said in reference to holding on to a final-round lead. “Today the first hole I just kind of felt like every day is the same. I didn't feel like today was Sunday. I didn't feel like I had a three‑shot lead. I just focused on playing one shot at a time. I think I did a good job to just kind of focus on myself instead of look at what Sun Young is doing or Jiyai is doing. Just really focused on what I can do and try to improve and make birdies. So that's very good. That's how I learned over the past few years”
Is the Hall Call coming soon? Tseng earned her 23rd point towards qualifying for the LPGA and World Golf Halls of Fame with her victory on Sunday at the Kia Classic. Twenty-seven points and 10 years of service on the LPGA Tour are needed for induction.
Two points are on the line at the Kraft
2012 Kia Classic
Final Tournament Summary
Sunday, March 25, 2012
La Costa Resort, Legends Course
Par: 36 36 - 72 Yardage: 6500
|POS||NAME||SCORES||TOTAL||TO PAR||OFFICIAL MONEY|
|2||Sun Young Yoo||69-73-67-71||280||-8||$156,242|
|T7||Se Ri Pak||71-66-73-74||284||-4||$45,337|
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