Nigel Wright’s Testimony Is Insulting to Canadians

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I had an obligation to fulfill my end of the arrangement with him (Duffy). I couldn’t think of another way of doing it.

Is anyone else profoundly insulted and deeply offended by this self-effacing statement from Nigel Wright as to why he forked over $90,000 of his own money, in secret, to pay Mike Duffy’s debts?

Oh, wait a minute! On Thursday in court, Wright quoted the bible as justification for his charity: “My view is it was I was helping out, I was doing a good deed and sort of Matthew 6, right?”

What’s next? A request for a papal indulgence?

And for this piousness, we are supposed to somehow shrug off his amazing leading role in this tawdry political scandal, because after all, Nigel did the right thing, as he saw it? Gee, what a nice guy!

I have had it with the endless portrayals of this “bastion” of Bay St. as an honest, noble, loyal, faithful, honourable, dedicated – any more hagiographic adjectives you can add, please fill ‘em in – servant of the Prime Minister’s Office.

Wright may well be all that but that doesn’t give him a free pass when he messes up, big time.

The salient point of interest here is that Wright was the chief of staff to the prime minister of Canada. Read his official job description. The focus is on governance by the prime minister for the development, strategizing and administration of those policies which the prime minister feels are in the interests of the country. Nigel Wright’s obligations were to the prime minister and through him, to the people of Canada. He was part of a structure of responsibility in our parliamentary system.

We should all be offended that someone in that position decides that because he happens to belong to the 0.1 per cent, he can reach into his pocket to personally solve problems with his own money – in this case, to cover up financial shenanigans (crime, not crime, yadda, yadda) –because it is simply the easiest way to clear off his terribly crowded desk and get on with other business.

This is bad enough, even without arguing about what is or is not a bribe and who may have expected what from whom.

Nigel Wright didn’t have a personal obligation to pay Duffy’s debts, as he proclaimed.

His personal obligation was to serve Canada and to maintain the integrity of its political institutions.

We should be repelled by any notion that we should admire – and excuse – an incredibly rich individual who goes into public service and then uses his private financial resources to make political problems (and possibly crimes) disappear.

He’s responsible, all right. He’s responsible for setting a very bad precedent in public service. Nothing admirable in that.

Frank Koller is the author of SPARK: How Old-Fashioned Values Drive a Twenty-First Century Corporation (PublicAffairs, 2010). He was a journalist, economics specialist and foreign correspondent for 27 years with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, specializing in the workplace, the U.S. and Asia.

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