Last week’s RCMP bombshell dump revealed a few things about the private e-mails of PMO staff and their counterparts in the Senate. For the dozen or so Harper administration staffers, lawyers and spin doctors, the documents give the Canadian public a rare glimpse of the way that the ultra-secretive Harper government operates in a major political crisis.

Though they do not vindicate the Prime Minister or corroborate his wildly implausible story of being completely unaware of what his chief of staff, Nigel Wright, was doing in his attempts to contain the damage being done to the Prime Minister’s brand by Senator and former Harper bagman Mike Duffy’s various acts of fraud. They do not provide the smoking gun type of evidence that would expose the Prime Minister as the mastermind behind botched efforts to put the corruption scandal to bed.

This doesn’t mean Harper’s out of the woods yet. On the contrary, the now infamous Wright quote that his boss was “good to go,” with respect to negotiations he was having involving both the PM’s lawyer Benjamin Perrin & Duffy’s lawyer Allison Payne on the conditions that would be acceptable to all parties concerned, would suggest that there is definitely some fire to go with all the smoke coming out of the Prime Minister’s office at the moment.

While it may still be true (though this would not excuse Harper’s ignorance of the situation) that the Prime Minister had no clue that his right hand man at the time was cutting a $90 000 personal cheque to silence an embarrassing Senator and in the process committing a crime under federal law, it seems that Harper at least knew about the first proposed solution Wright made to pay, out of Conservative Party funds, Duff-man 32K in order to reimburse him for the amount that was being demanded by the Senate Rules committee for illegally claimed expenses related to his secondary residence in PEI. This idea was eventually nixed by President of the party and Senator appointed by Harper in 2009, Irving Gerstein, forcing Wright to find an alternative to, in his words, “close out” an increasingly irksome problem and Senator (Duffy).

Duff-man may be proclaiming his innocence from the bully pulpit, but the documents released by the RCMP make it clear that he was not simply the victim of bad accounting and a vindictive Prime Minister more than happy to throw him and his other former Senate cronies under the bus. In fact, it’s almost hard not to sympathize with Wright who appears to have become rather impatient with the Senator and his lawyer’s constant haggling with the PMO over the terms of his bail out.

More to the point, Duff-man appears to have hatched a cover story involving taking out a line of credit from the bank with the intention of duping the media and public into believing that the this, rather than the cheque from Wright, would be used to repay the Senate. Incidentally, I love Duffy’s cynical insistence on inserting “PEI-isms” into the media lines he was given to deliver.

It’s not all bad news for the government. It appears that at least one staffer, Chris Montgomery, working for then Government leader in the Senate and Cabinet Minister Senator Marjory Lebreton (remember her infamous lashing out at the media over reporting on the scandal as “Liberal elites and their media lickspittles”) tried in vain to prevent the Prime Minister and his minions from imposing their will on the damning Senate Committee report that would have denounced Duffy and his colleagues for their financial recklessness with the tax payer’s money. For this display of integrity, Montgomery earned the scorn of Harper lackey Patrick Rogers who is quoted in the e-mail as saying “This is epic. Montgomery is the problem.”

Indeed, defending the independence of the Senate and democratic institutions against the meddling of the executive is regarded by Harper and his staff as an unforgivable sin.

To say that Harper has a Senate problem is rather like saying that Walter White, from the hugely popular TV show Breaking Bad, has a crystal-meth problem. That is to say, that it understates the severity of the situation to a ridiculous degree. The Federal Conservatives and the Prime Minister, in particular, have been in full crisis mode since the Members of Parliament returned from their extended summer recess last week.

Their problems are caused by two separate but intertwined issues. Both touch on the legitimacy of the unelected, unaccountable and scandal-prone institution that is occasionally referred to as the upper-house of sober second thought.

The first has to do with the growing uproar of fraudulent expense claims made by three Harper appointees (read cronies) and one Chretien era Liberal (Mac Harb) who has since retired. The second problem is on account of a half-assed bill ( C-7) that is designed to reform the Senate by introducing two measures that might make the body slightly less undemocratic by allowing willing provinces to elect their Senators and limit their term in office to nine years. The latter may be overshadowed by the sexier Duffy-gate (apologies for the lazy Watergate reference) but is arguably more important, constitutionally speaking.

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Duffy, Wallin and, to a lesser extent, Brazeau have all pushed back against Harper’s attempts to throw them under the bus, mainly from the Senate floor or in the media. First the “Honourable” Mike Duffy lashed out at his former political masters with a series of shocking revelations about how personally involved Harper was in the damage control strategy that appears to have been cooked up by his then Chief of Staff Nigel Wright.

The Prime Minister vehemently denies this charge, suggesting instead that he had no knowledge of the $90 000 bailout for Duffy arranged by his former lawyer Benjamin Perrin and Mr. Wright. Harper also claims that he never read Mr. Duffy the riot act nor did he threaten to expel him from the caucus if he didn’t resign first. Duffman only left the party because Harper’s former staffer Ray Novak and former Senate majority leader Ms. LeBreton leaned on him and let him know he’d get the boot if he didn’t fall on his own sword publicly.

Senator Pam Wallin also refuses to go out like a punk. She alleges that former Tory colleagues, senators LeBreton and Carolyn Stewart Olsen, acting on behalf of the PM, orchestrated a campaign of leaks and the Senate Internal Economy Committee report (the body tasked with investigating Wallin’s expenses) was designed to tarnish her good name and intimidate her into complying with Harper’s wishes. She has since resigned from Conservative caucus but denies any fraud, claiming that she made an honest mistake in filing her expense claims. Wallin’s only crime: in her words, she was simply being an “activist senator” (note: the term activist mean something completely different in the over-privileged world of the Senate).

In the meantime, Harper’s feeble attempt at Senate reform appears to be going down the tubes. Last year, the Charest government submitted a reference to the Quebec Court of Appeals (the highest court in the province) in response to the Federal government’s attempts to change the Senate through the back door (a.k.a Bill C-7). Last Thursday, the Quebec court ruled Harper’s move unconstitutional.

The gist of the Court’s legal smack down is that the Feds are obliged to consult the provinces on a matter as important this and cannot make a substantive change to the constitution by means of a simple federal statute. Finally, any such process would be subject to the dreaded 7/50 formula found in section 38 (1) (B) which requires seven provinces representing at least 50 % of the Federation to ratify any proposed changes.

As the court said in its opinion, “they (the Feds) cannot circumvent it on the pretext that the constitutional amending process is complex or demanding.” This may not be the kibosh on Harpers plans, but when the Supreme Court of Canada hears the matter in Mid-November, the Quebec decision will definitely carry a lot of weight, and make it even harder for the justices to find in favour of the Federal government’s position.