Images from left, Wayne Hooper, Jason Lee and Peter McQuaid
Three prominent Prince Edward Island Tories have been questioned by the RCMP about consulting work they performed for P.E.I. Senator Mike Duffy.
The RCMP filed a production order in an Ottawa court Tuesday looking for access to bank records relating to contracts worth $65,000 Duffy awarded to a friend.
These contracts are the subject of fresh allegations of fraud and breach of trust against P.E.I.’s embattled senator.
As part of this newest probe into Duffy’s general expenses account, investigators identified a few smaller consulting contracts awarded to three prominent P.E.I. Conservatives.
According to court documents, Duffy handed Peter McQuaid two consulting contracts.
McQuaid served as former Progressive Conservative premier Pat Binns’ chief of staff for 10 years and currently serves on the executive of the provincial PC party as the chair of election readiness.
In 2009, he was contracted by Duffy to provide information and statistics concerning federal and provincial issues, write speeches and provide weekly updates on key P.E.I. issues.
McQuaid submitted an invoice for 22 hours' work at $125 per hour.
A second contract was awarded to McQuaid in 2011, this time to provide research on the proposed Atlantic power accord and its potential effect on P.E.I.
McQuaid submitted an invoice for 20 hours of work for this second contract, again charging $125 an hour.
In March 2012, Duffy also awarded Wayne Hooper a consulting contract.
Hooper worked with McQuaid under the Binns administration as a deputy minister. He was later appointed to the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency executive and played a role in hiring Kevin MacAdam as director general of ACOA P.E.I. before retiring.
The Public Service Commission has since revoked MacAdam’s appointment after a recent investigation found senior officials who hired MacAdam acted inappropriately. MacAdam has filed for a judicial review of this decision.
In his 2012 contract with Duffy, Hooper’s duties were to provide advice on industrial and regional benefit proposals for P.E.I. Hooper billed Duffy $3,000 for the 12-day contract.
The third P.E.I. Tory contracted by Duffy for consulting work was Jason Lee, son of former Conservative premier Jim Lee and an active member and fundraiser for the provincial party.
In 2009, Lee’s consulting firm Spry Consulting received an 11-week contract to provide Duffy communications support, such as speech writing, research, logistics and ground transportation. Lee submitted an invoice for 30 hours of work at $50 an hour.
McQuaid, Hooper and Lee were all interviewed by RCMP in relation to their consulting contracts with Duffy.
Investigators also point to documents turned over by the prime minister’s former chief of staff, Nigel Wright, including a printout of Duffy’s electronic calendar.
Several entries in Duffy’s calendar reference each of the three P.E.I. consultants, including meetings and teleconferences to “discuss matters which appear to be of a political nature relating to P.E.I.,” lead investigator Cpl. Greg Horton wrote in the production order filed in court Tuesday.
“These notations include such things as ACOA, the Charlottetown airport, P.E.I. elections, Atlantic electrical grid, the small business association, civic redevelopment, Holland College and the town of Cardigan.”
Horton does point out the contracts with McQuaid, Hooper and Lee were relatively small amounts, that all three had legitimate consulting firms and it appears as though all three performed the work they were contacted to do. He contrasts this to Duffy’s dealings with Gerald Donohue, whose $65,000 in consulting services are the subject of the latest RCMP fraud allegations.
“While none of the three consultants in P.E.I. provided a tangible work product to Duffy, their services and contracts differed from those of Gerald Donohue,” Horton wrote. “The limited yet specific contracts (of the P.E.I. consultants) are reasonable.”