The standard narrative on Nigel Wright seems to be that he is a straight arrow who took one for the boss. But Linda McQuaig suggests that narrative is what the Harperites would like you to believe. The truth is more complicated:
Less attention has been paid to Wright’s role as one of the Harper Conservatives’ top bagmen.
In addition to being a key player in Stephen Harper’s rise to power and the push to “unite the right” a decade ago, Wright, a Bay Street insider who served as managing director of the powerful private equity firm Onex, has been deeply involved in the money side of conservative politics.
Wright was one of three founding directors of Conservative Fund Canada, which was set up in 2003 to finance the new conservative movement in its bid to bring about a conservative revolution in Canada —an aspiration Wright strongly shares.
Until becoming Harper’s chief of staff in 2010, Wright spent seven years on the board of the fund, along with corporate high-flier Senator Irving Gerstein.
Wright and Gerstein developed the fund into an effective fundraising machine that underwrote Conservative election campaigns and developed the party’s sophisticated computer systems. They also battled Elections Canada over the “in and out” scandal — Wright is named in court documents — in which the Conservative party eventually pled guilty to election law violations and paid hefty fines for using a complex scheme that resulted in campaign overspending.
Money is the mother's milk of politics. And that is particularly true of the Conservative political apparatus. Senators Duffy and Wallin brought in money, and -- as recent emails have revealed -- Duffy expected to be compensated for his services.
McQuaig wonders if Wright's bank account would have been replenished by party funds:
Even if Harper didn’t “know” about the payment — just as Bill Clinton didn’t “know” Monica Lewinsky — there’s still the question of where the $90,000 came from.
While Wright may have written the cheque on his own account, might he have expectations of reimbursement from party funds or wealthy Conservative donors?
It's always been hard to believe that Wright's motives were purely altruistic:
The Conservative narrative about Wright recklessly freelancing a private solution to the Duffy problem seems out of sync with what is known about Wright — that he’s a team-playing party loyalist who is highly disciplined (getting up at 4 a.m. to run 20 kilometres), with a strong connection to the money-raising side of the party.
The Conservatives are all about money. And money is the source of political corruption.