The conventional wisdom these days seems to hold that Stephen Harper will never testify at Mike Duffy's trial. But Scott Reid, who used to be Paul Martin's director of communications, knows what kind of damage scandal can do to a prime minister's future. He writes that no one should underestimate the havoc Duffy can wreck on Harper:
Imagine all of this unfolding in public – again. Except this time with added rigour and filled-in details. Not leaked out in spastic bursts through media reports, but explored carefully and transparently according to the rules of court. Imagine Nigel Wright’s testimony – as he’s compelled under oath to describe what conversations he had, with whom, and when.
For Harper, this situation is a blazing bonfire of political risk. The best-case scenarios are nerve-fraying. What might happen in the worst of all worlds is the stuff of horror films. The government may want to believe they’ve put this behind them but as this week’s brief pre-trial appearance reminds us, it’s back. Mike Duffy, the good senator from Just-Make-It-Out-To-Cash, is fighting for his freedom – and he is pointed at this government like a loaded weapon.
Any trial is also bound to explore questions that have so far gone unanswered. What sort of deal was originally cut with Duffy for partisan versus Parliamentary service? Why were the Conservatives willing to quietly vanish his expenses when they were thought to be only $30,000? How does that square with later denunciations of his profligate ways? What lies behind that email reporting the prime minister to be ‘good to go’?
In the end, Reid speculates, Harper may decide to get out of town. If he left by Christmas, his party still might have enough time to rehabilitate itself. After all, Dalton McGuinty's departure allowed Kathleen Wynne to win the next election.
However you look at it, Duffy is a precision guided missile aimed straight at Harper's bunker -- the kind of weapon the Americans call a "bunker buster." In the end, Duffy may not just destroy the bunker. He may destroy the prime minister.