Harper says chief of staff Wright ‘dismissed’ over $90,000 cheque, not resigned


OTTAWA – Prime Minister Stephen Harper continues to recast himself in the role of stern disciplinarian in the Senate expense narrative, telling a Halifax radio station he “dismissed” his chief of staff for writing a $90,000 cheque to Sen. Mike Duffy.

Last spring when word of the secret payment first surfaced, Harper initially praised Nigel Wright, before appearing to regretfully accept his top lieutenant’s resignation several days later.

“I accept that Nigel believed he was acting in the public interest, but I understand the decision he has taken to resign,” the prime minister said last May 19.

Harper is now striking a new tone.

“Look, I think the responsibility whenever things go wrong is for us to take appropriate action,” Harper told radio station News 95.7 Halifax in an interview aired Monday morning.

“As you know, I had a chief of staff who made an inappropriate payment to Mr. Duffy. He was dismissed.”

At issue is an alleged coverup in which the Prime Minister’s Office paid off Duffy so that he could repay disputed expenses, in return for which a Conservative-dominated Senate audit committee would whitewash Duffy’s behaviour and make the scandal disappear.

The expense questions were first a matter dismissed by government as a media smear, then a political problem to be quietly managed away.

The latest change in tenor began last week after Harper and his office faced a full-on broadside from Duffy and fellow Harper appointees Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau, who are also mired in their own expenses controversies.

The Senate Conservative majority is pushing to suspend, without pay, all three of their former caucus mates. That threat has brought the Conservative fight into the open.

The prime minister has been extremely reluctant to respond to the Senate imbroglio, more often than not allowing his House of Commons subordinates to parry opposition questions on the matter.

But Harper went on offence last week after Duffy’s incendiary address in the Senate chamber, in which he described a meeting between himself, Harper and Wright — “just the three of us” — to discuss expense repayment.

“Darn right I told him he should repay his expenses,” the prime minister responded the next day in the Commons.

Harper has also come out four-square behind the Senate suspension motions, which were sprung after Parliament returned on Oct. 16 following an extended summer recess.

The prime minister even makes the argument that the long delay in getting to the bottom of the affair — a delay that has included government stonewalling, continually changing stories and even Harper’s decision to prorogue Parliament for a month this fall — is reason for swift movement now.

“When you have collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in inappropriate expenses and it’s taken a year to get to the bottom of this, I think people expect action,” Harper told interviewer Jordi Morgan.

The interview was one of three the prime minister recorded Friday with selected radio stations in Toronto, Saskatoon and Halifax. All followed similar formats, with Harper being asked about a European trade deal, the government’s throne speech and the troubled Senate.

Morgan, a former candidate and Harper staffer, said the Prime Minister’s Office imposed unspecified “conditions” on the terms of the interview.

Some senators have said Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau deserve a full hearing and due process; there are indications that the Senate leadership may move this week to soften the motions.

An RCMP investigation continues into the behaviour of the senators and of Wright. No charges have been laid.

Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau all maintain they did not knowingly fudge their expenses and believed they were following the rules.

But Harper now says it is “crystal clear” that there was a misappropriation of public funds.

“There has been a view in the Senate, a long historic view, and there’s a few people who still believe it, even in our party, that the only standard for sitting in the Senate is that you’ve not been convicted of a crime,” he said.

“I’m sorry, that is just not good enough.”


Harper says chief of staff Wright ‘dismissed’ over $90,000 cheque, not resigned

  1. SO what was the severance deal ?

    • That’s the question Ratheberger [ a lawyer] said they should ask. Why no one has is a puzzle. On the other hand maybe they’re just getting tired of asking questions without answers, or ones that only get answered by the PM months later after everyone else has stopped asking and he gets to say…i just thought now is a good time, isn’t it? It works for me.

      • There were questions asked about a severance payment last spring, when Nigel stepped down — I remember speculating that it was likely around $90,000. I believe the pm, or whoever was speaking, said NIgel would receive his entitlements.

        He’s doing this “mad as hell tour,” as the pundits call it, on con-friendly, private radio stations and sounding tough on crime and decisive. “Sounding” is the key word here.

        Since timing is everything, I bet he wishes he had not prorogued Parliament because this could have been out of the way long before the blessed Con conference coming up on Thursday. Instead, it’s going to be a full-on shriek.

        • No chance they showed any paper work back then eh?
          Yeah, i’ve always said bringing down someone like Harper will require the principled part of the con base putting their shoulders to the wheel too. I guess we may be about to get an inkling as to whether that principled bit want power more then they want to stand by their principles.

          • The principled part of the Con base are both too busy.

          • Guess we’re screwed then. All Harper is going to do is double down until either he or they go away…it’s in his dna.

        • I’m betting on an early Christmas break, as soon as they can shove this latest omnibus bill through the House.

    • SO what was the severance deal ?

      The plausible, and in most cases legitimate, answer would be that such personnel matters are confidential. It’s even possible that disclosure of such information would be grounds for legal action by Wright.

      I suspect that’s one reason no one has bothered to ask the question.

      • Call me cynical, but if it were modest i suspect we would’ve known by now.

        • You may be right but, in point of fact, the parties in these types of settlements are usually bound legally by confidentiality agreements (unfortunately, for the taxpayers who underwrite the costs involved).

  2. Message to Mr. Harper, when digging a hole, if you don’t want the hole to get deeper, put down the shovel. It was you who reviewed Wallin’s expenses and said they were in line. It was you who called Mr. Duffy honourable. This is your baby and you’re responsible for the stuff filling the diaper.

    • Well at least he didn’t make a lot of silly statements in support of Wright, cause that would simply be embarrassing now.

  3. That whole “smartest guy in the room” thing is beginning to look like a political myth. Or perhaps Harper sticks mainly to very small rooms – bathrooms, closets, root cellars and such.

  4. “Stephen Harper’s comment on a Halifax radio show today is at odds with
    his statement in May that Nigel Wright resigned over the payment.”

    One thing is for sure, this guy is never going to appear anywhere under oath.

    “Look frankly your honour, clearly that was then and this is now, you just don’t get politics sir. But ya know i do happen have a spot on the bench for someone who does’

    • You forgot to include his favorite word – “clearly”.

  5. The reporter obviously didn’t catch what Harper mumbled under his breath…’ yes siree, i phoned him last night and told him he was terminated, er, um, retroactively.’ …click. ‘You’re darn toot’n i did, yes siree!’ ‘Ahhhnnnd, i made him promise to pay back that there 90 thousand sumollians to hisself. Yes sir, i dun that aw right i deed. Stand’n up for Cunadians is whut um All a bout.I aim A man u da peoples. Yes siree, thet’s whut i aim’
    Yikes! Was, like Harper, going for the Dief there and ended up finding W on speed.

  6. Who was in charge of this file, appointing Senators and such? That’s the guy we should dismiss.

  7. Wow. What ever happened to that slick, strategic, teflon Harper we used to loath? The immorality and compromised ethics seem to remain, but that polished veneer has serious cracks. Time for Bay Street to replace him with the Trudeau boy so their betrayal and sell-off of Canada can continue.

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