KING TOWNSHIP, Ont. — Here is what Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Thursday in response to questions about the latest testimony at the Mike Duffy trial.
Reporter (in French): Good morning. In his testimony, Nigel Wright stated that he helped Mr. Duffy personally and the term he used in English was “personally assisted” Mike Duffy. What did you understand from that and please do not answer that you don’t agree with the premise. I’m asking you what you understood from that expression.
Harper (in French): Mr. Wright was very clear. He did not tell me that he gave Mr. Duffy a cheque. And I said to Mr. Duffy and Mr. Wright, and he knew that I felt that Mr. Duffy should repay his own expenses. I was clear on that point and Mr. Wright was as well.
Reporter: Good morning Mr. Harper. Thanks for taking our questions. Today you’re obviously standing at a podium that says leadership. But given the fact that you have appointed senators that have been embroiled in controversies, what does that say about your leadership and your hiring skills?
Harper: Well, look, I would point out that there have been a large range of senators appointed by a large range of prime ministers who have had these kinds of difficulties and that is because of the nature of an institution that is unaccountable. The difference is in this government when senators have done those things we have made sure there are rules and rules are enforced. We have every right to expect better. I have a right to expect better. The entire party and the country does and we have made sure there is accountability for those kinds of inappropriate actions.
Reporter: Good morning Mr. Harper. You’re asking Canadians to trust you, to put their faith in you. They need to know that you have faith in your top adviser, that you have an effective working partnership for the good of the country. So do you still have complete confidence in your chief of staff Ray Novak, why or why not?
Harper: I think I’ve answered that clearly through my actions in this case. My judgment on this case is very clear, and let’s be clear what this case is about — contrary to what some may be reading, there is one person on trial here. That person is Mr. Duffy because Mr. Duffy took taxpayers’ money that I believed right from the outset he should not be taking, and I told him so. And I told him to repay it. He did not repay it. That’s why I had to take action against him. The reason he did not repay it is Mr. Wright decided to pay it for him. Mr. Wright did reimburse the taxpayers — I’ll give him that — but he also acted contrary to my wishes and allowed Mr. Duffy to keep the money, which he has to this day. These are the two people who are responsible. They’ve been held accountable and as I said, that’s exactly the appropriate thing to do and that’s what I’ve done.
Reporter: Good morning Mr. Harper. Ray Novak, your current chief of staff — does he still have your confidence?
Harper: I’ve been very clear. When people are working for me, they have my confidence. If they didn’t have my confidence, they wouldn’t be working for me. And in this case I have held the two people accountable who are responsible: Mr. Duffy, who did not repay his expenses, and Mr. Wright, who allowed him not to repay his expenses. These are the two people whose actions are responsible for this situation. That’s why I’ve held them accountable and I’m not going to go around holding everybody else accountable for their actions.