FREDERICTON — Here is a verbatim transcript of the questions Prime Minister Stephen Harper was asked Monday by reporters — along with the answers he gave — about the Mike Duffy trial, the testimony of former chief of staff Nigel Wright and revelations that several of Harper’s staff members, including current chief of staff Ray Novak, knew about the plan to pay the senator’s disallowed expense claims on his behalf.
Reporter: Good morning, Mr. Harper. Thank you for taking our questions today. Given the fact that Wright-Duffy affair has dogged you for more than two years, and now you’re out on the campaign trial and it is obviously a big issue still today. At the time when this deal became public, you were in South America and you were saying, ‘I’m frustrated, I’m sorry, I’m angry about all this.’ Today, what is your message to Nigel Wright?
Harper: Look, I have no new messages today. My message was very clear way back in February of 2013. When I learned of Mr. Duffy’s expenses, I told him that those expenses could not be justified and should be repaid. He didn’t do that, partially because of Mr. Wright that he didn’t do that. So, they have been held responsible. That’s well over two years ago. I think Canadians can see that this government dealt with this matter. People are being held accountable and I do think that is what is important for Canadians, looking forward, is going to be the two issues of this campaign. The economy of our country and our future prospects on the security of our country. Those are the two issues and this Conservative party is the only government that has answers for the big issues.
Reporter: Good morning, Mr. Harper. But there are some questions that are unanswered. Over the last number of days, you’ve said you haven’t accepted the premise of our questions. But our questions are actually based on government documents, emails from within your office, that are facts. They are not being disputed in court. And in them, it shows that senior members of your staff, including members of your election team, were seen seen as trying to deceive the Canadian public in the communications lines around the Duffy trial. Don’t you have an obligation, as the prime minister, to clean house? You demanded the same thing when you were in opposition of other prime ministers. Why won’t you clean house now?
Harper: Well, I will say once again, I don’t accept that particular rendition of the facts. What I know is this: Mr. Duffy should have repaid his expenses. He did not. He did not because Mr. Wright paid them for him. These are the two individuals responsible, and they are being held accountable and that is what is appropriate.
Reporter: Hi, Mr Harper, good morning. I want to follow up … yesterday I asked you how you felt now that you know that your senior staff, including your current chief of staff, Mr. Novak, knowingly allowed you to repeat a lie for months: that Mike Duffy had repaid his own expenses when that wasn’t the case. Yesterday and today you said you don’t accept the premise of that question. What part of the question do you not accept?
Harper: I’ve been very clear about this. I hold Mr. Duffy accountable for not having repaid his expenses, and Mr. Wright responsible for those expenses not having been repaid. It was those two gentlemen’s obligation to make sure this was done correctly. They did not, and they are solely responsible, and that’s why they are being held accountable. We acted quickly on this, as is appropriate.