Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Harper Absolves All His Staff except Wright in Duffy Affair: Interview

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Harper Absolves All His Staff except Wright in Duffy Affair: Interview

Article excerpt

Harper absolves all but Wright in Duffy affair

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OTTAWA - Stephen Harper says only one member of his staff in the Prime Minister's Office acted irresponsibly or unethically during the Mike Duffy affair.

And the Conservative leader admitted he phoned the one employee he did blame -- former chief of staff Nigel Wright -- to wish him well last year.

Harper made the comments in a wide-ranging interview with CBC anchor Peter Mansbridge, broadcast Monday night.

Details of the scandal surrounding Sen. Duffy's expenses, and chief of staff Nigel Wright's clandestine repayment of $90,000 of them, monopolized the first stretch of the election campaign.

Duffy's trial is on hiatus until November, but the dramatic testimony of Wright, former PMO lawyer Benjamin Perrin, and former issues manager Chris Woodcock stole the headlines last month.

Emails entered into evidence at Duffy's fraud, breach of trust, and bribery trial show several of Harper's staff were involved in coaching Duffy on media lines, managing the actions of a Senate committee, or aware of the negotiations to repay Duffy's claims.

Mansbridge asked Harper if he at any point went to them and said, "why didn't you tell me about this?"

Harper responded that some of the facts of the trial were in dispute -- most likely referring to the fact that Perrin had testified that Harper's current chief of staff Ray Novak knew of Wright's repayment. Novak has said he did not.

Harper repeated his position that Wright bore the sole responsibility for the matter, as the person directly below him in the PMO.

"There's no person on my staff that I believe deceived me or acted unethically or, or irresponsibly...other than Mr. Wright, yes," Harper said.

Harper also revealed that he had telephoned Wright to wish him well on taking his latest executive position with private equity firm Onex Corp.'s London office last summer. A year earlier, he said he felt "anger, betrayal, disappointment, deception," with Wright.

Around the same time in 2014, Wright had been feted at a dinner at the Speaker of the House of Commons residence, attended by other top Conservative figures. …

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