OTTAWA — Stephen Harper’s former legal adviser says he was kept in the dark about much of the dealings between the Prime Minister’s Office and Mike Duffy, but Benjamin Perrin told a court on Friday that he thought Harper himself approved a deal.
Perrin said he took the now-infamous “we’re good to go from the PM” line from Nigel Wright, then the prime minister’s chief of staff, to mean Harper had seen a 2013, five-point plan to get Duffy to repay his expenses and that Harper had agreed to it.
Wright used those words in a 2013 email after he, Perrin and others had negotiated an arrangement with Duffy and his lawyers that would see the senator say publicly that he had made a mistake with his expenses and they would be repaid.
Part of that arrangement was that the party would cover those costs, at the time believed to be $32,000.
Wright testified earlier that the comment related to a conversation he had with Harper in which he told the prime minister he intended to make Duffy repay the money, but did not go into specifics. Harper has said on the campaign trail that he never spoke those words,
Perrin also testified he never spoke to Harper directly about the matter and was unaware of how elements of the deal were brokered. If he thought any part of the plan was illegal, he would have spoken up, he said.
The lawyer was testifying for a second day at Duffy’s trial on 31 counts of fraud, breach of trust and bribery. His testimony was connected mainly to the bribe and breach of trust charges relating to Duffy taking a $90,000 payment from Wright.
That’s what Duffy’s challenged expenses added up to and Perrin said part of his job was to find out why Duffy was refusing to repay them.
He said he was told explicitly by Wright that Duffy would repay because Wright himself was going to cut the cheque.
Harper has long maintained that only Duffy and Wright knew about that payment, but Perrin dropped a bombshell Thursday when he testified that Harper’s current chief of staff, Ray Novak, was present in two occasions when the cheque was discussed and that Perrin himself first heard about it during one of those conversations.
He said he felt “blind sided” by the situation and was glad he was already planning to leave his job.
“It was a very awkward position I found myself in and I didn’t like it,” he told the court.
“Lawyers act for all kinds of people.”
The trial resumes on Monday for a week before taking a lengthy break.