OTTAWA — The NDP wasted little time Wednesday in using the return of Mike Duffy as political leverage against the Conservatives, while Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau seemed to want to wash his hands of it.
With Nigel Wright, Stephen Harper’s former chief of staff, on hand to testify at the disgraced senator’s trial, Charlie Angus — the New Democrat point man on ethics — was promising to be there to discuss his testimony.
With NDP Leader Tom Mulcair campaigning in Quebec, Angus was also expected to step into the renewed media spotlight to promote an NDP plan to fight corruption in the embattled upper chamber.
Throughout the Senate scandal, Angus has been a gadfly to Harper, who was attending a campaign event Wednesday in B.C. But his leader got things going during a morning appearance in Levis, Que.
There is more at stake than just Wright and the $90,000 he gave Duffy to repay questioned expenses, Tom Mulcair told NDP supporters.
“Nigel Wright may be on the witness stand, but it’s Stephen Harper who is on trial,” Mulcair said.
“Mr. Harper has time and again said one thing and its opposite during this whole Duffy-Wright affair. And when you say one thing and its opposite, it’s quite obvious that both can’t be true.”
The Conservatives have been convicted of wrongdoing in the last three elections, Mulcair noted. “With a record like this, Canadians can’t let Stephen Harper get away with it again.”
Trudeau, however, suggested at a campaign event in Regina that instead of looking at all the mistakes that were made, he wants to move in a different direction — focusing in particular on the economy and the middle class.
“What we see right now is Ottawa is going to be entirely focused on what’s coming out of that trial; people are going to be talking about all the things that went wrong with the Harper government,” Trudeau said.
“I’m going to be talking about how we fix Canada and how we build a strong economy for the future of Canadians.”
The Conservatives are out of steam and out of ideas, and Harper’s plan is to stick with a program that hasn’t worked, Trudeau said, repeating one the main themes of his campaign messaging.
“When a plan isn’t working, the real risk is sticking with the status quo.”