Harper fires back at Duffy

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper has mounted his most spirited defence in months on the Senate spending scandal, accusing Sen. Mike Duffy of playing the victim card because he was ordered to refund inappropriate expense claims.

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper has mounted his most spirited defence in months on the Senate spending scandal, accusing Sen. Mike Duffy of playing the victim card because he was ordered to refund inappropriate expense claims.

“Mr. Duffy now says he is a victim because I told him he should repay his expenses,” Harper told a high-octane House of Commons on Wednesday.

“Darn right I told him he should repay his expenses.”

With his Conservative caucus enthusiastically hooting and banging their desks, Harper took the offensive in the daily question period, repeatedly rising to his feet to respond with vigour, if not always clarity.

His performance — which lasted all of 19 minutes, including opposition questions — served as an antidote for Duffy’s toxic accusations levelled the previous afternoon in the Senate chamber.

Duffy claimed all his expenses were cleared by the Prime Minister’s Office and Senate leadership, but that he was thrown under the bus when news reports began undermining party popularity.

It was a scenario largely reiterated Wednesday by Sen. Pamela Wallin, another apostate Tory.

“’It’s not about what you did,”’ Duffy quoted Harper telling him. “’It’s about the perception of what you did that’s been created in the media. The rules are inexplicable to our base.”’

Harper denied making any such statement Wednesday. Instead, he dished up a bumper-sticker-simple response for the Conservative party base that has the benefit of being true, as far as it goes.

Yes, Harper agreed, he did order Duffy to repay the expense claims. As for the rest of the saga, the prime minister artfully managed to take none of the responsibility but all of the credit.

Did he threaten Duffy with reprisals if he wouldn’t go along with the scheme to repay his expenses?

No, said Harper.

“However, when inappropriate expense claims are made I expect corrective action to be taken,” Harper added, to roars of approval from his MPs.

“If it is not taken, a person who does not take corrective action could not expect to continue to sit as a member of the Conservative party.”

Did he order the Senate to expel, without pay, Duffy and former Conservatives Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau?

That was a Senate decision, said the prime minister, before adding that he wanted to “be unequivocal for the record: I fully support that motion. I do not believe that, under the circumstances, these individuals should be on the public payroll.”

Would he testify under oath?

“I have been crystal clear about this,” Harper responded, before sliding off onto another subject.

Was his lawyer involved in the repayment negotiations?

Harper dissembled.

Why was Duffy called to the Prime Minister’s Office two days before the Feb. 13 meeting where Harper told him to repay his expenses?

“I think the allegation here is that Mr. Duffy and I were in Ottawa on the same day,” quipped Harper, who by now was having fun batting away the opposition questions.

The prime minister even managed to impugn Duffy’s credibility, saying that “when Mr. Duffy went on national television (last March) to say that he had repaid his own expenses by taking out a loan against his assets, that is exactly what he should have done.”

It was only weeks later that CTV revealed Harper’s chief of staff, Nigel Wright, had in fact paid Duffy’s bill.

The prime minister has steadfastly maintained he knew nothing of Wright’s $90,000 cheque, and did so again Wednesday.

It won’t satisfy his harshest critics, but Harper has mollified a Conservative caucus that has seemed mortified by the Senate expense scandal. MPs emerged from Wednesday morning’s caucus meeting all singing variations on the same tune, the same message Harper and his MPs will no doubt take to the Conservative party policy convention in less than two weeks in Calgary.

A far more complicated story was being told down the hall from the Commons in the Senate chamber on Wednesday.

Wallin, like Duffy before her, ripped into a Conservative motion to expel her without pay in the absence of police charges or even evidence of wrongdoing.

The issue is no longer expenses but instead “political expediency” and “abuse of power,” said Wallin.

She accused the Conservative Senate leadership of “taking direction from the PMO” in a process that is “designed to appease the party faithful before a Conservative party convention at the end of the month.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Quentin Lee Strawberry Photo from RCMP
O’Chiese man found not guilty of 2019 stabbing death of Red Deer man

Quentin Strawberry found guilty of assaulting murdered man’s common-law partner

(Advocate file photo).
City of Red Deer property tax bills are in the mail

Red Deer 2021 tax notices are on their way Red Deer property… Continue reading

"They’re angry. They’re frustrated,” Alberta Teachers’ Association president Jason Schilling says of his members, whose pension assets have been transferred to a provincial Crown corporation. (Photo contributed)
Only 17% of Albertans support draft curriculum: teachers’ association

Fewer than one-in-five Albertans support the provincial government’s draft K-6 curriculum, says… Continue reading

(Advocate file photo)
Lacombe man to apply to withdraw manslaughter guilty plea

Tyler John Campbell wants to change plea after judge rejected seven-year sentence

The Ensign Energy Services Inc. logo is seen in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Ensign Energy Services Inc. *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Ensign cites slow vaccination pace in Canada for poor drilling recovery versus U.S.

Ensign cites slow vaccination pace in Canada for poor drilling recovery versus U.S.

Financial numbers flow on the digital ticker tape at the TMX Group in Toronto's financial district on May 9, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese
S&P/TSX composite drops after hitting record intraday high, loonie rises again

S&P/TSX composite drops after hitting record intraday high, loonie rises again

A processing unit is shown at Suncor Fort Hills facility in Fort McMurray, Alta., on Monday September 10, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Oilsands producers step up anti-pandemic measures as outbreaks rise in region

Oilsands producers step up anti-pandemic measures as outbreaks rise in region

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh listens to a question as he speaks with reporters on Parliament Hill, Wednesday, May 5, 2021 in Ottawa. Singh says he believes there's a connection between anti-mask and anti-lockdown protests and far-right extremism. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Jagmeet Singh says link exists between anti-maskers and far-right extremism

OTTAWA — Federal New Democratic Party Leader Jagmeet Singh is the latest… Continue reading

Specimens to be tested for COVID-19 are seen at LifeLabs after being logged upon receipt at the company's lab, in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, March 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Iqaluit elders home evacuated after staff member tests positive for COVID-19

IQALUIT, Nunavut — An elders home in Iqaluit was evacuated on the… Continue reading

Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Ahmed Hussen takes part in an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Boost in near-term funds, risk should lure more social-finance investors, Hussen says

OTTAWA — Social Development Minister Ahmed Hussen says he expects changes to… Continue reading

Justice Minister David Lametti responds to a question during a news conference in Ottawa, Friday May 7, 2021. Canada's justice and heritage ministers will be recalled to justify a change to the Broadcasting Act that critics warn could erode the rights of individuals users who upload content to social media. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Heritage committee to seek answers from ministers on C-10 changes

OTTAWA — Canada’s justice and heritage ministers will be recalled to justify… Continue reading

Young people line up for COVID-19 vaccines at Downsview Arena in Toronto on Monday, May 10, 2021. Ontario has just opened up vaccines for 18+ in high risk areas. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Vaccine rollouts expand, but COVID-19 caseloads still high in some provinces

There were signs of hope that Ontario and Quebec are making progress… Continue reading

Most Read