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

Erika Fetterly, owner of EFP Studios, recently launched the Let Them Have A Voice campaign. (Contributed photo)
Central Alberta photographer’s campaign aims to give youths a voice

An Innisfail photographer is giving a platform to young central Albertans so… Continue reading

Chopped Canada-winning chef Pete Sok is trying to focus on the future as he reopens Boulevard Restaurant and Lounge in the Holiday Inn on Gasoline Alley during the pandemic. (Contributed photo)
Red Deer’s celebrity chef looks past the pandemic with new restaurant opportunity

Pete Sok is reopening Boulevard Restaurant — and betting on the future

The Red Deer Rebels hosted the Medicine Hat Tigers in the first game of the shortened 2020-21 season on Friday. The two teams faced off again in Medicine Hat Saturday (Photo by Rob Wallator/ Red Deer Rebels)
Red Deer Rebels fall to Medicine Hat Tigers on Saturday

Tigers 7 Rebels 2 The Red Deer Rebels have lost two straight… Continue reading

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
Red Deer reports 25th COVID-19 death

415 new cases identified provincially Saturday

Red Deer science-communicating dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped save a missing pet recently. The two dogs have more than 80,000 followers on Twitter. (Contributed photo)
WATCH: Red Deer science dogs help save lost pet

Red Deer science-communicating dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped rescue a missing pet… Continue reading

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks during a news conference in Edmonton on Feb. 24, 2020. It’s budget day in the province, and Kenney’s United Conservative government is promising more help in the fight against COVID, but more red ink on the bottom line. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta Premier slams vandalism after slur painted on MLA’s office window

EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is condemning alleged vandalism at the… Continue reading

Canada Pension Plan Investment Board President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Machin waits to appear at the Standing Committee on Finance on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on Tuesday, November 1, 2016. Executives who engage in so-called "vaccine tourism" show both an ethical disregard for those less fortunate and a surprising lack of business acumen, experts argue. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine tourism is both unethical and bad for business, experts say

Executives who engage in so-called “vaccine tourism” show both an ethical disregard… Continue reading

Edmonton Oilers' Jesse Puljujarvi (13) and Toronto Maple Leafs' Justin Holl (3) battle in front as goalie Jack Campbell (36) makes the save during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, February 27, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
No Matthews, no problem: Minus NHL goal leader, Maple Leafs blank Oilers 4-0

Leafs 4 Oilers 0 EDMONTON — The Maple Leafs knew even with… Continue reading

The Pornhub website is shown on a computer screen in Toronto on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS
Pornhub policies reveal legal gaps and lack of enforcement around exploitive videos

OTTAWA — Serena Fleites was in seventh grade when a sexually explicit… Continue reading

Sean Hoskin stands on a neighbourhood street in Halifax on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. Hoskin was diagnosed with COVID-19 almost a year ago with symptoms that still persist. Some provinces have established programs to deal with long-term sufferers but Atlantic Canada, with relatively low numbers of patients, has yet to provide a resource to assist them. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
On East Coast, exhausted COVID-19 ‘long haulers’ hope specialized clinics will emerge

HALIFAX — On evenings when Sean Hoskin collapses into bed, heart pounding… Continue reading

Ottawa Senators goaltender Matt Murray (30) stands in his crease as Calgary Flames left wing Andrew Mangiapane (88), left to right, defenceman Rasmus Andersson (4), Matthew Tkachuk (19), Mikael Backlund (11) and Mark Giordano (5) celebrate a goal during second period NHL action in Ottawa on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Calgary Flames beat Ottawa 6-3 to end Senators’ three-game win streak

Flames 6 Senators 3 OTTAWA — The Calgary Flames used a balanced… Continue reading

Crosses are displayed in memory of the elderly who died from COVID-19 at the Camilla Care Community facility during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mississauga, Ont., on November 19, 2020. The number of people who would have died from a COVID-19 infection is likely to be much higher than recorded because of death certificates don't always list the virus as the cause of a fatality, experts say. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Death certificates don’t accurately reflect the toll of the pandemic, experts say

The number of people who would have died from a COVID-19 infection… Continue reading

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto, Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021. A single dose of Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine is barely enough to cover the average pinky nail but is made up of more than 280 components and requires at least three manufacturing plants to produce. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
From science to syringe: COVID-19 vaccines are miracles of science and supply chains

OTTAWA — A single dose of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine is barely enough… Continue reading

Most Read