OTTAWA – Prime Minister Stephen Harper portrayed Sen. Mike Duffy as a liar Wednesday and refuted allegations the Prime Minister’s Office and Senate henchmen used bribery and extortion to force the former Tory star to toe the party line or get fired.
Opposition MPs pounced on Duffy’s version of events Tuesday he said led him to accept $90,000 from Harper’s former chief of staff, Nigel Wright, to repay what a Senate committee concluded were inappropriate expenses.
Three members on the internal economy committee who Duffy said threatened him into accepting a deal or be turfed no longer sit on that board.
Sen. Carolyn Stewart Olsen quit Wednesday after Duffy implicated her, Sen. Marjory LeBreton and Sen. David Tkachuk as puppets of the PMO willing to execute on its behalf his forced exit from the Senate if he didn’t follow orders.
Harper provided a spirited defence of his ultimatum at caucus Feb. 13 to Duffy to return the money, and stuck to his story that he only became aware that Wright cut a cheque after a news report in May.
“Mr. Duffy now says he is a victim because I told him he should repay his expenses. Darn right I told him,” Harper said in the House of Commons.
Duffy told a jury of his peers deciding whether to suspend him without pay that Harper said it didn’t matter whether rules were violated, it was the perception and the harm it was causing the party’s base.
“I absolutely did not say that. The issue is not a matter of perception,” Harper said under cross examination from NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair. “I clearly told caucus and our staff that Mr. Duffy’s expenses were inappropriate. You cannot be refunded for an expense you didn’t incur and you cannot remain the Conservative caucus when you behave that way.”
Harper said he wasn’t behind three motions in the Senate to eject Duffy and two others, but fully supports them.
“I do not believe that, under the circumstances, these individuals should be on the public payroll. I believe that in private life, had they undertaken such actions, they would not continue to be on the public payroll.”
He said accusations he consulted with Wright or knew beforehand that he was going to give Duffy money are “categorically false” and he would have stopped it had he known.