OTTAWA – Prime Minister Stephen Harper has acknowledged that his Conservative party paid the legal expense of embattled Senator Mike Duffy.
That, after Duffy was told by Harper that he acted illegally by claiming $90,000 in housing expenses, and should pay the money back.
“The party regularly reimburses members of its caucus for valid legal expenses, as do other parties,” Harper told the House of Commons.
But the NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair tries to pick apart Harper’s defence.
“The Prime Minister therefore, sees nothing wrong with using the money of the Conservative party to reimburse the legal expenses of someone he says has broken the law, that’s the ethics of the Prime Minister, duly noted,” Mulcair said.
“It’s true that Mike Duffy has almost zero credibility, but you know what, he’s story is still more believable then that of the Prime Minister.”
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau says that is sure to raise alarm bells for people who donate money to the Conservative party.
Donations to political parties are underwritten by the public purse through generous tax credits.
However, it seems the Conservative party didn’t extend its largesse to all other senators accused of improperly claiming travel expenses or housing allowances.
Sen. Patrick Brazeau’s office said no offer was made to pay his legal expenses.
It was not immediately clear if the party ever offered to pay Sen. Pamela Wallin’s legal bill.
All three are under investigation by the RCMP and are facing a government bid to to suspend them, without pay or privileges, from the Senate.
Harper continued today to call for the suspension of three former Tory senators from the upper chamber, saying he’s convinced they acted improperly in filing housing and travel expense claims.
But Trudeau says Harper also needs to take responsibility, at least, for the actions of his office in trying to pay the expenses of Senator Duffy.
On Monday, Duffy claimed the Prime Minister’s Office wrote him two cheques as part of the Senate expense scandal.
The first was for $90,000 from former Harper chief of staff Nigel Wright and the second was for more than $13,000 to cover legal bills.
Duffy told the Senate the second cheque was signed by Arthur Hamilton, the Conservative Party’s lawyer. Hamilton declined to comment on Duffy’s claim.
Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair said the Senate expense scandal is coming off the rails.
Mulcair says Prime Minister Harper said “one thing one day,” and later contradicts himself on several aspects of the scandal.
The NDP leader said Harper claimed last May that Nigel Wright resigned for giving Duffy a $90,000 cheque to cover his expenses. However, on Monday, Harper said Wright was “dismissed.”
Meanwhile, according to a new Ipsos Reid poll for CTV News, 73 per cent of respondents believe Senators Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau should be suspended without pay.
The poll also found that around 67 per cent of respondents disapproved of Harper’s handling of the Senate expense scandal.
The poll was conducted Oct. 25-28.