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Updated: Fri, 10 Jan 2014 11:59:34 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

Harper could learn from Christie's handling of traffic scandal



A contrite New Jersey Governor Chris Christie speaks during a two-hour news conference Thursday at which he revealed that members of his staff intentionally engineered a traffic jam in a political rival's district. Matt Rourke/Associated Press

A contrite New Jersey Governor Chris Christie speaks during a two-hour news conference Thursday at which he revealed that members of his staff intentionally engineered a traffic jam in a political rival's district. Matt Rourke/Associated Press

Some crisis managers and political rivals say there's a stark difference between the way New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie accepted responsibility for a political scheme engineered by members of his staff and how Prime Minister Stephen Harper handled the Senate expenses scandal.

Christie spent nearly two hours Thursday answering reporters' questions about a traffic jam orchestrated by some staff who wanted to punish the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, N.J., for failing to support Christie's re-election campaign

​The Republican governor's approach couldn't have differed more from the way Harper deflected questions about the expenses of Mike Duffy and other senators. The prime minister also refused to take responsibility for the actions of Nigel Wright, his then chief of staff who wrote a $90,000 cheque to cover Duffy's expenses. 

Harper's critics say had he acted more like Christie, who fired the member of his staff behind the traffic jam and repeatedly apologized, he could have saved face and taken some of the sting out of the expenses scandal.

"I think it would have made a difference because one of the essential ingredients of the Senate scandal has been the refusal of Stephen Harper to admit his own responsibility," said NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair.

Both Harper and Christie said they were misled by members of their own staff, but the difference is that Christie apologized and acknowledged his own responsibility.

​"I'm responsible for it. It happened on my watch, and you can't just say, 'Well listen, I didn't know about it, so it's not my problem,'" Christie told reporters Thursday.

Watch Terry Milewski's full report above.

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