Sen. Mike Duffy is trailed by media as he arrives at the Senate on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013. Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press
Prime Minister Stephen Harper defended himself in question period on Wednesday against accusations made yesterday by Senator Mike Duffy in the ongoing Senate expenses scandal.
Harper refuted Duffy's allegation that he was more concerned about the perception of Duffy's expenses in the media than the truth, because the expense rules "are inexplicable to our base."
And he repeated his assertion he knew nothing about the $90,000 cheque Nigel Wright, the prime minister's former chief of staff, gave to the senator to repay his ineligible expenses.
"Any assertion that I was in any way consulted, or had any knowledge of Mr. Wright's payment to Mr. Duffy, is categorically false," Harper said during question period on Wednesday.
Harper answered every question put to him by NDP Leader Tom Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau — unlike the day before when Paul Calandra, the prime minister's parliamentary secretary, answered many of the questions in his place.
Duffy alleged on Tuesday that he had a meeting with the prime minister and Wright after caucus on Feb. 13 where Harper ordered Duffy to repay his ineligible expenses.
According to Duffy, it was Harper — not Wright — who provided the political solution that Duffy's expenses must be repaid.
The prime minister has consistently maintained that Wright acted alone when he decided to cut Duffy a cheque.
Conservative MPs emerged from their caucus meeting today saying they believed the prime minister, not Duffy.
Duffy Senate scandal 'directly implicates' PM
Duffy's speech in the Senate on Tuesday puts the prime minister directly at the centre of the Senate expenses scandal, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair told reporters after a meeting with his caucus on Wednesday.
"This is a profound scandal that directly implicates Stephen Harper," Mulcair said during a scrum on Parliament Hill.
Mulcair said the Senate expenses scandal is no longer about the $90,000 cheque Nigel Wright, Harper's former chief of staff, gave to Duffy to repay his ineligible expenses.
"This is about Stephen Harper. He has to start telling the truth to the public. The public has a right to know," Mulcair said.
After a meeting with his caucus on Wednesday, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said it was time the prime minister showed some leadership.
"A leader takes responsibility when things go wrong and this prime minister has consistently avoided taking any responsibility for this sordid mess," Trudeau told reporters gathered on Parliament Hill.
- Chris Hall: The Mike Duffy-Stephen Harper credibility war
- Mike Duffy claims Harper told him to repay expense money
- Live chat at noon: Mike Duffy and the Senate scandal
On Tuesday, Duffy, the former Conservative senator, spoke publicly for the first time in months, following a summer of allegations in RCMP court documents that he misspent Senate funds.
Duffy alleged Harper ordered him to pay back his questionable expenses .
Wright, according to Duffy, then arranged to repay Duffy's questionable expenses — a total of $90,000.
Duffy also named names of people involved in negotiating the alleged arrangement and in putting pressure on him, he said, to repay the expenses.
"There are at least a baker's dozen of his advisers who were aware of this," Mulcair told reporters.
Duffy said he hasn't done anything wrong and that his housing claims, some of the spending for which the RCMP are investigating him, are above-board.
Senator Patrick Brazeau, who has also been hit by the spending scandal, spoke to the Senate on Tuesday. Senator Pamela Wallin will speak to the Senate this afternoon.