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Conservative leader Stephen Harper makes a campaign stop in Rockland, Ontario, on Sunday, August 23, 2015.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Stephen Harper is sticking by his chief of staff despite evidence that Ray Novak was aware of the controversial deal to provide $90,000 to senator Mike Duffy in 2013.

At a campaign event in eastern Ontario on Sunday, the Conservative Leader made it clear that he has rejected calls from other parties to fire Mr. Novak, who is his longest-serving aide.

Still, Mr. Harper did not shed further light on Mr. Novak's knowledge – or lack of – the payment to Mr. Duffy from his predecessor, Nigel Wright.

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The former legal counsel in the Prime Minister's Office, Benjamin Perrin, testified at Mr. Duffy's trial last week that Mr. Novak was in the room when Mr. Wright informed them of his plan to pay the expenses for Mr. Duffy.

Mr. Harper said on Sunday that the only people to be held responsible for the controversy are Mr. Wright and Mr. Duffy.

"‎Mr. Novak has been very clear with me," Mr. Harper said, without stating whether his aide knew about the payment. "Mr. Duffy is the only one on trial. In my judgment, he should not have taken it."

Mr. Harper added Mr. Wright "was the boss. He is fully responsible for (his actions)."

Mr. Harper's spokesman, Kory Teneycke, has said it would be "unfathomable" for Mr. Novak to know about the deal and not inform Mr. Harper.

Mr. Harper has repeatedly said he was unaware of the payment before it was reported by CTV News.

‎There were groans in the partisan crowd when a question on the Duffy matter was asked at Sunday's news conference.

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‎The Conservatives promised at the campaign event to make membership fees in services clubs – such as the Knights of Columbus and Royal Canadian Legions – tax deductible. The measure would cost the government about $30-million a year in lost revenues.

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