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Former PMO lawyer says Tories have 'lost the moral authority to govern'

Benjamin Perrin, former legal adviser to Stephen Harper, leaves the Ottawa courthouse after testifying at the Mike Duffy trial on Aug. 20, 2015. Mr. Perrin testified: ‘I was taken aback by the Prime Minister’s decision that if you simply owned $4,000 of real property that made you a resident [of PEI]. To me, both legally and practically, it seemed untenable. I would not be able to consider myself a resident of Nunavut, having never visited there, simply by buying $4,000 of property.’

FRED CHARTRAND/THE CANADIAN PRESS

A lawyer who worked in Stephen Harper's PMO‎ and broke with the Conservatives over the Nigel Wright affair months ago announced Sunday he has abandoned the Tories in the polling booth and has cast his vote "for change" this time.

‎"As a lifelong conservative I never thought that would happen. But after what I've personally seen and experienced, there was no other choice," Ben Perrin, a former legal advisor in the PMO, said in a statement sent to media on the eve of Election Day.

"The current government has lost its moral authority to govern.‎"

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Mr. Perrin, now a law professor at the University of British Columbia, said in advance balloting last week he voted "for change."

Kory Teneycke, spokesman for the Harper tour, said the Conservative campaign had nothing to say in response to Mr. Perrin's very public withdrawal of support for the Tories.

Mr. Perrin's rupture with the Harper Conservatives first occurred in August‎ over a crucial detail in the Mike Duffy fraud trial: was Stephen Harper aware that his chief of staff Nigel Wright was dipping into his personal wealth to ensure the PEI senator paid back questionable expense claims?

‎Back in August Mr. Perrin's testimony at the Duffy fraud trial very dramatically contradicted what other ex-PMO staffers said.

Mr. Perrin testified that he believed Mr. Harper had personally approved the elements of a deal with Mr. Duffy – which included having the Conservative Party keep the senator "whole" on questioned expenses.

Mr. Perrin said in August that he understood the PM had given his go-ahead from an e-mail sent by Mr. Wright, Mr. Harper's then-chief of staff, after negotiations with Mr. Duffy's attorney on five points – the deal that led to Mr. Duffy going on TV to say he "may have made a mistake" and would repay the expense money.

All other ex-PMO staffers including Mr. Wright had testified that Mr. Harper had been kept in the dark about the source of the $90,000.

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Mr. Perrin's Sunday statement reveals just how alienated and upset he is over the Harper government's handling of the Duffy controversy.

"I've felt strongly that I need to speak up during this campaign and there's not much time left to do so," he said, explaining his public statement.

Mr. Perrin declined to say which party he cast a ballot for, saying only, "I voted strategically in my riding." He did reveal however that his riding is Vancouver Kingsway, where the seat has traditionally swung between the NDP and Liberals.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Steven Chase has covered federal politics in Ottawa for The Globe since mid-2001, arriving there a few months before 9/11. He previously worked in the paper's Vancouver and Calgary bureaus. Prior to that, he reported on Alberta politics for the Calgary Herald and the Calgary Sun, and on national issues for Alberta Report. More

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