Stephen Harper is changing the story on how his chief aide left the Prime Minister’s office after it was revealed Nigel Wright personally bailed out beleaguered Senator Mike Duffy.
Mr. Harper revealed Monday morning in a Halifax radio interview that Mr. Wright was fired from his job as chief of staff in the PMO.
Previously the Conservative Leader has always said the Bay Street executive resigned the top job in the Prime Minister’s office.
"I think the responsibility whenever things go wrong is for us to take appropriate action,” Mr. Harper told News 95.7 Halifax.
“As you know I had a chief of staff who made an inappropriate payment to Mr. Duffy. He was dismissed.”
Mr. Wright exited federal politics in May after the PMO admitted he’d personally intervened in Mr. Duffy’s expense controversy after the PEI politician stood accused of padding his expense account.
Mr. Wright, a wealthy businessman, dipped into his own funds to repay the more than $90,000 that Mr. Duffy reimbursed to taxpayers after controversy over his expense claims.
In May, Mr. Harper said the repayment was Mr. Wright's "personal decision, and he did this in capacity as chief of staff, so he is solely responsible, and that is why he’s resigned."
Mr. Harper added that he would not have approved of the bailout had he known about it.
“Had I obviously been consulted … I would not have agreed, and it is obviously for those reasons that I accepted Mr. Wright’s resignation.”
The Halifax interview was with Jordi Morgan, one-time Canadian Alliance candidate who also once worked for Mr. Harper's office when the Calgary MP was Leader of the Opposition.
Mr. Harper has been searching out friendly interviews in recent days. He also spoke to former Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory, who now hosts a Toronto Radio show, on Friday.
The Conservative government is leading a push in the Senate this week to suspend without pay Mr. Duffy and two other ex-Conservative senators from the Red Chamber.
Conservative senators headed into a caucus meeting Monday at which they were expected to discuss the possibility of reduced sanctions for Mr. Brazeau, Mr. Duffy and Ms. Wallin.
Senators said they wanted to hear what their colleagues had to say. Hugh Segal, who has been the most vocal critic on his side of the chamber of the process to suspend Mr Duffy, Ms. Wallin and Mr. Brazeau, stopped to talk to reporters.
"Most Canadians probably think there should be some sanction but they want it to happen after due process, not by some sort of fiat done in a motion that is the same wording precisely for three different individuals against whom different allegations of various infractions" have been lodged, said Mr. Segal.
He said he was heartened by statements from former Conservative environment minister Peter Kent who said there are a number of Tory MPS who are questioning the way the situation is being handled.
"I think it indicates that frankly, beyond partisanship and beyond which chamber in which you serve people are concerned about fair process, " he said. "We didn't win Vimy Ridge to give up the presumption of innocence in this chamber this week."
At an unrelated news conference Monday, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty commented on the ongoing controversy over Senate expenses, calling it “disruptive” to the government’s economic plans.
“I don’t talk about the Senate because I want to have a long happy life and I really have no interest in it, quite frankly, other than it’s disruptive of what we’re trying to do economically: jobs, growth and long-term perspective,” he said. “I’m actually an advocate of abolition of the Senate. I always have been and I think, just in this day and age, to have a non-elected legislative body is an anachronism.”
With reports from Gloria Galloway and Bill CurryReport Typo/Error