POLITICS

Harper Gave A Much Different Answer On 'Good To Go' In 2013

08/10/2015 11:47 EDT | Updated 08/10/2015 11:47 EDT

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper may face more questions on the campaign trail this week about what was meant by "good to go."

Harper's former chief of staff Nigel Wright — who will be taking the stand Wednesday in Mike Duffy's criminal trial — suggested in emails in 2013 that he had received the prime minister's approval to resolve Duffy's expense issues and help sweep the embarrassing political matter under the rug.

While campaigning in Ottawa on Sunday, Harper denied telling Wright that he was ever "good to go" with anything.

"The words you are quoting are not my words," Harper said. "They are somebody else's. I have said repeatedly, and I think the facts are clear, I did not know about — that Mr. Wright had [given] payment to Mr. Duffy. As soon as I learned that, I made that public. Mr. Wright has been clear about that and the very document you are quoting also makes that clear. The RCMP investigated and said that is the case."

But when Harper was asked what "good to go" meant by NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair on Nov. 20, 2013, he gave a very different answer in the House of Commons.

"Mr. Speaker, good to go with Mr. Duffy repaying his own expenses, as he has acknowledged I told him to personally," Harper responded, when asked what "good to go" meant.

"I was told that Mr. Duffy was going to repay the money himself, something he announced on national television for everybody," Harper added. "That story proved not to be true. When I learned that it was not true from Mr. Wright, on May 15, we took the appropriate action, and that is why Mr. Wright and Mr. Duffy are now under investigation."

Wright had originally tried to get the Conservative Party of Canada to repay Duffy's expenses, but when the bill was too high, he dipped into his own pockets and wrote a $90,000 cheque to refund the Senate.

In a series of emails, which were included in an order to produce evidence filed in court in 2013, Wright writes that he has the "go-ahead" to keep Duffy "whole on the situation." But Wright doesn't say who gave him the final go-ahead.

"I do want to speak to the PM before everything is considered final," he writes at one point. An hour later, he sends another email saying: "We are good to go from the PM once Ben [Harper's lawyer] has his confirmation from Payne (Duffy's lawyer)."

In the 2013 production order, RCMP Cpl. Greg Horton wrote, however, that he had no evidence to indicate that Harper was personally involved in the matter. "Details of what he discussed with the Prime Minister are not contained in the e-mails," he wrote.

Wright is scheduled to take the stand on Aug. 12, when Duffy's trial on charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery resumes. The senator from Prince Edward Island faces 31 charges. His lawyer is expected to spend several days cross-examining Wright.

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