Both Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair are directly accusing Stephen Harper of deceiving Canadians on the Wright-Duffy affair.
The Liberal leader was first to be asked Wednesday morning to react to new developments at the trial of Sen. Mike Duffy.
A day earlier, Duffy's lawyer revealed that Harper's former legal counsel told police that Ray Novak, the prime minister's current chief of staff, knew Nigel Wright paid Duffy's expenses. Conservatives have maintained Novak was unaware of the scheme and a top spokesperson even said it would be "unfathomable" for Novak to know about the plan and not tell Harper.
Trudeau, speaking to reporters at an event in Winnipeg, said the entire issue comes down to whether Canadians can trust the prime minister and his office.
"Canadians are not fools," Trudeau said. "They know Mr. Harper has not been telling the truth."
The Liberal leader ducked a question about whether he would support the federal NDP's call to launch a police investigation into Wright, saying all Canadians need to know if Harper and his office "behaved with integrity."
When pressed again about the NDP's call for a new probe, Trudeau said he trusts the current process unfolding in court.
The Liberal leader said the entire scandal shows Harper is "more focused on his job and the jobs of the people around him" than employment prospects for Canadians.
Trudeau was also asked about Ala Buzreba, a Liberal candidate for Calgary-Nose Hill who stepped down after several offensive tweets surfaced.
Though the Liberal leader initially defended Buzreba on Tuesday, telling reporters "we all make mistakes," he said Wednesday that her decision to resign might be a lesson for some people in Ottawa "in terms of personal responsibility and admitting one's mistakes."
Mulcair was also asked to weigh in on the scandal after an announcement in Surrey, B.C.
Speaking in French, the NDP leader told reporters that the testimony at Duffy's trial makes it clear that "Mr. Harper has not been honest with Canadians, he hasn’t told the truth."
Mulcair also suggested it would be hard to imagine how Harper did not know about the Duffy deal if Novak was aware.
"One plus one equals two," he said. "Now we know that Mr. Novak knew, so we can conclude Mr. Harper also knew. So, I think it's high-time (Harper) started to tell the truth," he said.
Harper Deflects Media Questions
The Conservative leader was asked about Wright, Novak, and Duffy at an event in London, Ont. on Wednesday. Harper repeatedly said he would not comment on matters before the court and stuck to his answer that the "two people responsible" for the scandal — Wright and Duffy — are being held accountable.
At one point, Harper was asked directly by a reporter why he was "protecting" Novak.
"I'm not going to cherry-pick facts that are in dispute before a court," Harper said to applause from supporters, adding again that he held Wright and Duffy responsible for their actions.
On Tuesday, the NDP formally asked RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson if Wright should face criminal charges and whether a dozen Tory staffers should be investigated in light of what is coming out at Duffy's trial.
In a letter to Paulson, NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus stated Wright’s testimony has raised new questions about his "role in the scandal."
"Furthermore, Mr. Wright's testimony has painted a picture of numerous senior staff in the Prime Minister's Office working together to try and cover-up this scandal," he wrote.
When asked by The Huffington Post Canada on Tuesday if Harper still had full confidence in Novak, Conservative spokesperson Stephen Lecce responded with the following email statement:
The Prime Minister told Mr. Duffy to repay his expenses. The Prime Minister was told Mr. Duffy had repaid those expenses. When the Prime Minister learned that was not true, he made that information public. There are two individuals responsible for this matter – Mr. Wright and Mr. Duffy – and they are being held accountable.
With files from The Canadian Press
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