CAMPBELL RIVER, B.C. — Stephen Harper faced another grilling on the campaign trail Friday about where the buck stops inside the Prime Minister's Office.
Harper — who has been facing a steady parade of questions this week about PMO staffers who knew about the plan to pay Sen. Mike Duffy's expenses — said "the prime minister is always ultimately accountable for the government.''
"We are running on our record right across the spectrum here,'' Harper said during a campaign event in Campbell River, B.C.
"I think when it comes to the economy, the environment, everything else — I think we have a pretty solid record.''
The former lawyer for the PMO, Benjamin Perrin, has testified at Duffy's trial that Harper's current chief of staff, Ray Novak, was aware of his predecessor Nigel Wright's plan in 2013 to give Duffy $90,000 of his own money.
"Mr. Perrin has admitted that he never told me,'' Harper said. "The fact of the matter is this. In February, I told Mr. Duffy and Mr. Wright that I thought Mr. Duffy should repay his dubious expense claims.''
On Friday, Perrin indicated he believed Harper had signed off on the plan. Harper, for his part, stuck to his message that Wright is the only person in his office who ought to have been held to account.
"These were actions undertaken by Mr. Wright, by his own admission,'' Harper said.
"He is solely responsible for them, he has taken responsibility for them, and he has been held accountable for them and that's what I think people would expect me to do.''
Harper was in the B.C. riding of North Island-Powell River on Friday to promise an extended partnership with the Pacific Salmon Foundation and $15 million to restore and conserve British Columbia estuaries.
He said the investment will help to preserve the lower Harrison River's salmon ecosystem.
On Thursday, the Tory campaign visited the new riding of Courtenay-Alberni, where longtime Conservative John Duncan is in a tight race.
Duncan, who also attended Friday's announcement, said he continues to feel confident about his chances.
"I worry every election,'' said Duncan, who has run in seven previous campaigns.
"I mean, you get a pretty good barometer when you knock on people's doors and I'm not detecting a significant shift and that's actually comforting.''
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