May 27, 2013 3:30 pm

Harper absent Monday as Senate controversy continues

OTTAWA – It may be the biggest scandal to hit his Conservative government, but it’s business as usual for Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

When asked if the prime minister, recently returned from a trip to South America, would attend question period on Monday, a spokeswoman for the Prime Minister’s Office said in an email that Harper “will follow his business as usual approach to QP this week.”

That “approach” is usually Tuesday to Thursday – with the prime minister typically absent from question period on Mondays and Fridays.

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This week he may also be away on Thursday, due to an official visit from Chilean president Sebastián Piñera.

Spokeswoman Julie Vaux did not answer a follow-up email asking where the prime minister would be on Monday, if not in question period.

Instead, Heritage Minister James Moore fielded questions from the opposition in the House Monday.

The Harper Conservatives were hammered last week as the opposition tried to get answers as to why Harper’s former chief of staff Nigel Wright gave Sen. Mike Duffy a $90,000 cheque to pay off his ineligible housing expenses, and whether Harper knew about the deal.

The prime minister has repeatedly said he did not know prior to media reports.

And while he refused to take questions from the media before departing last week, Harper addressed the issue from South America – apologizing and saying he could have accepted Wright’s resignation sooner.

Meanwhile, Liberal MP Scott Andrews put forward a motion in ethics committee Monday to conduct hearings into the handling of the repayment of Duffy’s expenses. It asked for the prime minister – along with Wright, lawyer Benjamin Perrin, and Harper’s new chief of staff Ray Novak – to appear and answer questions. However, the motion was defeated by the Tory-heavy committee.

And the government leader in the Senate, Conservative Marjory LeBreton, is urging the Liberals to support the government’s changes to Senate expenses which require more detail and restrict international travel and per diems, among other things.

As for answers from Harper in Parliament – guess we’ll have to wait until Tuesday.

Update: 

According to Harper’s official Twitter account, we know the prime minister spoke with the new Italian prime minister, Enrico Letta, earlier on Monday.

© Shaw Media, 2013

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