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Harper says chief of staff ‘dismissed’ over $90,000 cheque

Prime Minister Stephen Harper isn't picking a winner for this weekend's Grey Cup showdown.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper isn't picking a winner for this weekend's Grey Cup showdown. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

OTTAWA – The prime minister says his chief of staff was “dismissed” earlier this year after writing a $90,000 cheque to pay back Sen. Mike Duffy’s inappropriate expenses.

Stephen Harper’s comment on a Halifax radio show today is at odds with his statement in May that Nigel Wright resigned over the payment.

READ MORE: Tory Senate caucus may amend severity of suspensions

“I had a chief of staff who made an inappropriate payment to Mr. Duffy – he was dismissed,” Harper said in the interview.

The claim adds a new twist to a complex saga that is expected to take a new turn this week, with the Senate voting on whether to suspend without pay Duffy and two other senators – Pam Wallin and Patrick Brazeau – over inappropriate expenses.

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Some senators have said the trio deserve a full hearing and due process, and there are suggestions the Senate leadership may soften the motion.

READ MORE: We made a mistake: Conservative senator

But Harper today called on the Senate to press for full suspension, saying the standard for being booted out of the upper chamber should be higher than simply being convicted of a crime.

Harper said having misappropriated hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars is reason enough for tough action.

“There has been a view in the Senate, a long historic view, and there’s a few people who still believe it, even in our party, that the only standard for sitting in the Senate is that you’ve not been convicted of a crime,” he said.

“And I’m sorry, that is just not good enough.”