Mike Duffy, (above) a former broadcaster, is at the heart of a Senate expenses scandal. Appointed by Harper in 2008, he was initially seen as a huge asset to the Prime Minister, helping draw crowds to political events.
- The story so far: Duffy is one of several senators accused of improperly billing taxpayers for living expenses he incurred as a senator. He eventually agrees to pay the money back. A few months later, the Prime Minister's office confirms a former top aide to the PM covered Duffy's expenses for him. The PM denies knowing about the arrangement.
Oct. 22, 2013 -- "I was ordered by the Prime Minister: Pay the money back, end of discussion" Duffy tells a Senate hearing. Duffy says the PM issued the directive on Feb. 13 in a meeting between Duffy, Harper and Harper's then top aide, Nigel Wright. Duffy says he believed he had claimed the expenses properly and didn't want to repay them. He also says he came under increasing pressure from various senators and also Wright to go along with the plan. He says Wright threatened him with expulsion from the Senate if he didn't comply. Duffy says he told Wright he didn't have the money. "Don't worry, " Duffy says, quoting Wright. "I'll write the cheque. Let the lawyers handle the details. You just follow the plan.'"
Wright subsequently wrote Duffy what Wright later described as a personal cheque for $90,172, the amount Duffy needed to cover his disputed living expenses.
On Tuesday, after Duffy's explosive revelations in the Senate, Harper repeated his previous statement that he knew nothing about Wright's decision to repay Duffy's expenses. It "was a decision he took himself. He admits it was an error of judgment and he has taken full responsibility for his actions, " Harper says in Question Period.
Harper aide Jason MacDonald later says: "The Prime Minister was clear that he (Duffy) should repay any inappropriate expenses. That is the only time the Prime Minister discussed Mr. Duffy's expenses with him." No further comment was offered on Duffy's other allegations.
- Here's an audio link to Duffy's Senate speech.
- The controversy goes back to December, 2012 when questions first arose about several senators' expenses, including Patric Brazeau and Mac Harb. They're alleged to have improperly claimed thousands of dollars in housing expenses, all billed to the taxpayer.
Senator Pamela Wallin is also accused of filing improper travel expenses.
But it's not until February 2013 when Duffy first admits he may have made a mistake declaring his primary residence to be on Prince Edward Island, the region he represents in the Senate, when he lives most of the year in Ottawa. The former broadcaster, who was appointed to the Senate by Harper, says he'll repay any disputed living expenses.
- Feb. 23, 2013 -- "It's become a major distraction, so my wife and I discussed it and we decided that in order to turn the page, to put all of this behind us, we are going to voluntarily pay back my living expenses related to the house we have in Ottawa," Duffy says in an interview.
"Canadians know Mike Duffy. They've known me for years and they know that I would never do anything that was inappropriate and I would never, ever take advantage of my position in any kind of inappropriate way."
The expenses process is "extremely complicated." It's "antiquated."It's "very, very fuzzy."
- Prime Minister Stephen Harper (above) has denied any knowledge of a cheque issued by his former top aide, Nigel Wright, to cover Senator Mike Duffy's disputed expense claims.
- Several months later, word leaks out that Duffy's disputed expenses may in fact have been repaid by Nigel Wright, the Prime Minister's top aide at the time. On May 14, 2013. Harper's office confirms Wright, a former Bay Street financier, secretly wrote a personal cheque for $90,172 to bail Duffy out of a spending scandal. The payment came just ahead of a potentially damning audit of several senators' expense claims.
May 14, 2013 -- "Mr. Duffy agreed to repay the expenses because it was the right thing to do. However, Mr. Duffy was unable to make a timely repayment, " Harper spokesperson Andrew MacDougall says in a statement.
"Mr. Wright therefore wrote a cheque from his personal account for the full amount owing so that Mr. Duffy could repay the outstanding amount."
Harper was unaware of the cheque until it was reported in the media, a spokesperson for the PM says.
May 16, 2013 -- Duffy resigns as a member of the Conservative caucus to sit as an independent Senator. Duffy claims he had arranged his own loan with Royal Bank of Canada to cover the repayment.
"Given that my presence within the Conservative caucus only contributes to that distraction, I have decided to step outside of the caucus and sit as an independent senator pending resolution of these questions," Duffy says.
"Throughout this entire situation I have sought only to do the right thing. I look forward to all relevant facts being made clear in due course, at which point I am hopeful I will be able to rejoin the Conservative caucus, "
- Nigel Wright (above), former top aide to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, admits he wrote a personal cheque to Senator Mike Duffy to cover disputed living expenses Duffy had claimed as a Senator.
- May 19, 2013 -- Wright resigns as Harper's chief of staff over the Duffy expense scandal. In a statement, Wright says: "My actions were intended solely to secure the repayment of funds, which I considered to be in the public interest, and I accept sole responsibility.
- May 23, 2013 -- Harper finally comments on the conduct of his former chief of staff.
"I'm very sorry this has occurred. I'm sorry, I'm frustrated and I'm extremely angry about it, " Harper continued, but he also said it was the "sole" responsibility of Wright, his trusted ex-adviser.
"I was not consulted, I was not asked to sign off on any such thing. Had I, obviously, been consulted, more importantly I would not have agreed, and it is obviously for those reasons that I accepted Mr. Wright's resignation."
- Here's a video of Harper's comments: