One of the prime minister’s staffers accused of being in the loop about Nigel Wright’s plan to personally pay Sen. Mike Duffy $90,000 has said he wasn’t aware of Wright’s cheque to Duffy until after media reports about it, according to Harper’s office.
Chris Woodcock, the prime minister’s director of issues management, was one of three people in Stephen Harper’s office whom Wright, then Harper’s chief of staff, told of his plan to provide funds to repay Duffy’s improperly claimed expenses, according to a letter from Wright’s lawyer to the RCMP.
The allegation that a circle of advisers in Harper’s office knew of Wright’s plan to provide funds to Duffy appears in court documents released last week, and challenges statements made by the prime minister on the subject.
None of the allegations in the document — which is a summary of the case police are using to obtain Senate records and other evidence — has been tested in court. No charges have been laid.
The decision was Mr. Wright’s alone

But Woodcock has told the prime minister’s office that he was not aware of Wright’s personal cheque to Duffy until May 15, according to Harper’s director of communications Andrew MacDougall.
“ (Woodcock) has informed our office that he was not aware of Mr. Wright’s personal cheque being used to reimburse Mr. Duffy until May 15. The decision to do so was Mr. Wright’s alone,” MacDougall said on Sunday.
According to the sworn RCMP affidavit, Wright’s lawyer told the Mounties that Wright told three people in Harper’s office he would personally provide funds to repay Duffy’s expenses: Benjamin Perrin, former legal adviser; David van Hemmen, current executive assistant to the chief of staff; and Woodcock.
Wright resigned in May after news of his $90,000 cheque to Duffy became public.
Christopher Pike/Postmedia News; Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian PressThe prime minister’s then chief of staff Nigel Wright wrote a $90,000 personal cheque so Senator Mike Duffy could repay housing expenses he falsely claimed.
The allegation that Wright told people in the prime minister’s office about his plan contradicted Harper’s statement in the House of Commons that Wright had acted alone and hadn’t told anyone in his office about the deal.
“ It was Mr. Wright who made the decision to take his personal funds and give those to Mr. Duffy so that Mr. Duffy could reimburse the taxpayers. Those were his decisions. They were not communicated to me or to members of my office,” Harper said on June 5.
Asked about the new revelations on Saturday in Calgary, Harper reiterated that he didn’t know about Wright’s decision to reimburse Sen. Duffy until May 15, after media reports, and that had he known about it he wouldn’t have allowed it.
I answered questions to the best of my knowledge
“ When I answered questions about this in the House of Commons, I answered questions to the best of my knowledge and what’s in the affidavit is the extent of what we know. And I think if you read the affidavit it makes very clear that the decision to pay money to Mr. Duffy out of Mr. Wright’s personal accounts was made solely . . . by Mr. Wright. It was his responsibility. So this was not a decision of the office.”
The document indicates the RCMP is pursuing Duffy for two allegations of breach of trust and another allegation of fraud on the government for improper expense claims to the Senate, and for taking Wright’s money.
The investigators believe the deal was unknown to the prime minister himself.

Also told about the payment plan, the RCMP alleges, was Sen. Irving Gerstein, who oversees the Conservative party’s fund.
According to the document, Wright’s lawyers said the federal Conservative party initially planned to repay Duffy’s improperly claimed living expenses using taxpayer-subsidized party funds when the amount owing was believed to be about $32,000. The party balked, however, at the actual sum owing and did not pay it.
“ The party took the line that it was wrong to make an illegal payout of $90,000 but it was okay to make an illegal payout of $30,000,” said NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus. “They were going to use the donations that trusting Canadians gave them on the promise that they were there to clean up Ottawa.”
Angus accused Harper of misleading Canadians when he said Wright acted alone, saying his credibility on the matter has sunk further.
“ The prime minister can’t escape this because he misled Canadians. His key ministers misled Canadians,” he said. “For the prime minister to say at this time that Nigel Wright acted alone, it’s preposterous.”