Novak: 'I did not know that Mr. Wright was going to cut that cheque'
Published Friday, August 28, 2015 8:39AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, August 28, 2015 9:24PM EDT
The prime minister’s chief of staff Ray Novak says he did not know that his predecessor, Nigel Wright, was going to give Mike Duffy a personal cheque for $90,000 to repay questionable Senate expenses.
CTV’s Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife spoke Friday morning with Novak, who has been out of the public eye for more than a week. Fife caught up with the PM’s aide as he made his way to the Conservative campaign office, and asked him whether he knew about the $90,000.
Novak at first indicated that, because Mike Duffy’s trial is underway, it wouldn’t be appropriate for him to comment.
When pressed further, Novak told Fife: “Bob, I did not know that Mr. Wright was going to cut that cheque. Beyond that, I will speak at the appropriate time. Now is not the appropriate time.”
Fife then asked Novak if he had read the email in which Wright informed him that he was sending the $90,000 cheque.
“No I did not see that email, Bob,” Novak replied. “I first saw that email when it was disclosed much, much later.”
Conservative sources say that when the RCMP showed Novak that email, he offered his resignation to Harper, who refused to accept it.
Last week, former PMO lawyer Benjamin Perrin testified at Duffy’s criminal trial that Novak, who was then Harper's principal secretary, was present on two occasions in 2013 when Wright's payment was discussed.
That contradicts assertions from Harper and the Conservative campaign about what Novak knew about the repayment scheme.
Perrin testified that Novak was “present throughout” a March 2013 conference call when the plan for Wright to repay Duffy’s questionable expenses was discussed.
A high-level Conservative insider told CTV News that Novak turned over his notes of that meeting to the RCMP. The source maintains that Novak left the meeting before Wright revealed he’d be picking up Duffy’s tab.
Earlier this week, the PMO's former director of issues management Chris Woodcock testified that he didn't know Wright had written a personal cheque to Duffy until reporters broke the story several weeks later.
Woodcock told the court he received close to 1,000 emails each day, and missed the line in an email from Wright that read: “For you only: I am personally covering Duffy's $90K.”
Woodcock said he read only the first paragraph of the email and missed that last line. Asked when he found out that it was Wright who made the payment, Woodcock replied it was when the CTV News story broke in May.
Fife says Novak has been on the Conservative campaign trail in the days since both Perrin and Woodcock testified but reporters haven’t been able to speak to him because security personnel have kept them back.
When asked about Novak’s comments on the campaign trail Friday, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said: "Canadians aren't fools,” adding that it insults the intelligence of Canadians for PMO staffers to say they didn't read the emails.
Duffy’s trial is currently adjourned until November. The suspended senator faces 31 charges in connection with his Senate living, travel, and office expenses. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.