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Is there a smoking gun or not?

Well, there is no document or testimony directly connecting the Prime Minister to former Chief of Staff Nigel Wright’s payment of $90,000 on behalf of Mike Duffy.

However, in his answers to questions on this matter the Prime Minister has been anything but forthright and consistent.

Last May, and for quite a while afterward, Prime Minister Harper kept insisting that Nigel Wright “acted alone” on the $90,000 business, and then took full personal responsibility for his error in judgement.

There is now compelling evidence — from RCMP investigators, from Mike Duffy and his lawyer, and from media reports — that Nigel Wright did not act alone.

It appears that Wright was accompanied by a number of senior Conservative politicians and staffers.

Those include staffers Chris Woodcock, Jenni Byrne and Ray Novak, and Conservative Senators LeBreton and Stewart Olsen.

So overwhelming is this evidence that Harper has now dropped his claim that Wright was a rogue lone wolf. He now says there were “only a few” others in on the $90,000 caper.

When Opposition Leader Mulcair pressed Harper to say what he meant by “few,” the Prime Minister demurred.

And so the Prime Minister has either deliberately misinformed the House and the Canadian people; or somehow he was, himself, misinformed by key members of his entourage.

Either way it is not a pretty picture.

Harper now claims he never defended Wallin

And there are other ways in which the Prime Minister’s story has been, at best, a moving and elusive target.

Take the fact that, last February, Harper was so anxious to defend Pamela Wallin, he told the House he had seen her expenses and found them to be quite normal and not out of order.

Harper first said that less than a year ago, on February 13.

On Thursday of this week, Mulcair asked him about that less-than-a-year-old statement.

“The Prime Minister told this House on February 13 that he had personally reviewed Pamela Wallin’s expenses and vouched for them,” Mulcair said. “Was the Prime Minister misleading Canadians, or did he not understand a simple report like the rest of them claim? Did he not understand that most of that report was about partisan political activity for him and the Conservative Party?”

Harper’s answer is an extraordinary exercise in dissimulation:

“What I said was that all of the expenses of Senator Wallin and indeed all of the expenses of the Senate would be examined and appropriate action would be taken. Those examinations of the case of Senator Wallin have been taken and the Senate is now trying to take appropriate action, as it should.”

To that, Mulcair could not help but retort: “They write this stuff down in Parliament. It was February 13 [2013] and Canadians can go and check it.”

There is this thing called Hansard

So what did the Prime Minister actually say last February 13th?

Again, on that occasion, Harper was replying to a question from Mulcair.

“Senator Pamela Wallin claimed more than $300,000 in travel expenses in the past three years alone. Less than 10% of these expenses were for travel in Saskatchewan, the province she is supposed to represent,” the Opposition leader said on February 13. “Senator Wallin is using taxpayers’ money to travel around the country and to star in the Conservative Party’s fundraising activities. Does the Prime Minister believe it is acceptable for taxpayers’ money to be used to raise money for his political party?”

Here is how Stephen Harper answered, then. Compare that answer to the revisionist version of his answer he provided this Thursday.

“In terms of Senator Wallin, I have looked at the numbers. Her travel costs are comparable to any parliamentarian travelling from that particular area of the country over that period of time. For instance, last year Senator Wallin spent almost half of her time in the province she represents in the Senate. The costs are to travel to and from that province, as any similar parliamentarian would do.”

In February of this year, Harper virtually exonerated Pamela Wallin.

Now he has decided she should,for all intents and purposes, be banished. In addition — in an act of monumental chutzpah — Harper now blithely claims he never made the statement he made last February, and which Hansard duly recorded.

As we have said previously in this space: You be the judge.

Karl Nerenberg

Karl Nerenberg joined rabble in 2011 to cover news for the rest of us from Parliament Hill. Karl has been a journalist and filmmaker for over 25 years, including eight years as the producer of the CBC...