Harper frustrated over Senate shenanigans

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LIMA, Peru — Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized Wednesday and said he was in the dark when his chief of staff gave $90,000 to Sen. Mike Duffy — a gift opposition MPs want investigated by the RCMP and probed by Parliament.

"I’m very sorry that this has occurred," Harper said from Lima where he was on a trade mission. "I’ve been through the range of emotions. I’m sorry, I’m frustrated and I’m extremely angry."

Harper insisted during his first media availability since the scandal exploded that he learned of Nigel Wright’s gift to help Duffy reimburse inappropriate housing allowances through news reports.

"I think what’s more important about this … I was not consulted," Harper said. "I was not asked to sign off on any such thing."

And while Harper was apologizing about what was going on behind his back, his right hand in the Senate chalked up intensive coverage to "hyped-up media stories" in a town "populated by Liberal elites and their media lickspittles."

Marjory LeBreton, government leader in the Red Chamber, accepted no responsibility for what transpired under her watch while Conservatives were filing inappropriate housing and travel claims for years.

Duffy, whose case has garnered the most attention, refused calls Wednesday from Tories to quit.

He said in a statement that his actions "do not merit criticism" and welcomed a second look at his expenses by the Senate board of internal economy — the same committee accused of doctoring his first audit.

A request by Liberal senators to send the Duffy file to the Mounties was rejected by the Conservative-dominated committee.

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair said having the committee conduct a review "is about as credible as Paul Martin asking Jean Chretien to investigate the (Liberal) sponsorship scandal."

Mulcair also announced a "roll up the red carpet" campaign to abolish the Senate.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau alleged government interference and called on Conservatives to "tell us who gave the order to whitewash" the report.

"If Wright is solely responsible, when will the government call him to testify under oath to his malfeasance?" Trudeau asked.

The government stuck to its line that the federal ethics watchdog is investigating while the Senate ethics officer is also poking around.

Senators Patrick Brazeau and Mac Harb refuse to return their housing allowances, saying they broke no rules.

Sen. Pamela Wallin is awaiting an audit into travel claims.

All three now sit as independents, along with Duffy.