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Harper pressed on Wright severance after resignation

Nigel Wright, Stephen Harper's chief of staff, is pictured in 2010. Mr. Wright has stepped down from his position in the midst of a scandal surrounding his $90,000 payment to Senator Mike Duffy over the latter's improper housing expenses.

Chris Wattie/Reuters

Did Nigel Wright receive severance for resigning from the Prime Minister's Office?

That was one of the questions that did not get a clear answer from Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Wednesday.

"We are required to pay certain amounts under law, such as certain accumulated vacation pay. Those policies are clear. The government cannot work around them. Mr. Wright will be paid only those amounts of money," Mr. Harper said, in response to a direct question from NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair.

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Shortly after the remark, Mr. Harper's communications team suggested there would not be a severance payment to Mr. Wright, who resigned as Mr. Harper's chief of staff this month for secretly giving Senator Mike Duffy $90,000.

However the comments from the PMO fell short of ruling out the possibility.

"We will check with the appropriate bodies to ensure that only those payments required by law are made," said Mr. Harper's director of communications, Andrew MacDougall, in a statement.

A spokesperson for Treasury Board President Tony Clement said in general, a political staffer in Mr. Wright's position is entitled to severance equal to two weeks of pay for each year of service.

The spokesperson referred questions specifically about Mr. Wright to the PMO.

Last year, the Conservative government said it would be saving $500-million a year by eliminating severance for public servants who quit their jobs.

NDP MP Charlie Angus said the Prime Minister needs to be clearer about what is being paid to Mr. Wright.

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"He's at the centre of a scandal that involved a secret payment. I don't think he should be really entitled to anything," Mr. Angus said. "I would like to know what he would be entitled to and is there an agreement that they're paying him out for his service?"

Mr. Wright's salary while working in the Prime Minister's Office has not been made public.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

A member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery since 1999, Bill Curry worked for The Hill Times and the National Post prior to joining The Globe in Feb. 2005. Originally from North Bay, Ont., Bill reports on a wide range of topics on Parliament Hill, with a focus on finance. More

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