Unfortunately for Harper’s version of events, there was an email trail, which somebody on Riddell’s campaign promptly leaked to reporters. Riddell wound up suing the party for his expenses. On January 11, 2007, Judge Denis Power of Ontario Superior Court ruled “that Alan M. Riddell and the Conservative Party of Canada entered into a binding agreement on November 25, 2005.” He could hardly reach any other conclusion. Among the evidence produced in court was a November 25 email from Mike Donison, the Conservatives’ former director general, to Riddell’s lawyer. The email read, in part: “There is now a binding agreement between Mr. Riddell and the Conservative Party of Canada.”
In 2005, Stephen Harper either didn't know what was happening within the highest ranks of his own Party or felt comfortable fibbing about what he did know.
Eight years later, the same thing's happening. Deals are being made within the upper echelons of Harper's staff - deals that are questionable in their legality - and Harper either has no ideas what's happening within his own house or is lying to us.
All this reminds me of a Colin Powell quote on leadership:
"The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership."
Maybe this is all part of Machiavellian Harper's plan to get the public to distrust and demand less government, who knows. What is clear is that leadership is fundamentally not what Harper cares about.