In a statement posted on Twitter, Harper said that he learned of allegations against Dykstra during the election, but understood that the matter “had been investigated by the police and closed a year prior.
WATCH: Andrew Scheer orders probe into why Rick Dykstra was allowed to run despite misconduct allegations
“Given this understanding of the situation, I did not believe that I could justify removing him as a candidate.”
Harper went on to say that more information has since come to light, “including information to the effect that the original investigation may not have been complete.
“In my view, it is essential that criminal allegations, including this one, be fully investigated and prosecuted if warranted.”
Harper’s statement came five days after Dykstra, the former MP for St. Catharines, stepped down as president of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario (PCs) after serving in the role since 2016.
His resignation was announced hours before Maclean’s magazine published allegations that he had been accused of sexually assaulting a Conservative staffer in 2014.
The incident, which allegedly took place after a post-budget party, was reported to Ottawa police in the same year.
Federal Conservative leader Andrew Scheer said Wednesday that he had asked the party to begin a third-party investigation as to why Dykstra was allowed to run as a candidate in that election.
Dykstra became president of the Ontario PCs after he lost the election.
But Harper’s wasn’t the only statement that was released after Scheer announced a probe into Dykstra’s 2015 candidacy.
Ray Novak, Harper’s former chief of staff, said the campaign had asked the Conservative Party’s lawyer to investigate further, but “unfortunately the facts available at the time were few: a closed investigation with no charges and a complainant asking for privacy.”
“This matter was not taken lightly by anyone involved, and any suggestion to the contrary is misleading and false,” Novak said.
“This was an extremely difficult decision that ultimately turned on whether a closed investigation without charges was sufficient grounds for firing.”
- With files from Rahul Kalvapalle
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