The curious case of Mike Duffy and the 31 counts


The gorilla in the Senate is biding his time

The gorilla in the Senate is biding his time

And then there was one.

Like pins on a bowling alley, they’re toppling: Retired Liberal Senator Mac Harb, Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau, and now that most tele-charismatic of them all, Tory Senator Mike Duffy who, last week, learned that the RCMP had charged him with 31 counts of fraud, breach of trust and bribery.

Only Conservative Senator Pamela Wallin (suspended like her colleagues, Messrs. Brazeau and Duffy) remains under police investigation for alleged fiduciary misdeeds.

But it is on Mr. Duffy that all eyes are focussed. That’s because it is thanks to Mr. Duffy that a government could fall and the edifice of the Conservative Party of Canada could crumble. 

If either of those scenarios play out over the next several months, it would make history; marking the first time a journalist (former or active) in this country played a role anything more substantial than gadfly to established power. And you can just bet he’s itching to scratch that substantial epidermis.

“The court process will allow Canadians to hear all of the facts,” he told reporters outside his home in Kensington, P.E.I., on the weekend. “They will then understand that I have not violated the Criminal Code.”

Looking almost relaxed for a man who has had two heart surgeries since his fat hit the flames several moons ago – when news erupted that he may have run afoul of Senate residency rules, expense protocols and the acceptable limit and circumstances for receiving. . .um. . .“donations” from “friends” to settle his debts to the Upper Chamber – Mr. Duffy promised to say nothing more to the media whilst his case is before the judicial system. 

Still, he intimated, his day in court promises to be a day of reckoning for everyone who ever thought of crossing him. His message to The Centre: “I’m coming for you.”

It’s not an idle threat. 

Legal experts wonder whether federal prosecutors can prove that the $90,000 “gift” to Mr. Duffy, from former Prime Ministerial Chief of Staff Nigel Wright to settle his account for improper senatorial spending, does, in fact, amount to receiving a bribe. After all, how can the recipient be charged if the ‘gifter’ gets off Scot free? To date, the RCMP has refused to charge Mr. Wright with any wrongdoing.

In a Canadian Press story, Queen’s University law professor Don Stuart put it this way:

“It seems unclear what the courts have made of the word corruption (in the relevant statute). Normally speaking you don’t have to prove a motive, but in (the Duffy) case you might have to, because of the use of the word corruption. . .They (the prosecution) will have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that his (Mr. Duffy’s) intention was a corrupt intention.”

But, then, that would amount to blackmail. And, by all accounts so far, that word does not appear in any of the indictments against the suspended senator. 

At this point, a multitude of questions become salient. 

If Mr. Wright, with all the best intentions (though possibly career-ending poor judgement), merely wanted to settle the matter of Mr. Duffy’s expenses privately without further burdening taxpayers, is it possible that certain government operatives, unbeknownst to Mr. Wright, appended a coercive codicil to the deal that required Mr. Duffy to extend, in return for the booty, certain favours to his political masters or, alternatively, instruct him to keep his mouth shut about certain, past wrongdoings of which all were intimately familiar?

Again, would that amount to bribery or blackmail?

Naturally, it’s all speculation. Still. . .

“If the matter goes to full trial and potentially involves the sitting prime minister of the country in connection with matters of the Senate, we will see a mix of politics and law that will be one of the outstanding trials in our history,” Rob Walsh, former law clerk to Parliament, told the Toronto Star’s Tim Harper. “If it comes to that.” 

Anyway you cut it, that’s bad news for the current government. It hardly matters when Mr. Duffy’s trial embarks. The scandal has already tainted the Tory regime and the Senate, where further investigations of other standing members are, we are told, underway.

And then there were none.


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