“My life is about trying to do the right thing," says Sen. Mike Duffy

The Canadian Press
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FILE PHOTO: Sen. Mike Duffy and Nora MacDonald, chair of the Cardigan Heritage group, unveil a Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada plaque commemorating the national significance of shipbuilding in Prince Edward Island.

Last day of testimony Friday, leaving closing arguments, verdict for new year

OTTAWA - Closing arguments at Sen. Mike Duffy's criminal trial will begin next year as testimony concluded Thursday with final evidence given by the senator himself.

The exact date for the final phase of a trial that's carried on far longer than the scheduled eight weeks hasn't been set. Only after the final lawyers' submissions - expected to be lengthy themselves - conclude will Judge Charles Vaillancourt begin to consider whether Duffy is guilty or not on each of the 31 counts of breach of trust, bribery and fraud he faces.

On his second day under cross examination, Duffy insisted it was human error and Senate convention - not graft or greed or desperate financial straits - that lay behind the expense claims at the heart of most of the charges.

Duffy was grilled on his per diem claims, including those filed from a holiday in Florida and a trip to B.C. for a cancelled political fundraiser that he turned into a chance to visit family.

Duffy took issue with what he saw as the premise of the questions from Crown prosecutor Mark Holmes - that he was doing it all for the money.

“My life is not about money, Mr. Holmes. If it were about the money, I'd still be at CTV,” the former broadcaster told the court.

“My life is about trying to do the right thing, be helpful to people and make a contribution.”

Duffy, who has pleaded not guilty to all charges, said that in his years as a senator, he was only alerted to problems with his claims maybe three times.

And as a show of his trust in the Senate's review process, he said he left a book of blank and signed personal cheques with his assistant so she could immediately repay any money he was found to have claimed in error.

Not that he always knew what claims were being submitted.

Court has heard that he also left a stack of signed and blank expense forms for his staff to fill out - a common practice in the Senate - because of the pressure on senators to keep up with their paperwork and file claims on time.

That's how one claim for the Senate per diems ended up being filed for days Duffy was actually on vacation in Florida, court heard. It was filled out in error by his assistant.

“Had I seen it, I would never have claimed for my time away,” Duffy said.

A trip he took to B.C. that was originally intended to support a local MP's candidacy on Vancouver Island turned into a family visit because the political component of the trip was cancelled last minute and Duffy was already there, court was told.

He could have paid to change his ticket but that would have been more expensive, he testified, though he acknowledged he never actually checked what those costs would be.

Instead, he ended up visiting his kids.

Duffy agreed that it was ultimately his responsibility to ensure the claims were valid and accurate, but the pre-signed forms were the way it was done.

My life is not about money, Mr. Holmes. My life is about trying to do the right thing, be helpful to people and make a contribution. Sen. Mike Duffy

“I did what the others did,” he said.

“Maybe it's poor practice, but there was never any intent on my part to ever file a false claim, to ever seek anything to which I wasn't by the rules allowed to claim.”

Central to Duffy's defence is the argument that he committed no crimes but was caught in a web of complex and arcane rules that made it impossible for any single senator to know exactly what to do.

But the Crown has argued that Duffy was keenly aware of what he was doing.

Their final line of attack Thursday related to $10,000 paid to his personal trainer for consulting work on a senior's fitness program Duffy was keen to see introduced.

Mike Croskery had worked with Duffy in 2008 to try and improve the senator's own health, but it didn't work, Duffy testified.

“You certainly wouldn't throw good money after bad?” Holmes asked.

“That's not a phrase I use,” Duffy responded.

Still, he wanted Croskery to try and devise a program that would help other seniors, inspired by an earlier Senate report into challenges facing Canada's aging population.

Duffy spoke to no witnesses involved in the testimony that led to that report, nor even read it in great detail himself, he testified.

Testimony at the trial lasted 61 days.

Organizations: CTV

Geographic location: Florida, OTTAWA, B.C. Vancouver Island Canada

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  • AMAZED
    December 20, 2015 - 13:51

    If his life was about doing the right thing why the hatchet job on Stephan Dion ? Do the right thing and plead guilty .

  • Joe Doe
    December 17, 2015 - 22:46

    WE NEVER DID FIND OUT ABOUT THE 90 GRAND,WHAT A WASTE OF MONEY AND TIME.

  • Adolphus
    December 17, 2015 - 22:46

    “I did what the others did,” he said.