© Special to The Guardian by Andrew Collins
P.E.I. Senator Mike Duffy and his wife Heather leave the Kozy Kennels at 1305 Irishtown Road in Kensington Friday morning, July 18, 2014. The Duffys were picking up their dog from the kennel. Duffy issued a statement on Friday saying the court process will allow Canadians to hear all the facts.
After steering clear of cameras and questions on the day he was charged, P.E.I. Senator Mike Duffy defiantly stepped back into the spotlight Friday, inviting photographers to take pictures of him and telling reporters he has not broken the law.
Duffy issued a statement by email to The Guardian after a request for an interview.
The subject line read, ‘All I can say,’ and his email began stating that it would be inappropriate for him to comment, as the matter is now before the courts. But the suspended senator indicated his continued belief he will one day be vindicated.
“The court process will allow Canadians to hear all of the facts,” Duffy wrote. “They will then understand that I have not violated the criminal code.”
On Thursday, RCMP laid 31 charges against Duffy for alleged fraud, breach of trust and bribery. A conviction could lead to prison time, including a maximum of 14 years for the bribery charge.
The charges involve Duffy’s claims for living expenses, claims for travel expenses unconnected with Senate business and fraudulent contracts.
They also deal with the $90,000 Duffy allegedly received from Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s former chief of staff Nigel Wright.
On Thursday, Duffy would not emerge from his cottage in Cavendish, despite the attempts of several journalists who knocked on his door, hoping to get a photograph or obtain a comment from him on the charges.
On Friday he was much more friendly with the media at his cottage on Friendly Lane.
He answered the door for a Global TV crew and offered them the same statement he gave to The Guardian. Then, after they were packing up their gear, he came back out and invited them to stick around if they wanted to get a shot or two of him leaving.
A few minutes later, Duffy and his wife Heather emerged from the cottage, got into a red Hyundai Santa Fe and drove away.
Later, while picking up a dog at the Kozy Kennels in Kensington, Duffy spotted a photographer snapping photos of him from a distance. He was friendly and even switched into the passenger seat of the vehicle upon their departure, allowing the photographer to get a better shot.
Don Desserud, who teaches political science at the University of Prince Edward Island, says he believes Duffy’s change in demeanor with the media Friday shows Duffy may be almost relieved to finally know what he is facing.
“Now it’s out there and now it can be dealt with, and that probably brings forth a sense of, ‘OK now we can do something about it,’ as opposed to waiting to see what was going to happen,” Desserud said.
Duffy’s public comments Friday in which he maintains he will be vindicated through the court process are not unusual for someone in his position Desserud noted.
“He obviously has information that he believes will change people’s attitudes, will change the legal process in terms of where people think it’s going,” he said.
As for the political fallout, Desserud is not as convinced as other political pundits this will hurt the Harper government more than it already has. If anything, it may simply reinforce the views most people have already formed about the Senate expenses scandal and the alleged involvement of the PMO, Desserud said.
The real damage will be dealt to the Senate and its standing in the hearts and minds of Canadians, especially Prince Edward Islanders.
“Respect for the Senate is probably at an all-time low, on Prince Edward Island especially,” Desserud said.
“I think people are really fed up with the Senate as an institution, which I think is a real shame because I think that means hasty decisions might be made to reform an institution that needs to have a more careful examination.”
Duffy’s first court appearance is set for Sept. 16.
Both Premier Robert Ghiz and federal Fisheries Minister and Egmont MP Gail Shea declined to comment.