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ALAN HOLMAN: Justice or revenge?

P.E.I. Sen. Mike Duffy is suing the Senate, RCMP and federal government for almost $8 million.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
P.E.I. Sen. Mike Duffy is suing the Senate, RCMP and federal government for almost $8 million. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Understated and subtle are not adjectives one would ever use when describing Mike Duffy.  

The reason for this was amply demonstrated Thursday with the news he was demanding nearly $8 million from the Senate and the RCMP to compensate for the pain, anguish and loss of income he suffered from the criminal charges he faced and successfully defeated in court.
The 31 criminal charges stemmed from alleged improprieties with his Senate expenses. He was suspended without pay from the Senate for two years pending the outcome of his trial. After he was acquitted of all charges in April, he returned to the Senate in May.
While there are some senators in the upper chamber who have actually stood for, and been elected to public office, most have not. With the exception of those appointments by Justin Trudeau, most of the senators sitting in the chamber are there as a reward for their service to the political party which put them there.
Many senators are political apparatchiks (backroom boys, and girls), not politicians. Unlike politicians they don’t have any sense or appreciation for what the public will, or won’t, find acceptable.
After his return to the senate, having been acquitted of all the charges against him, Mike Duffy asked for the pay and benefits he had been denied for more than two years. Something most people would think he was entitled to.
The Senate refused, hence Thursday’s court filing.
When he won his acquittal, Mike Duffy had one of the top criminal lawyers in the country. Don Bayne took the case because of what he saw as Prime Minister Stephen Harper abusing the power of his office. The judge agreed with him.
There are many who feel that what Mike Duffy did was legal; that he benefited from the vagueness of the Senate’s rules and regulations and the fact that the Prime Minister’s Office forced him and others in the Senate to do things to benefit the Harper government and the Conservative Party’s image.
Others think that what he did was morally wrong. That he skated very close to the line. He used the vagueness of the rules to his advantage, and got away with it.
Though he may be entitled to some compensation, the court filing also shows that Mike Duffy is as politically tone deaf as the other senate apparatchiks.
Few Canadians would deny him his unpaid salary and benefits, most would also think the Senate, in accordance with its own policy, should contribute to his legal expenses and also some additional funds for the anxiety he went through. Yes, the whole ordeal would have been extremely stressful, he likely lost lots of sleep and it surely didn’t do his health any good.
But, $8,000,000! Come on, get real. He wasn't locked up and tortured in a military prison in Guantanamo. Yes, it must have been a rotten, lousy, miserable three years, but he got to go home every night. He wasn’t in a cell in a foreign country.
In launching his civil action, Mike Duffy has hired another top Ottawa lawyer. Lawrence Greenspon has taken a somewhat unique approach. Instead of challenging the Senate’s right to be master of its own house, he is arguing that what the Senate did, in suspending Mike Duffy, was unconstitutional. It deprived P.E.I. of Senate representation when it had no constitutional right to do so. He is also arguing that the Senate’s actions against Mike Duffy, breached three different sections of the Charter of Rights.
Nonetheless, by asking for $6.5 million in general damages, another $1,000,000 in punitive damages, plus his back pay, plus his benefits, Mike Duffy doesn’t appear to be looking for justice, it looks like he wants revenge.
And he may get something, but it will likely take years. Civil suits take a long time to work their way through the system.


- Alan Holman is a freelance journalist living in Charlottetown. He can be reached at: acholman@pei.eastlink.ca

 

 

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