P.E.I. Sen. Mike Duffy
©THE CANADIAN PRESS
Just when Canadians thought there was some hope to make the Senate great again, there goes Prince Edward Island’s problem member, dragging the upper chamber through the mud.
Sen. Mike Duffy won’t quit while he’s ahead. He avoided jail and got his job back. After refusing to do the honourable thing and resign, he stayed out of the public spotlight for more than a year since being acquitted of 31 counts of fraud, breach of trust and bribery. Now he thinks Canadians owe him a lot of money.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is following through on proposals to appoint qualified Canadians to the Senate. He is trying to salvage the upper chamber by making it a non-partisan, productive, legislature body. It’s an encouraging start after former prime minister Stephen Harper turned it into a Conservative Party playground. The ravages wreaked upon the red chamber by investigations, charges, suspensions and court cases brought the Senate to its lowest ebb in history.
P.E.I.’s other three senators seem busy but we are not sure what Sen. Duffy is up to because he doesn’t talk to the media. He’s been spotted around Cavendish over the summer but if he’s not going to talk to reporters, at least talk to Islanders. Why are we paying you?
Now that his summer vacation is over, Sen. Duffy seems keen to get back to work in Ottawa. But it’s not on behalf of Islanders; he’s devoting his time towards a court proceeding. He’s looking for $7.8 million in a civil action against the Senate, federal government and the RCMP. Any costs awarded will come from the public purse.
He alleges that his 2013 suspension by the Senate was unconstitutional and a violation of his charter rights and that the federal government is liable for the RCMP’s alleged negligence in its investigation. He assures us that his case is somewhat philanthropic in nature, if it brings Charter protection to all who work on Parliament Hill.
The Duffy affair started out five years ago as an issue over residency. Everyone knew he lived for years in Ottawa while spending summers in a Cavendish cottage. So was he really qualified to be a P.E.I. senator? And was he entitled to claim expenses for his Ottawa residence?
The RCMP investigated and the Crown decided it had enough evidence to bring the matter into court. He was found not guilty of 31 criminal charges. It’s called due process.
The case did confirm that the Senate had too many lax financial rules and needed to clean up its act. Canadians were appalled at the abuses involving taxpayers’ money in our chamber of sombre second thought.
Our 71-year-old senator could reach mandatory retirement at 75 before there is a decision or settlement. Will be devote his remaining working years seeking to feed at the trough or representing Islanders in the Senate?
If he wins, taxpayers will feel cheated - again. If he loses, people will wonder how the judge found him not guilty.
He will lose either way.