by Tom Henihan
On April 21, four months after a 62-day trial, Justice Charles Vaillancourt pronounced on the fate of Mike Duffy, acquitting the suspended senator of all 31 charges.
Duffy was charged with three breach of trust and bribery charges related to a $90,000 cheque he received from Nigel Wright and twenty-eight additional counts regarding expense claims related to residency, office and travel.
Vaillancourt reserved his more searing judgment for former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Harper’s lieutenant Nigel Wright and Wright’s “crew” in the PMO.
Justice Vaillancourt inverted the Crown’s argument that Duffy’s actions were motivated by “deceit, manipulations and carried out in a clandestine manner” when he took the $90,000 cheque from Nigel Wright.
“I find that if one were to substitute the PMO, Nigel Wright and others for Senator Duffy in the aforementioned sentence that you would have a more accurate statement,” said Vaillancourt.
Vaillancourt also said he found Duffy to be a credible witness and described Duffy’s behaviour as a senator to be reasonable and honest and exonerated Duffy because he was acting on the advice of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper and operating under outdated and nebulous senate rules.
Of course, hard and fast rules are necessary when people cannot be relied on to behave responsibly and ethically.
It appears that Mike Duffy did not know how to behave because there were no clear rules of behaviour for him to follow and he believed he lived on Prince Edward Island because Stephen Harper told him that he did.
This paints a picture of Mike Duffy as the proverbial babe in the woods, lost in the corridors of Ottawa seeking direction and guidance.
For anyone to put forward such a picture of themselves in order to avoid responsibility for their actions is in itself ignominious.
The absence of any clear rules did not give Mike Duffy license to exercise his greed, no matter how venial, and game the system for everything he could.
When there are no codes of behaviour to follow, generally the rule is to follow one’s own personal code: be civilized, honest and exhibit a sense of social responsibility.
It is no secret that the PMO during the Harper years was a dark, super-autonomous bunker that reflected the personality and traits of the prime minister: paranoid, surreptitious, vindictive, bullying and ruthless, to name just a few of the more predominant attributes. In this whole affair, it is apparent that there is substantial culpability to be shared by the “crew” in the PMO.
Nevertheless, for Mike Duffy to willingly cast his experience in the senate as that of being nonplused, overwhelmed and bullied as a child on his first day of school, demonstrates a lack of pride and self-respect. It shows a person who is willing to humiliate himself rather than take responsibility, who shamelessly declares to have surrendered his own free will.
The chasm between illegal and unethical is still wide and while unethical behaviour can be reproached it is seldom punished. Shortly after he was cleared of all 31 charges, Duffy was fully reinstated in the upper chamber, once again giving him access to all the advantages and perks that come with that plumb appointment, the ultimate political gift that just keeps on giving.