Duffy’s P.E.I. res­i­dency al­ways a ques­tion mark

Sackville Tribune - - NEWS - BY TERESA WRIGHT TC ME­DIA

OTTAWA – “Se­na­tor Duffy was prob­a­bly in­el­i­gi­ble to sit as a se­na­tor, and to sit in the Se­nate as a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Prince Ed­ward Is­land.”

With this one sweep­ing claim, the Crown at­tor­ney pros­e­cut­ing suspended Se­na­tor Mike Duffy’s crim­i­nal trial has voiced the con­cern many Prince Ed­ward Is­lan­ders have long felt about their em­bat­tled se­na­tor.

Af­ter all, Is­lan­ders ques­tioned his ap­point­ment to rep­re­sent P.E.I. from Day 1.

Weeks be­fore Duffy’s Se­nate ap­point­ment in De­cem­ber 2008, well-placed Tories in P.E.I. were mak­ing no se­cret of their lob­bing ef­forts to fill P.E.I.’s then-va­cant Se­nate seat. For­mer pre­mier Pat Binns and for­mer cabi­net min­is­ter Kevin Ma­cAdam were ru­moured to be on the short list.

That’s why, on Dec. 22, 2008, when Duffy’s ap­point­ment nounced, it took many by sur­prise.

Is­lan­ders had ze­roed in im­me­di­ately on the is­sue at the crux of the cur­rent Duffy ex­penses scan­dal – Mike Duffy had not lived year-round in P.E.I. for decades.

Back then, Is­lan­ders cer­tainly claimed him as their own. He was beloved as the “P.E.I. boy who made good.” But with more than a mil­lion tourists that visit the prov­ince ev­ery sum­mer, Is­lan­ders also know the dif­fer­ence be­tween peo­ple who live here and peo­ple who only sum­mer here.

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How would he know the is­sues im­por­tant to res­i­dents? How could he know what to fight for to cham­pion P.E.I.? Th­ese were the ques­tions raised at the time.

For­mer P.E.I. Con­ser­va­tive party leader Pat Mella, who was gun­ning for the ap­point­ment her­self, said she thought it would have at least gone to some­one well es­tab­lished on P.E.I. “I’m dis­ap­pointed, of course, be­cause I felt that we re­ally needed some­one from the prov­ince that would know the is­sues,” Mella said on Dec. 22, 2008. “But per­haps Mike Duffy will spend more time on P.E.I. and get to know the is­sues, or per­haps he knows the is­sues, but I thought it was a strange ap­point­ment from P.E.I.”

If only Duffy had lis­tened to that ad­vice. If only he had in­deed spent more time in P.E.I., he might not have be­come em­broiled in the Se­nate ex­penses scan­dal that has even dragged the prime min­is­ter’s of­fice into the fray of a crim­i­nal trial.

But then again, maybe it was a fore­gone con­clu­sion. Doc­u­ments filed in the Ottawa court Tues­day show he was ready with his first ex­pense claim just one day af­ter he was an­nounced as P.E.I.’s new se­na­tor, be­fore he was even of­fi­cially sworn in.

He also claimed for ho­tel stays dur­ing his first trip back to the Is­land days later. And, for a $149 din­ner at Sims Steak­house in Char­lot­te­town.

All the while, Duffy was de­fen­sive in in­ter­views with lo­cal me­dia about his res­i­dency

I’m dis­ap­pointed, of course, be­cause I felt that we re­ally needed some­one from the prov­ince that would know the is­sues.

Pat Mella

sta­tus on the Is­land. He didn’t like the ques­tions and was com­bat­ive.

“I didn’t go look­ing for (the ap­point­ment). I didn’t ap­ply. The prime min­is­ter called me. That was his judg­ment,” he told TC Me­dia on Dec. 22, 2008.

One can only imag­ine how many times Stephen Harper has re­flected on that de­ci­sion since then.

TC ME­DIA PHOTO

Mike Duffy is sur­rounded by the me­dia out­side the Ottawa court­house where his trial is tak­ing place.

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