Duffy’s P.E.I. residency always a question mark
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.
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.
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.
Mike Duffy is surrounded by the media outside the Ottawa courthouse where his trial is taking place.