Mike Duffy an unlikely and unlikeable victim
That Senator Mike Duffy is an odious character driven by his own self-interest is not in doubt. He should never have been appointed by the Harper government. And we’d all be better off if he would just fade away.
But does that mean there is no justification for his lawsuit against the Senate and the RCMP? Let’s recap.
Back in 2008, Stephen Harper offered Duffy a Senate seat for political reasons. To his credit, Duffy questioned the fact that he was intended to represent his home province of P.E.I. but had lived in the Ottawa area for 40 years. The Constitution states senators “shall be resident in the Province for which he is appointed.”
Duffy’s concerns were assuaged by Harper and his staff, who told him to simply say he was still a P.E.I. resident, and also to claim living expenses on his house in Kanata to back up that claim. His concern laid to rest, Duffy cheerfully took a seat at the public trough. His cost of living and lifestyle didn’t change a bit once he was a senator, but he claimed tens of thousands in expenses, just as if his costs did change.
Then, along came the Senate expense scandal. Duffy became the poster child when his questionable expense claims came under public scrutiny and were audited. He was thrown to the wolves by Harper and his staff and quickly engulfed in the media and political firestorm that followed.
Here’s the thing. The forensic investigation into Duffy’s expenses basically found he’d done nothing illegal. His actions and attitude may have been – and were in our view – unethical and not in the spirit of accountability. But he was far from alone. The rules were loose, and Duffy played them, with the full knowledge and support from senior Conservatives, including the prime minister of the day and bureaucrats.
Now Duffy is suing. He wants more money from taxpayers. To be specific, $7.8 million more. His key claim is that he suffered “reputational damage.” If you are wondering how someone who suffered a damaged reputation for playing fast and loose with public money and trust can repair that damage by demanding even more public money, you’re in good company.
Be that as it may, Duffy has every right to the protections and redress offered by our legal system. We may not like the fact that he can use the system to suck up even more public dollars. But the rules have to apply to everyone, even the most undeserving.
Without offering a legal opinion we’re not qualified to express, it’s clear that Duffy was, in fact, a victim of a political vendetta by the Prime Minister’s Office and Harper himself. Duffy was at first counselled to take part in arguably unethical behaviour, and then thrown under the bus when the secret became public.
If the courts eventually find Duffy was victimized, due process should see that acknowledged. And the courts should offer him a settlement. Of about $1.