Mike Duffy an un­likely and un­like­able vic­tim

Truro Daily News - - OPINION -

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.

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