Mike Duffy: Now what? - Macleans.ca

Mike Duffy: Now what?

Ultimate Ottawa insider suddenly finds himself on the outside


OTTAWA – Mike Duffy has always been a larger-than-life character in political Ottawa, a chortling bundle of affable good cheer, prodigious appetites, nudge-wink insider gossip, political acumen, relentless name-dropping and unvarnished ambition.

He’s also been an unapologetic bridge-burner.

The 66-year-old, who cultivated his title as Senator Duffy as early as the 1980s when still a working a journalist, always aspired to a seat in the upper chamber.

He told ­ CBC’s Peter Gzowski in a 1985 radio interview that some newly appointed Liberal senators bedevilling then-Finance minister Michael Wilson “haven’t learned that this is a place where you’re supposed to sip scotch quietly and not cause too much of a ruckus.”

“Unfortunately, some of these new people appointed in the last year and a half actually seem to think they should take this seriously and they run the risk of getting the place abolished before I’m old and grey enough ever to be considered for an appointment,” he said, before quickly adding: “that’s a joke.”

Thursday evening the jokes all came crashing down, less than five years after Prime Minister Stephen Harper handed Duffy the brass ring he’d always sought. Duffy has caused another ruckus, and this one proved costly.

It’s just the latest chapter in a colourful story that no one should consider over, given Duffy’s tenacity in rebounding.

The one-time disc jockey in Charlottetown made it to the big leagues when he moved to the capital in the 1970s, where he built a reputation with the biggest news radio station in town as a hard-nosed digger who relentlessly pursued his political adversaries and friends alike. Within two years he’d landed a job with CBC Radio, which he soon parlayed into a CBC TV gig.

A brilliant decade on Parliament Hill prompted Duffy to jump to Baton Broadcasting where he could establish himself as the top dog as the first host of a new Sunday morning news program.

Duffy cultivated an image as an Ottawa insider with a layman’s sensibilities, an odd combination of Machiavelli cunning and Prince Edward Island back-slapping ingenue.

He attracted the most important interviews and attended all the right parties.

Duffy became a member of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame.

But he also left in the wings a trail of embittered producers, technicians and other co-workers unamused by his high-handed off-camera persona.

Old Duff. The Duffinator. The Puffster, to the satirical press – which he sued, claiming Frank Magazine’s lampooning had cost him the Order of Canada.

His journalism career effectively came to an end during the 2008 election, when Duffy gleefully took to the airwaves exhorting his CTV viewers to set their VCRs and PVRs because they’d want to watch the coming train wreck over and over. He then aired the outtakes of a disastrous interview with Liberal leader Stephane Dion, in which the English-challenged Quebecer stumbled repeatedly over an oddly worded question by a CTV interviewer in Halifax.

Conservative insiders widely credited the interview as the fatal torpedo in Dion’s listing Liberal campaign. In February 2009 the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council ruled Duffy had violated journalist ethics by airing an interview that “was not fair, balanced or even-handed.”

But by then Duffy had left CTV for life as a Conservative senator, which he took to with partisan gusto.

He’s been a fixture on the Conservative fundraising circuit ever since, bolstering the coffers of everyone from top cabinet ministers such as Diane Finley to back-benchers like Mark Warwara.

And he’s dodged years of questions about his P.E.I. residency, telling a reporter in 2009 he was “beneath contempt” for even asking about Duffy’s longstanding Ottawa address.

When the scandal first broke last winter over allegations of inappropriate housing allowance claims, Duffy was indignant.

In February, tracked down by a reporter with Charlottetown Guardian newspaper, Duffy was at his imperious best.

“It’s none of your business. I’ve said too much already. When it’s all over, you all will be very embarrassed,” he told the young reporter.

There may be Duffy’s political epitaph somewhere in those words. Just don’t write it yet. He’s a survivor.

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Mike Duffy: Now what?

  1. harpo, duffy, wright and all their crooked little con buddies need to be arrested.

  2. If he’s a survivor he needs to be booted off the island…

    • If we’re lucky, Jason Kenney will discover that Duffy lied on his refugee claim when he entered Canada and have him deported…

  3. …we can’t just not build technology like religious extremists want; will be wiped out along with literacy. We can’t just build market forces technologies. Democracy didn’t steepen taxes and raise education/progressive-media spending as Gini got larger. The petro net worth base is unearned wealth. The drive to learn things the boring way; arts and engineering and science, isn’t there if you were employeed by tar when young like Harper and GWB. And already they never made free time to learn things: get a job and live luxuriously in your free time, is the mantra. So democracy is dead.
    What remains is a Liberal education, the best of whatever future technologies drive us to be humane and competant, and some WMD/tyranny surveillence: more if you want power. Less if you want to just raise religious children and nest. Eventually rich people earn wealth/interest in a way that isn’t a psoitive work ethic or education or whatever that lead to their initial wealth. Too bad Italy listened to commies instead of Chretein. The future is Orwellian thx to GOP/CPC: I’ll tell you who to trust and why….

    • Wanna try this again when the drugs wear off?

  4. Prince Edward Island back-slapping ingenue


    Guaranteed no one has ever put those words together in the past.

  5. On Duffy’s TV show in November 1999 he encountered Margret
    Trudeau at an outdoor public event.

    It also happened to be the one year anniversary of her
    youngest son Michel’s tragic death in an avalanche while skiing. His body was never recovered.

    Mrs. Trudeau was out with girl friends who were no doubt
    trying to take her mind off things for that day. Duffy approached them and as he described it
    on his broadcast said to Mrs. Trudeau, “do you realize that today is the
    anniversary of your son’s death?”

    Mrs. Trudeau began to cry.
    Duffy then had his cameraman film from a distance while he got down
    beside Mrs. Trudeau sitting in the grass and apologize for upsetting her.

    Who says such a thing to a grieving mother?

    And who has the total lack of class to air such an encounter
    on TV?

    Duffy tried to spin it that he was being a noble gentleman
    by apologizing.

    • Actually, it was not an outdoor event, it was at Pierre Eliot Trudeau’s funeral, making it all the more despicable. Most Ottawa watchers do not believe Duffy meant to be cruel to her, but I have always felt differently about him; the woman dropped to her knees with grief.

      At this point, I feel sorry for a man so greedy and entitled that, even though he had been appointed to a life of easy wealth in the Senate, he had to have more. He had to rip off the people who were already paying for him to have a good life. And after a decades-long career in the public eye, he goes out as a pariah. That’s what he’s done to his legacy.

      • Even before his appointment as Senator, Duffy displayed his lack of ethics and just plain nastiness: “In 2008, a panel of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council ruled that Duffy had violated broadcasting codes and ethics during the 2008 federal election. The panel concluded that Duffy’s decision to air “false starts” of an interview with then-Liberal leader Stéphane Dion “was not fair, balanced, or even handed” and that during the same broadcast, Duffy “significantly misrepresented the view of one of the three members of his Panel…Liberal MP Geoff Regan”.
        This incident might have provided a reason why Harper thought that Duffy should be rewarded and would be a strong Conservative voice in the Senate.

  6. I have been a Senate supporter for years, but this lot ending in Duffy have finally changed my mind – abolish it and replace it with nothing – it’ll be a step up.

    • A Machiavellian view would be that Harper engineered these events for that very reason. But I think he’s too protective of his own reputation to risk the smears that are pervading the PMO. Duffy is the disgrace, along with those who sought him out to do their dirty work. There are very many honourable Senators, the vast majority of whom had no problem understanding the rules.

      • So the senators say, but they sure do like to not show any proof.

        • They were all audited (as far as we know) and 102 passed with 4 who were found to either have flouted the primary residence rules or have questionable expenses (Wallen). The audit results should be made public.

          • The senate is hardly as open as parliament and they’re not open enough for my liking. It’s not just this senate housing allowance scandal. The senate has a history of denying Canadians information. And now they’re all going to pay for it.

          • And while we are at it…. lets take a good look at their other expenses too… some of these Senators run up $ 100,000’s in travel expenses…………never mind $ 16,00 Orange juice

    • Oh and when we abolish it finally… don’t give the senators their pensions early..

      apply the same EI rules that apply to ordinary Canadians !
      i.e make them work for the money !

      • Why not just cancel their pensions. It’s not like they’ve earned it, ripping Canadians off, for decades now.

  7. When you make friends with and ultimately appoint a person who’s career was characterized by gleeful spreading of dirt and slime on others, be prepared for it to rub off when you shake hands. There must be a lot of people in the CPC who worry that Duffy will not go down without a fight and by doing so bring them down with him. $90,000 was peanuts compared to the damage that will ensue.

    • Even resigning from the con caucus, isn’t going to be enough to shield harpo and his goons.

  8. as far as I am concerned, this has made me wonder what kind of information Duffy was sitting on all those years that ended up in the appointment. He was sitting as a Con – not an Independent. I’ll be happy when he is sitting on the lawn. And now we can wait and watch what happens to the person who wrote the cheque — another appointment down the road is likely. When it hits the fan and begins to affect our Prime Minister, he begins to distance himself from those who are being hit the most. But they all get appointments eventually at taxpayers expense. Very sad to see a reporter who should know better go down like this.

    • should say – now an independent

  9. All talk. Show us the cheque of Nigel Wright, the brightest Harvard-educated lawyer in town.

  10. “Unfortunately, some of these new people appointed in the last year and a
    half actually seem to think they should take this seriously” – yeah, what a bunch of selfish jerks.

  11. He has always been a goof, good riddance.

  12. LOL….. the expression “Hoisted by his own petard” comes to mind.

  13. Maybe the Puffster can get tattooed to make himself look like a panda bear instead of a turtle, and have some photos taken with Harper to initiate his return to caucus.

  14. Now I know where the Idea for the cabbage patch doll cam from.