You read that right. For probably the first time since this trial began, Duffy had a good day. That’s because Judge Vaillancourt appeared exasperated with the Crown, asking aloud if there were “any rules at all” governing senators’ travel. (To his credit, Duffy resisted the urge to jump and yell No.) The Crown, of course, has been trying to prove clear rules were in place—but in a telling exchange, the judge told Crown attorney Jason Neubauer, “I hope you have something more substantial than what appears on the platter right now.”
Step aside, Judge Judy. Judge Vaillancourt is in the house. The past two weeks have seen the occasional quip in the courtroom, but things really took a turn for the testy today. In addition to the Vaillancourt/Neubauer exchange, the Crown and defence attorneys also spatted, causing the judge to step in: “Gentleman. Really and truly, I think it’s time for the morning break and we can regroup.” Try that stuff in somebody else’s courtroom, busters.
Who needs security when you’ve got a random man in a bike helmet? As reporters followed Duffy to his car after court adjourned, calling out questions, they were shouted down by a man yelling profanities. “You’re welcome,” he told Duffy as the former senator got into his car, laughing at the scene.
Summer election rumours
Duffy attorney Donald Bayne suggested today that this trial will need another six-week block, and noted that he just so happens to be free this fall. Could Stephen Harper try to come up the middle, with a summer election? Let the rumours begin!
The fallout from the Duffy diaries continues, with CTV’s Laura Stone reporting Duffy charged taxpayers $12,000 for personal trips to funerals. Meanwhile the National Observer says the documents show Duffy was in regular, undisclosed contact with pipeline giant Enbridge.
Law school applications
A group of 27 high school students chose to sit in on today’s proceedings – for about an hour, Kristy Kirkup reports. Don’t blame the teens. There was little excitement during Senate finance official Nicole Proulx’s second day on the stand. This afternoon, for the first time since the trial began, there were no members of the public in the overflow room.
The court is hearing about “SARS” every day, which was initially quite alarming. But it’s not SARS as in severe acute respiratory syndrome. It’s SARs, small s, short for Senate Administrative Rules.
Comment from Ariana Grande
Mike Duffy’s insistence on getting what he wants would impress even pop music’s biggest smallest diva, Ariana Grande. Today the court heard that Proulx turned down Duffy’s $300 expense claim for make-up services, spelling out to him in a letter that it wasn’t Senate business. Duffy challenged her ruling, taking the $300 makeup claim up with the internal economy committee, then eventually reimbursing himself through Gerald Donohoe’s media firm. (Which as we heard earlier this week, wasn’t really Gerald Donohoe’s and wasn’t really a media firm.) As the defence seeks to make the case that Senator Duffy was behaving in a reasonable way, perhaps Grande is the one person who would agree.
Now that the House is sitting again, the Duffy trial is providing ample fodder for Ottawa’s favourite pastime: question period zingers. Both Tom Mulcair and Justin Trudeau brought up Duffy today, with Mulcair referencing the infamous photo Harper signed declaring Duffy one of his best, hardest working senators ever. Duffy never introduced a bill, Mulcair pointed out, so to what hard work might he be referring?
Today, the Crown made its case that Senate rules do exist, and Duffy was informed of them – in a letter! For younger readers, a letter is an email transported by human hands. Nicole Proulx, former director of Senate finance, read aloud the points made in the letter: that Senate resources are to be used for Senate business, that the senator himself will be accountable for their use, and that if he has any questions, he should ask the Senate administration. If only anyone still opened their mail.
Proulx told the court newly appointed senators are experiencing so much excitement and wonder, that the administration tries not to overwhelm them with too much information at the orientation session. If Harper or any future prime minister ever musters the political courage to appoint a senator again, too much excitement and wonder are unlikely to be the appointee’s biggest issues. Too much sweating, perhaps. Too many pitchforks. But not too much excitement/wonder.
One day, when this is all behind us, and senators follow the rules and Harper’s granddaughter is in charge, we’ll reminisce about Duffy’s escapades with a smile. Remember the time he claimed his primary residence is in P.E.I., but went to P.E.I. and tried to claim per diem? Glorious. Those were the days.
Sure, recording a simple radio jingle would be a less sweaty affair. But Mark Vermeer, who owns Kanata print shop Jiffy Photo, almost certainly drummed up new business during his morning in the witness box. The court (and Twitter) heard about Jiffy’s services in detail – they printed and enlarged photos for Duffy of the Queen, Will and Kate, Bill Clinton, Barbara Bush and more. Not only were dozens of reporters tweeting the Jiffy name, but CBC’s Louise Elliott noted “consensus in overflow courtroom is that Jiffy Photo has very reasonable rates.” One invoice was for just $2! Even 20 years ago, you’d need double that to get Tiger Beat and its glossy Jonathan Taylor Thomas centrefold.
Maple Ridge Media
The mystery surrounding Duffy’s pal’s firm deepened today: no one seems quite sure anymore who runs it or what it does. Gerald Donohue’s son Matt Donohue told the court that despite its name, Maple Ridge Media is not a media company. It’s a construction company. Just as confusing, Donohue testified that his father is not an owner and does not having signing power – that rests with him and his mother. But that’s strange, because the elder Donohue signed a lot of cheques to cover Duffy’s expenses. A telling quote from Donohue on the stand: “I don’t really understand how corporations work.”
Jokes about Duffy’s home(s)
Just kidding! They are alive and well. When the Crown asked Donohue today if he has ever been to Duffy’s home, the witness clarified “His principal residence?” This, according to Kady O’Malley, prompted “a shocked wave of giggles from the crowd.”
Next week, the Crown is expected to call Gerald Donohue, the Duffy pal who signed cheques from Maple Ridge Media (despite his son’s testimony today that he doesn’t have the authority to do that). The elder Donohue was hospitalized last week, but is now back home.
Duffy Family Values
Today’s first witness was Duffy’s first cousin, David McCabe, helpfully saving the two a long-distance call this weekend. From Charlottetown, McCabe recounted how over the years, he’d send Duffy local news articles, just to keep him in the loop about what was happening on P.E.I. This took McCabe a half-hour per week, for reasons obvious to anyone who’s been to P.E.I. But nevertheless—you guessed it—McCabe received an unsolicited $500 cheque from an unfamiliar firm for his efforts. That’s just the kind of cool cousin Duffy is.
All the technology
Both of today’s witnesses appeared via videoconference, if you loosely define the word “appeared.” Sometimes the video cut out, sometimes the audio cut out, and the whole time everyone was exasperated. “We can see McQuaid. He just put his head in his hands and rubbed his face. Dude. I hear ya,” Rosemary Barton tweeted.
Ottawa’s undivided attention
Duffy’s trial got underway while parliamentarians were on Easter break; now the House is back, and tomorrow the federal budget will be unveiled. If Duffy wants to make headlines (he doesn’t), then he needs to take the stand tomorrow (he won’t).
Trips to Bora Bora Bora
There should only be two “Boras,” you say? Nonsense. We’re going to need all the Boras we can get. The Hill Times reports Conservative staffers are likely apprehensive about testifying at the trial, because what they say on the stand could end up affecting their political careers. Take it from Ezra Levant: there are ways around this. The former Sun News personality, who was due to testify on April 17, then due to testify today, has successfully seen his date pushed all the way to April 24 thanks to previously booked “international travel.” That’s advice you can take to the bank, convert into cash, and use to buy a ticket abroad.
Not even the people Duffy paid can explain Duffy’s payment habits. Veteran journalist Mark Bourrie testified today (as volunteer Ashley Cain did yesterday) that he never expected to be reimbursed for the time he spent helping the Senator. Yet, just like witnesses who did invoice Duffy, along came a cheque… from a mysterious third-party company owned by Gerald Donohue.
Just one day after the senator’s exercise routine was publicly detailed, Bourrie told court how he helped Duffy manage his reputation online. Ironically, this meant spelling out exactly which material Duffy wanted removed from the Internet: right down to his old nickname, the Puffster. That moniker may no longer be on Duffy’s Wikipedia page, but it’s on the court record.
The Oxford dictionary
The court has moved from quoting the dictionary to quoting Wikipedia. Is that progress? You be the judge, because Justice Vaillancourt is pretty busy. This weekend, he’s deciding whether Duffy’s Wikipedia page ought to be submitted into evidence.
The former Sun News personality has finally found a way to make people watch him: he is scheduled to take the stand on Monday, via video link.
The witness count
The Crown called an unprecedented three witnesses today: the office volunteer, the makeup artist, and the fitness trainer. Still to come: the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker. All three were on the stand because they received payments for their services from Maple Ridge Media—the firm to which Duffy helpfully directed $65,000 from his office budget.
Mike Croskery wasn’t Duffy’s personal trainer, he was his aging population consultant—or so the defence continues to insist. This is despite the fact that their “consultations” began with 10 minutes on a stationary bike at Duffy’s home. Croskery admitted on the stand that there’s nothing to show for the $10,000 he was paid for his services—no report, no legislation, not even any notes. Still, the senator had him mark his invoices with a “consulting” notation. Duffy “doesn’t look real thrilled right now,” Rosemary Barton observed.
Senate administrative rules
The good news is this: after seven days that seemed to last a month, the Crown is moving from the people who dealt with Duffy’s paperwork to the people who dealt with Duffy himself. It’s probably time for Nigel Wright to book a flight, and also a gap year.
Duffy as folk hero
You’ve got to hand this much to Duffy: he shares the wealth, even if it isn’t his own. Like many young people who volunteer to get experience, Ashley Cain didn’t expect to get paid for the hours she put in going through the mail at Duffy’s office. But the senator swooped in and sent her a cheque for $500—c/o the taxpayers, with love.
This game’s going into OT. Judge Vaillancourt admitted today that Duffy’s trial will take more than 41 days. Extending it isn’t as easy as tacking on a few weeks in June, though. The Crown and defence lawyers need to find a time that works for them and for the court – meaning this thing could go into the fall, into Christmas, even into 2016. After court adjourned for the day, Vaillancourt told reporters the trial “could” and “should” be over before the federal election…but not that it “would.”
If you think watching the same witness on the stand for three days is tiring, imagine how she feels. Numerous journalists commented on Makhlouf’s demeanor in the witness box today: she was agitated, tired, resigned, as the lawyers argued over such eye-glazing details as the time stamps on faxes. Duffy’s attorney initially said he’d need to question her for another hour today. Instead, he took six. And it still isn’t over: the Crown gets a chance to cross-cross-examine—re-direct is the technical term—Makhlouf tomorrow.
Our last scrap of hope in the Senate
The picture emerging at trial is not one of Mike Duffy as Criminal Mastermind. Far from it. It’s very easy for senators to game the system, because of lax oversight. Makhlouf, who is a human resources clerk, admitted on the stand today that guidelines and policies are one thing, but practices are another.
The Chalet sauce defence
You might associate Mike Duffy with a $90,000 cheque, but an amount that’s equally telling is a toonie. That’s how much Duffy expensed after spending two bucks on a photo enlargement. Evidently he wanted the money back, and rather than searching in his couch cushions, he went searching in the public purse. This presents us with the possibility for the most Canadian defence ever: Your Honour, don’t begrudge this Canadian his toonie. That buys four extra dipping sauces when he next visits Swiss Chalet!
It’s a good thing the courthouse coffee chain beefed up its staff. Defence lawyer Don Bayne might have been so stoked about today’s technical testimony that Kady O’Malley noted he showed up with a four-inch binder “festooned with pink stickies,” but he’s in the minority. Rosie Barton reports someone got told off for closing their eyes in court this afternoon; all she’ll say is that it wasn’t her.
Until this trial began, the NDP leader was a fan favourite in his starring role of Prosecutor in the House of Commons. Now the matter is before a real judge, and – adding insult to injury – Duffy’s lawyer has gone and stolen Mulcair’s go-to prop: the lectern. Bayne is using not one, but two (2!) in the courtroom. Show off.
We did establish one rule today: Senators cannot hire their own family members. Beyond that, there’s not much that’s off limits. Two words stood out in court today: latitude and discretion, which are highlighted in a 1988 document that seems to permit the Red Chamber occupants the freedom to spend according to their own interests. And oh, how they do! Today’s witness from the Senate’s HR office testified that nothing stood out about the payments Duffy made to a friend’s firm. This bares repeating: there was nothing unusual about these very unusual payments.
Duffy Tax Tips
It’s April, a month when many of us realize we’ve been spending beyond our means because our accountant informs us. Well, say what you like about how Duffy misspent his money, but his misspent it within his means. The defence showed today that Duffy did not exceed his $150,000 office budget, meaning the Duffster still has a bright future ahead of him in personal financial (mis)management.
Duffy Friend requests
The focus in court today was how Mike Duffy awarded his friend Gerald Donahue’s firm $65,000 in contracts for services like speech writing, makeup, and little else—and you had me at $65,000. Is there also a health and dental plan? The Senator was so dedicated to giving his friend money that, when his office budget showed a surprise surplus at the end of the fiscal year, instead of letting it roll back into the public treasury, documents show that Duffy signed it over to his buddy.
The Senator who famously complained the Auditor General shouldn’t expect her to eat “ice-cold Camembert” while travelling was unveiled by Charlie Angus today as the latest addition to the NDP’s Senate trading cards. Although once you’re the Queen of Camembert, a Queen of Hearts is really the least of your worries.
Court adjourned early today to give Donald Bayne time to prepare for his cross-examination of Senate HR officer Sonia Makhlouf. The Crown dropped 1,000 pages of documents on him this morning that he needs to review before 10 a.m. In other words, you’re going to have a much better night than he is.
Ahead of us:
For reasons that are delightfully unclear, Duffy sent an 8×10 mounted photograph to Barbara Bush in 2010. The Crown has already shown a penchant for dropping “fitness training” references to highlight the absurdity of Duffy’s Parliamentary expenses. Now there’s so much potential for Barbara Bush name-checks, particularly when the Crown makes its closing arguments: “I’m not going to beat around the Barbara Bush, Your Honour. The Duffster’s accounting was Barbara Bush league.” Game over.
Duffy’s commitment to PEI
For too long, we’ve laughed off the idea that Duffy was a Senator for Prince Edward Island. No more. Now we see how truly, madly, deeply he feels for the province. As Charlottetown’s Guardian newspaper reports, Duffy cares so much, he actually tried to intervene in its 2011 provincial election. Rather touching, isn’t it? Notes from Duffy’s diary detail meetings with local Conservatives and a Globe and Mail reporter about the Liberal government’s controversial immigrant investment program, which then became front page news.
The pint sized pop star (he is still 12, yes?) has fallen so far, not even the Senate wants him. This matter was raised in court – for real – as part of a discussion about eligibility. The Crown pointed out that just because Stephen Harper nominated Duffy to be a Senator for PEI doesn’t automatically make him resident there, just as appointing Bieber wouldn’t automatically make Bieber the minimum age of 30 – or any closer to a grown-up.
Four days in, we’ve only heard from one witness. One! Out of 50! The slow pace is testing patience and interest levels, with the CBC’s Kady O’Malley noting “the ever diminishing media cluster,” a group that the Hill Times’ Tim Naumetz puts at just 15 inside the courtroom. The endless questioning is even making Justice Charles Vaillancourt punchy. “I get to raise the issue,” Duffy’s lawyer argued at one point Friday. “Yes, but you never stop,” the judge retorted.
When court’s back in session on Monday, we’ll be treated to the one thing this trial hasn’t yet seen: a second witness.
She wins the day simply by playing no part in it. If you think it’s obvious that a suspended senator who made dubious expense claims should steer clear of a trial about a suspended senator who made dubious expense claims, then you are not Patrick Brazeau’s lawyer. The Senator Formerly Known As @TheBrazman showed up at the Ottawa courtroom first thing Thursday morning, nabbing a seat in the back row. Apparently Brazeau just wanted to show his support for Duffy…well, that and pick up some pointers. “He is rivaling me for notes taken,” tweeted CP’s Jennifer Ditchburn. Wadena never looked like a better place to be.
The PM says he won’t be called to testify at the Duffy trial, but no one says that will keep him out of the spotlight. At least he won’t look shinny under it – the court heard Thursday that Harper and Duffy once shared a makeup artist. Duffy’s lawyer also entered into evidence a photo that Harper signed, “To Duff, a great journalist and a great Senator. Thanks for being one of my best, most hardest working appointments ever.” Well, he would know.
The Senate’s vague definitions
In a court of law, much like a social studies report by a fourth grader, only a direct quote from the Oxford dictionary will do. On Thursday, defence lawyer Donald Bayne turned to it to clearly define “partisan” as a strong supporter of a particular party or cause. It was more professional, if less efficient, than simply pointing at Pierre Poilievre.
Duffy Date Nights
“Hey honey, how about Eastside Mario’s and then The Hurt Locker? Or La Strada followed by Horrible Bosses?” In his diary, Duffy meticulously noted his every move, including restaurants where he wined and dined, and which movies he enjoyed with his wife. With the first week of the trial nearly complete, expect a weekend rush on the Duffy date night experience.
The value of Mike Duffy’s PEI home (cottage). The court heard from a former Senate law clerk Wednesday that Duffy made major renovations to the home (cottage), which apparently indicate his “commitment to that property.” But Duffy’s lawyer hasn’t capitalized on what else they are: a major opportunity to win public sympathy. Who among us hasn’t had our home renos go overtime and over-budget, forcing us to move our primary residence to Kanata for a quarter-century?
Dimitri Soudas. This time, it’s because—as per one of the juiciest entries in Duffy’s diary—Peter MacKay believes the infamous hitching-a-ride-on-a-chopper story was a Soudas set-up, with Harper’s former spokesman ordering him to take the helicopter from a fishing lodge to a photo op, and then leaking the tidbit to the press.
Duffy’s not-guilty plea. So three days ago. Now, when we hear “Duffy,” the only plea we make is, Stay away from the garlic cabbage rolls! Duffy reported they made him “explosive” in a diary entry as memorable for us as the experience was for him.
That coveted first picture of Duffy’s (alleged) dog. The Crown says one of Duffy’s taxpayer-funded trips was to Peterborough to purchase a puppy. Forget the piles of paperwork. A cute dog could change everything! The Ottawa Citizen is on it – their photographer spotted a dog leash at the Duffy home (the real one, in Ottawa). At the rate this trial’s going, no one would be surprised if later this month, Spot takes the stand.