Duffygate – The Trial of the Decade
Watergate provides a model case study of the interaction and powers of each of the branches of government. It also is a morality play with a sad and dramatic ending.
I think Canadians have a right to know all the facts and I’m quite prepared … to give them the whole story
There’s big doings in Ottawa starting today. To be honest, it had already started a week or so ago but that was merely big doings hype, what Maggie refers to as foreplay and, as often the case with the more intimate moments in life, foreplay is usually more exciting than the climax.
The trial of Senator Mike Duffy begins this morning and there is an increasingly frenzied buzz in the air. It’s not quite as good as a public execution used to be back in the good old days when pretty much all of the town folk gathered for a day of merriment and fellowship for a public hanging – but it’s close.
There is curiosity, disgust, support, criticism, amusement, partisanship, humour and a host of other emotions among the common folk. Comment and opinion are circulating like gnats on a warm summer evening. Members of the media are so excited that their nipples are hard and some are positively drooling as they research every word already documented – usually in the columns of their competitors.
Not everyone is brimming over with eager anticipation, of course. Among the political class, there are more than a few sphincters clenched tighter than a frog’s ass underwater. Although they too, like the media, are interested in what will come out at the trial, if for different reasons.
The media are hoping for new details, new names and more scandal about which they can write and comment endlessly. Members of the political class are more concerned about being one of those names or details.
They all know that with events like this, nobody knows what will happen and nothing quite excites the media, and worries the political class, more than events over which there is no control.
For my non-Canadian readers, Senator Mike Duffy is a suspended Conservative Senator who was appointed to the Senate by Prime Minister Stephen Harper. He was a media celebrity before being appointed, a virtual chubby cherub of good will and fawning news reporting who had long dreamed of becoming a member of Canada’s Senate.
His wish was granted but in 2013, it came to light that there were some issues with how he reported and claimed his living and other expenses to the Senate – quite a few issues, actually. They totaled in excess of $200,000.
There is documentation that shows that Senator Duffy had asked for clarification about housing and other expenses from both the Prime Minister’s Office and Senate before going on his spending spree. There is also documentation that shows ‘the Old Duff”, as he styles himself, was told by both that everything he was doing was appropriate.
When issues over the good Senator’s expenses started to emerge in the media both the leader of the Senate’s Conservative Caucus and the Prime Minister publicly supported him.
When the media wouldn’t let the story go (they’re famous for that kind of thing), attitudes of support changed to
concern in the PMO and suddenly, there was a move to contain a story that was spinning out of control.
Eventually the Prime Minister’s former Chief of Staff, Nigel Wright, gave Senator Duffy $90,000 out of his own pocket to help the plump political embarrassment repay some of the expenses to hopefully make the story go away.
This is now referred to by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police as a bribe. Senator Duffy refers to it as extortion but I think it was a damn nice gift and because I have a couple of expenses that need adressing, I sent off a note to Mr. Wright to see if he would extend his largesse my way.
I haven’t had a reply yet but I’m still hopeful.
Clearly, Mr. Wright’s gift, bribe or whatever it is or was didn’t have the desired effect. Rather than make the story disappear – it intensified faster than the need to break wind when you can’t because you’re in church at a funeral.
It culminated in Senator Duffy being suspended along with three other senators amid much sanctimony and pious self-righteous indignation from the Prime Minister and his chorus of trained seals in the Senate’s Conservative caucus.
That, of course, is the abbreviated version. There’s just lots and lots and lots of detail in betwixt and between but I won’t bore you with it. The media will be more than capable of achieving that without my help.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police were called in to investigate and subsequently charged Senator Duffy with 31 counts of various criminal offenses including breach of trust, accepting a bribe, fraud against the government and cheating on his Weight Watcher’s diet.
In other words, they threw the book at him and it was full of calories and trans-fats.
One point that is interesting to note is that while the chunky Senator has been charged with accepting a bribe, Mr. Wright has not been charged with issuing it. Somehow the ‘gift’ was magically transformed, as if by alchemy, into a bribe somewhere between Mr. Wright’s fingers and Senator Duffy’s bank account.
That’s just one of many mysteries to be unravelled in the Trial of The Decade and the courts have allotted 41 days to hear testimony. Personally I remain unconvinced that it will be sufficient time. Former Sun News commentator Ezra Levant has been called as a witness and God alone knows how long he’ll prattle on. Certainly the Crown will begin to regret having called him long before Mr. Levant gets tired of hearing himself talk.
In an amusing bit of Karmic irony, Canada’s Auditor General should be soon releasing the findings of his audit of all Senators which was spurred by the original allegations against Senator Duffy. I say ironic because it is widely believed that the audit will reveal that the Senate’s expense reimbursement process was quite cloudy and confusing and led many senators to make the same mistakes as the old Duffmeister they suspended.
Some think that this trial will damage the Harper government as it heads into an election; some think it won’t matter much at all. Some think there will be new revelations and others think we’ve heard and seen it all before so we should all just move along.
Certainly the media are in high speculation mode, gripped by the drama of the thing. It has been amusing to watch them try to retain an air of sophisticated detachment even as they froth around the lips at the whiff of the potential for new scandal. Maggie and I drive by the courthouse daily when I take her to work and there they were, cameras and notebooks at the ready standing in front of the entrance to the courthouse like Wal-mart shoppers waiting for the doors to open on Black Friday.
In the end, though, it will simply be what it will be and nobody can predict the outcome or its effect. There are, however, some things one can predict with a fair degree of accuracy.
Expect the media to write and comment endlessly on the trial. Expect every detail, every nuance to be analyzed more closely than a proctologist reviewing the results of a colonoscopy.
Expect the Opposition parties to stand up in Question Period daily to demand answers from the Prime Minister on the day’s testimony and expect the Prime Minister to stand up in response to state that he can’t comment on something that is currently before the courts.
Expect conservative and liberal supporters to flood your social media timelines with hyper-ventilated argument that is long on rhetoric but short on fact and expect Ezra Levant to preen at the wonder of himself.
What you shouldn’t expect is a universally-accepted true revelation of fact or that the Toronto Maple Leafs will make the NHL playoffs this year or any year in the near future. Expect that because this is a criminal trial, politics won’t play much of a role in it. That will be reserved for the media, politicians and the partisans on all sides of the political spectrum.
You shouldn’t expect this to lead to an ethical transformation among the political class either. If most of them get through this trial without being named, they will take that as a sign from God that there is nothing wrong with how they have behaved up to this point in their careers.
Expect everyone; supporter and foe alike, the media, politicians and the fat guy that lives at the end of your street to fuss over this trial like it is Watergate all over again. It isn’t. As scandals go, it is serious enough but at the end of the day it is simply about sleaze on all sides and no matter how the trial ends, nobody associated with this sad little affair comes out of it clean.
Such is the sorry state of politics in Canada that the political class in this country confuses ‘not guilty’ with having a principled code of moral ethics. In a profession where self-interest, abuse of privilege and misrepresentation are considered virtues, not getting away with something is considered the only real crime.
© 2015 Maggie’s Bear
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