Duffy on Trial

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Senator Mike Duffy is fighting 31 charges of breach of trust, bribery, and fraud as one of the most anticipated political trials in recent Canadian history comes to a close in February 2016.

Watch CPAC’s one-hour exclusive preview from April 2015: Duffy on Trial


The RCMP charged Duffy in relation to Senate expenses, consulting contracts, and a payment from Nigel Wright — the prime minister’s former chief of staff. Duffy was suspended from the upper chamber in November 2013 over the expenses controversy, along with Patrick Brazeau and Pamela Wallin. The suspension expired when the 41st Parliament dissolved in August 2015.

READ: Mike Duffy charge sheet

Exhibits filed at the trial have provided a window into the charges against Duffy, his daily work as a senator, and the rules governing members of the Senate:

READ: Mike Duffy and PMO e-mail

READ: Nigel Wright’s $90,000 bank draft

READ: Mike Duffy’s December 2008 Diary

READ: Mike Duffy’s 2009-2012 Diary

READ: Mike Duffy’s January-February 2013 Diary

READ: Mike Duffy’s residence declarations

READ: Mike Duffy’s expense claims

READ: Mike Duffy’s Senate attendance record

READ: PMO memo to Stephen Harper (March 2013)

Several documents normally kept from public view have been cited by both the Crown and Duffy’s defence lawyer:

History of Senators’ Research and Office Expense Budgets

1988 Senate report on research budgets

2005 General Materiel Management Policy 

2008 Senators’ Resource Guide

2008 Guidelines for Senators’ Research and Office Expense Budgets 

2008 Miscellaneous Expenditures Account Guidelines

2009 Senate Guidelines for Travel

2010 Senate Guidelines for Living Expenses in Ottawa

2011 Senate Procurement Policy

2011 Telecommunications Policy for Senators

2012 Senators’ Handbook on the Use of Senate Resources

2012 Senate Administrative Rules

Justice Charles Vaillancourt upheld a Senate privilege claim to prevent a group internal documents from being made public:

READ: Duffy judge rules on Senate privilege

The judge also admitted evidence by forensic accountant Mark Grenon despite a defence objection:

READ: Duffy judge allows forensic evidence

How did we reach this point? Here are some key documents and video from the past:


Mike Duffy spent more than 35 years on Parliament Hill as a broadcast journalist with CBC and CTV. He became known across Canada as a consummate Ottawa insider.

WATCH Duffy reminisce on constitutional talks with Ken Rockburn

Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed Mike Duffy to the Senate in December 2008 — with Parliament prorogued and Ottawa in a constitutional crisis over a proposed coalition government.

WATCH To the Brink: Four Weeks in Canadian Politics

Duffy appeared on PrimeTime Politics in 2010 to defend the commercial seal hunt:

WATCH PrimeTime Politics (March 9, 2010) 

Duffy also appeared on CPAC’s Beyond Politics with Catherine Clark in 2012 to discuss his start in broadcast journalism:

WATCH Beyond Politics with Mike Duffy

Duffy often acted as an emcee and questioner for Prime Minister Stephen Harper at official government events, from economic speeches to youth events:

WATCH: Duffy and Harper in 2010

Mike Duffy’s trouble began in December 2012 when the Ottawa Citizen reported on his living expenses and primary residence status.

The Senate asked Deloitte to study Duffy’s expenses and residency status.

Deloitte Report on Mike Duffy

The Senate internal economy committee issued a report in May 2013 saying residency rules were vague and that Duffy’s future expense claims should be monitored. After media reports that the committee removed several damning sections from the public version, a new report was issued later that month stating rules are clear for primary and secondary residences.

Senators agreed to refer the matter to the RCMP, including Duffy’s $90,000 repayment of expenses fostered by a gift from Nigel Wright, the prime minister’s former chief of staff.

Duffy did not attend the meeting. Gary O’Brien, clerk of the Senate, and other administration officials of the upper chamber answered questions.

Senators asked the committee to revisit the issue after media reports that Duffy claimed Senate per diem expenses while also submitting claims for campaigning before the 2011 election.

There were 49 days where per diems were claimed in Ottawa during a time period, according to the Deloitte report, that Senator Duffy does not appear to have been in Ottawa. Senator Duffy has never been interviewed in this regard,” O’Brien said.

The Senate found “at least two other groups of days in April 2011 where Senator Duffy submitted expense claims…when, according to the Deloitte report, he does not appear to have been in Ottawa,” O’Brien added.

Minutes from the Senate internal economy committee – May 28/2013

An RCMP court document was unsealed in the summer of 2013, alleging reasonable grounds that Duffy broke the law. Police were looking for access to more documents and evidence:

RCMP ITO – Mike Duffy

The Senate voted to suspend Duffy in November 2013 for “gross negligence.” Duffy spoke twice in his defence.

Read the RCMP court documents released in November 2013. Police were looking for access to more records, based on their investigation to date. The RCMP claimed “reasonable grounds” that Mike Duffy and Nigel Wright had violated the Criminal Code, based partly on e-mail exchanges cited in the document:

Information to Obtain Production Orders

Information to Obtain Production Orders – Additions

Appendix A

Appendix B

Appendix C

The RCMP formally charged Mike Duffy in July 2014.

WATCH: RCMP news conference

WATCH: Duffy lawyer Donald Bayne in September 2014 

The official Rules of the Senate outline the process for a Senator facing criminal charges:

15-4. (1) At the first opportunity after a Senator is charged with a criminal offence for which the Senator may be prosecuted by indictment, either:
(a) the Senator shall notify the Senate by a signed written notice that is delivered to the Clerk of the Senate, who shall table it; or
(b) the Speaker shall table such proof of the charge as the court may provide.

15-4. (2) When notice is given under subsection (1), the Senator charged is granted a leave of absence from the time the notice is tabled and is considered to be on public business during this leave of absence.

15-4. (3) The leave of absence remains in force until the earlier of the following:
(a) the charge of the criminal offence is withdrawn;
(b) the proceedings related to it are stayed;
(c) the charge is proceeded with in summary conviction proceedings; or
(d) the Senator is acquitted, convicted or discharged.

15-4. (5) For greater certainty, the Senate affirms the right of a Senator charged with a criminal offence to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal. No intent to comment on or pass judgment with respect to a Senator shall be imputed to the Senate because of the operation of this rule.

15-4. (6) If a Senator is granted a leave of absence under subsection (2), the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration may, as it considers appropriate in the circumstances, suspend that Senator’s right to the use of some or all of the Senate resources otherwise made available for the carrying out of the Senator’s parliamentary functions, including funds, goods, services, premises, moving, transportation, travel and telecommunications expenses.

15-5. (1) A Senator who has been found guilty of a criminal offence in proceedings by indictment and who is given a sentence other than a discharge is suspended from the Senate as of the time of the sentence.

15-5. (2) The suspension continues in force until the earlier of the following:
(a) the finding of guilt is overturned on appeal;
(b) the sentence is replaced by a discharge on appeal; or
(c) the Senate determines whether or not the place of the Senator shall become vacant by reason of that conviction.

Former Conservative senator Patrick Brazeau was placed on a leave of absence in February 2013 after being charged with summary offences for sexual assault and assault.

A Senator automatically loses their seat upon receiving a sentence of two years or more, according to the Criminal Code:

Public office vacated for conviction
750. (1) Where a person is convicted of an indictable offence for which the person is sentenced to imprisonment for two years or more and holds, at the time that person is convicted, an office under the Crown or other public employment, the office or employment forthwith becomes vacant.

When disability ceases
(2) A person to whom subsection (1) applies is, until undergoing the punishment imposed on the person or the punishment substituted therefor by competent authority or receives a free pardon from Her Majesty, incapable of holding any office under the Crown or other public employment, or of being elected or sitting or voting as a member of Parliament or of a legislature or of exercising any right of suffrage.

The sentence needed to be at least five years for an automatic expulsion until 1996,according to a Library of Parliament study.

And here are the relevant sections of the 1982 Constitution Act:

31. The Place of a Senator shall become vacant in any of the following Cases:
(1) If for Two consecutive Sessions of the Parliament he fails to give his Attendance in the Senate;
(2) If he takes an Oath or makes a Declaration or Acknowledgment of Allegiance, Obedience, or Adherence to a Foreign Power, or does an Act whereby he becomes a Subject or Citizen, or entitled to the Rights or Privileges of a Subject or Citizen, of a Foreign Power;
(3) If he is adjudged Bankrupt or Insolvent, or applies for the Benefit of any Law relating to Insolvent Debtors, or becomes a public Defaulter;
(4) If he is attainted of Treason or convicted of Felony or of any infamous Crime;
(5) If he ceases to be qualified in respect of Property or of Residence; provided, that a Senator shall not be deemed to have ceased to be qualified in respect of Residence by reason only of his residing at the Seat of the Government of Canada while holding an Office under that Government requiring his Presence there.

33. If any Question arises respecting the Qualification of a Senator or a Vacancy in the Senate the same shall be heard and determined by the Senate.

Expelling a Senator for a criminal sentence of fewer than two years would require a resolution of the Senate, according to the Library of Parliament.

Former senator Raymond Lavigne took leave during his fraud trial but kept his salary. He resigned in 2011 after being convicted.

Labour Progressive MP Fred Rose was removed from the House of Commons after a 1946 treason conviction related to the Gouzenko affair and Soviet spying.

Louis Riel was expelled twice from the Commons for contempt during the 1870s after being elected in Provencher, Man. Quebec West MP Thomas McGreevy was expelled in 1890 after a corruption scandal.

-Andrew Thomson

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