Whatever happens in the RCMP action, Senator Mike Duffy considers this public pursuit of justice the cornerstone of his time in Parliament, which will come to end in the Upper Chamber on May 27 when he retires.
By Sheila Copps
First published in The Hill Times on February 15, 2021.
Senator Mike Duffy has come to the end of his quest to clear his name, as he lost the chance to take his case to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Last week, Duffy and lawyer Lawrence Greenspon visited the top court in the land to make their case for recuperating almost $8-million in lost salary, costs, and legal expenses.
Duffy was trying to overturn an Ontario court decision that ruled Duffy’s Senate suspension could not be challenged as it was protected by parliamentary privilege.
On Feb. 11, the Supreme Court turned down his application.
But Duffy still plans to continue his civil suit against the RCMP because, according to his lawyer, the police conducted a negligent investigation, and refused to allow Duffy to present his side of the story.
Greenspon told the media that the police also refused to allow Duffy to present emails and written evidence that could have prevented him from ever being charged criminally in the first place.
Those charges were ultimately thrown out, and the judge in the case pointedly stated that the Prime Minister’s Office should have been hauled to court, instead of the Senator, since the PMO spearheaded the strategy to discredit him.
And in that respect, the PMO was very successful.
According to his lawyer, “Everyone knows that Mike Duffy’s reputation has been forever ruined.”
Greenspon also argued that the Senate refused to reimburse Duffy for lost salary and legal fees, even after he was declared innocent in a court of law.
The civil suit also targets the RCMP because, according to Greenspon, the police carried out a negligent investigation, refusing to allow Duffy to present his side of the story, replete with emails and evidence that could have cleared his name before charges were ever laid.
Whatever happens in the RCMP action, Duffy considers this public pursuit of justice the cornerstone of his time in Parliament.
Sadly, for most people, the Duffy story is past history and there is too much confusion about the rules to care.
Once a popular journalist, his career spanned more than three decades.
CBC News journalist Rosemary Barton, interviewing Greenspon about the case, characterized the ridicule Duffy suffered as the price to be paid for public life.
In one sense, she is correct. Once Duffy crossed over from the media to politics, he certainly could expect more scrutiny and criticism.
Duffy’s ascendence to the Senate was part of a lifelong dream. Liberal and Conservative governments always jokingly referred to him as Senator, even when he hosted his popular political news show for CTV.
Duffy wasn’t the first journalist to cross the floor. CTV colleague Jim Munson was appointed by prime minister Jean Chrétien. Duffy was also joined by Pamela Wallin, who was also appointed by prime minister Stephen Harper and who also subsequently drummed out of the Conservative caucus.
Other journalists ended up in the governor general’s chair, including Adrienne Clarkson from the CBC and Michaëlle Jean from Radio Canada.
When journalists move into politics, they make a clean break from their former colleagues and might even face more criticism because they have gone from being the hunter to being the hunted.
Had Duffy remained in journalism, he would have joined the ranks of the revered, following in the footsteps of Barbara Frum, Lloyd Robertson and Peter Mansbridge. All three spent their lives in journalism and were recognized for integrity and journalistic clarity.
They never faced the criticism that follows in the wake of every political partisan.
Duffy cannot rewrite the past.
In retrospect, he probably did not realize how rough politics could turn out to be. Observing from the outside, it is hard to understand that an internal party fight can be the most damaging battle of all.
Duffy was welcomed into the Tory caucus as a star. He was a guest speaker in multiple ridings and usually drew a bigger crowd than most of the ministers.
But when the Prime Minister’s Office set out on a campaign to discredit the Senate, it mattered little that he was one of their star performers.
The bigger they are, the harder they fall.
And Duffy was as big as they get.
He won’t get too many supporters in his quest to clear his name. Of course, most Senators would simply like this messy chapter to disappear.
But the Duff owes it to his wife and family, and many friends across the country, to continue his fight.
Sheila Copps is a former Jean Chrétien-era cabinet minister and a former deputy prime minister. Follow her on Twitter at @Sheila_Copps.