The tawdry affair of Mike Duffy—once sought-after Canadian media celebrity; now disgraced former Senator facing criminal charges—will drag on through our courts for the next few months.
The bare facts of the matter are clear: Stephen Harper appointed a man who famously did not live in Prince Edward Island as a senator for that province, ignoring the residency requirements of our Constitutionand relying on the convenient excuse that Duffy had been born there. Harper repeated the offence, that same day, in appointing Pamela Wallin as a Senator for Saskatchewan. The attraction of Senator Duffy and Senator Wallin lay in their crowd-pleasing, wallet-emptying allure to the Conservative Party.
It was well-known that neither lived in their provinces of birth. They had been in the public eye for decades as national television broadcasters. Their programmes were clearly not cottage productions of PEI or Saskatchewan. While there is no constitutional requirement that a Member of Parliament own property and reside in their riding, the same is not the case for the senate. Having appointed people who did not meet the constitutional test, one can infer that a certain ‘nudge nudge; wink, wink’ relationship with the truth permeates the culture of Harper’s PMO.
The criminal charges against Mike Duffy relate to claims that falsified claims were submitted for reimbursement from the public purse and that in taking the $90,000 personal cheque from the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, Nigel Wright, Mike Duffy accepted a bribe. Strangely, Mr Wright has not been charged with offering a bribe.
From the outset, I have insisted that this is not a Mike Duffy scandal or a Senate scandal. This is a PMO scandal. Now that we are in the trial, the details found in Mike Duffy’s personal calendar widens our area of interest. His diary is bizarre, noting significant events, petty slights, friends’ deaths, and what food led to what levels of indigestion. This is not stuff for the weak of heart. As well, Duffy’s diaries are also full of references to Enbridge, Ethical Oil, and Vivian Krause. We didn’t want to be involved, but now there is a decided BC-angle in the mix.
As of January 6, 2012, Mike Duffy’s diary includes references to Enbridge. Many of these references are stroked out by thick black marker, but, for the most part, they are still legible. In fact, on January 6 alone, Duffy has three notes about Enbridge and helping Vivian Krause.
Vivian Krause is, for those fortunate few who may not know of her crusade against the Canadian environmental movement, a one-woman media circus. She may actually believe she has uncovered hidden information—except that everything she has publicized about foreign money donated to Canadian groups was already on the public record. That’s how she ‘found’ it. Just as Canadians have donated to help save the Amazon rain forest, our neighbours to the south have supported efforts to protect Canadian forests. In the case of our wild BC salmon, it is the same salmon that migrates through US waters. US foundations sensibly support conservation efforts on both sides of our border. But in Vivian Krause’s fevered imagination, this becomes the stuff of nefarious conspiracy.
Her ‘evidence’ has been convenient in the Harper PMO crusade to demonize anyone who opposes pushing bitumen/diluents pipelines through BC wilderness to supertankers on the BC coast. From the Duffy diary, it looks as though he was asked to take her under his wing, promote her to media, find her lucrative speaking engagement opportunities and generally laud her as the 21st century version of St Joan. He takes her to lunch, interrupts a Florida cruise to call her from the ship, and poses set-up questions to her before the Senate; questions designed to place her in a favourable light.
Duffy also notes numerous contacts with Enbridge. Was Duffy working for Enbridge to lobby for the pipeline without reporting it to the Lobby Registry? Or was he, as Enbridge claims, contacting them to find a job for a friend? From the timeline and the diary notes, it could be either.
Duffy’s first notation of Enbridge comes well after Stephen Harper’s first public statement in favour of the project (in November 2011 on Global TV) and Harper’s more specific annihilation of our coastal supertanker ban (January 5, 2012 on Dave Rutherford’s Calgary radio show), with the open letter from Natural Resources minister Joe Oliver promoting Enbridge and demonizing anyone who opposed the project as acting against Canada’s national interest on January 9, 2012.
Despite some media interest in the notion that Mike Duffy played a pivotal role in the campaign to promote Enbridge and attack environmental groups, I don’t buy it. Just as the money and bribery scandal is really about the PMO, so is the campaign to demonize First Nations and environmental groups as ‘anti- Canadian’ really about the abuse of power by Harper’s PMO. Duffy may have been an errand boy from Harper to Enbridge. He may have been a nuisance caller to Enbridge. But one thing is clear on the time-line: the well-orchestrated campaign of the spring of 2012 to destroy environmental law (Bill C-38), grease the skids for pipeline approval, and attempt to discredit those who insist on policies that are actually in Canada’s national interest, was cooked up without Duffy’s help.
The scandal is not Mike Duffy. The scandal of the perversion of public policy to suit the corporate interest is all about the PMO.