The Senate doesn’t want Mike Duffy’s criminal trial to use a secret internal report on how many of his fellow senators had documents showing they lived in Ontario or Quebec.
But, his defence lawyer pointed out Monday, plenty of them claimed living expenses in Ottawa in the same way he did, representing provinces they hadn’t really lived in for many years.
It was a glimpse of the rain-fire-upon-them-all strategy Donald Bayne has suggested is coming as he defends the broadcaster-turned-politician on 31 charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery related to claims Duffy made for thousands of dollars of reimbursements to which he allegedly wasn’t entitled.
Duffy, who’d lived in Ottawa since 1971, claimed his primary residence was a cottage in Prince Edward Island. That meant he got paid more than $80,000 in reimbursements for food and shelter while he was in Ottawa to do senator things. Monday, Bayne suggested Duffy wasn’t alone, and that the claims extend way beyond other senators who have either been charged or are still the subjects of criminal investigations: Mac Harb, Patrick Brazeau and Pamela Wallin.
Senators who have to travel more than 100 kilometres from their primary residences to get to Parliament are entitled to the allowances Duffy claimed; each has to fill out a declaration every year asserting where his or her primary residence is. That’s how Duffy said his home was in Cavendish, P.E.I., rather than the house in Kanata where he’d lived for years before Prime Minister Stephen Harper made him a senator in 2009.
Only in 2013 did the Senate starting asking for proof: a driver’s licence, a health card, income-tax filings. According to documents filed when the police were investigating Duffy, all senators were asked to produce those in 2012, just as Duffy’s claims for his house in Kanata had been revealed by a story in the Ottawa Citizen. They were supposed to send copies to Jill Anne Joseph, the Senate’s director of internal audit.
Within a couple of months, the Senate was routinely asking senators who claimed they really lived away from Ottawa to prove it.
When Bayne started asking questions Monday of Nicole Proulx, the Senate’s top internal-administration official touching on where the new residency-declaration form came from, he got waved off by Crown prosecutor Mark Holmes.
“It’s my understanding there’s a claim of privilege that is being asserted over the contents of this report,” Holmes said.
The “claim of privilege” is like the secrecy between a lawyer and client, or a doctor and patient. In this case, the claim is that the Senate can’t have its internal business nosed around in by the courts. Parliament and the judiciary are separate parts of the government and they need to stay out of each other’s way.
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