Sunday, March 02, 2014

More kiss and tell books coming soon from the senate?

Duffy vowed to hurt high-ranking Tories if expense issue led to charges, new book says

Jordan Press
Saturday, March 1, 2014

Conservatives insist there was no interference in the audit of Senator Mike Duff's expenses with Prime Minister Stephen Harper pointing to testimony from three Deliotte auditors who said they weren't swayed and didn't give out any confidential information. (Photograph by Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press/File Postmedia News)

OTTAWA – Embattled Senator Mike Duffy vowed that if he ever faced trial over his questionable expense claims, he would bring down high-ranking members of the Conservative party, according to a new book.
Duffy believed he had been set up by the Prime Minister’s Office, as part of Stephen Harper’s “Machiavellian” plot to abolish the Senate or “severely clip its wings,” writes Dan Leger in his new book, “Duffy: Stardom to Senate to Scandal.”

“Duffy seemed determined that, if he were to go down, he would have company, telling friends that, if charged, people high up in the Conservative Party would be called to testify to what they knew,” Leger writes in the book.

Leger, a former Parliament Hill reporter and retired newspaper editor, said in an interview with Postmedia News that Duffy was “speaking darkly about a ‘set-up by the PMO ‘ ” as early as May 2013, when the details of a deal to secretly pay his questionable expenses were made public and Duffy was pushed out of the Conservative caucus.

Duffy also spoke with Leger on the porch of his home in Cavendish, PEI, last August, laying out many of the explosive details he would later level in the Senate. He now faces the possibility of being criminally charged by the RCMP over allegations of fraud and breach of trust related to his questionable living claims and a $90,000 payment he accepted from Nigel Wright, Harper’s then-Chief of Staff.

“Without a doubt, Duffy believes he is the fall guy, that he and (Senator) Pam (Wallin) … are taking the fall in order to protect the prime minister,” Leger said in an interview.

Leger’s book is due out this week from Nimbus Publishing. In it, Leger weaves together the timeline of Duffy’s rise from his days on Prince Edward Island as a radio enthusiast, to his becoming a Parliament Hill television reporter, and ultimately his appointment to the Senate as a Harper Conservative.

Leger said Duffy had desperately wanted a Senate seat for years.

“This Senate stuff – I thought it was a joke until I really had a chance to talk to folks from the Mulroney years, the Chretien years, the Martin years,” Leger said. “He (Duffy) was sending love letters” to each leader, looking for an appointment.

Martin was willing to appoint Duffy to the Senate, Leger writes, but wasn’t in office long enough to make the appointment a priority.

Leger said Duffy wasn’t partisan – in the book, he outlines moments where Duffy talked about running for the Liberals – but was very interested in being a senator.

The book adds details to the Duffy expense saga, including key meetings on February 11 and 12, 2013, where Duffy and two top senators – David Tkachuk and Irving Gerstein — visited the Langevin Block that houses the Prime Minister’s Office. There, Duffy and Tkachuk met with Wright in room 204, which a source told Leger was “the prime minister’s private, high-security boardroom.”

The book creates an impression of Duffy as a canny journalist who told stories from his sources, crafting an insider image as “the Old Duff.” Leger suggests that Duffy let his ego overtake him, and became motivated by money, status and the desire to be the ultimate insider.

The book is based on months of research going through archival documents on Duffy’s past, numerous news reports with details of the Senate scandal, and about 35 interviews.

The author and the senator have a long personal history. It was Duffy who took Leger under his wing when Leger first arrived in Ottawa in the 1980s to cover Parliament Hill. Duffy had already been covering federal politics for about a decade.

Leger said Duffy showed him around, introduced him to MPs, senators and bureaucrats and talked him up to others, which gave Leger contacts – “a reporter’s lifeblood,” was how Leger described it in a column for the Halifax Chronicle Herald on May 20, 2013. In return, Leger provided Duffy details of early morning events that Leger had to cover as a wire-service reporter (Duffy wasn’t an early riser).

“It was a reasonable trade from my point of view,” Leger said.

Leger left Parliament Hill as a reporter in 1990, but kept in touch with Duffy every time the future senator came to Halifax for political events. Leger also kept in touch with many of his contacts from his time in the parliamentary press gallery, and kept picking up details of Duffy’s life.

When Harper appointed Duffy to the Senate in 2009, Leger said Duffy’s friends counselled him to use his Senate seat to champion a good cause and stay above the political fray.

Instead, Leger said, Duffy became “intensely partisan” with an “insensitive” streak. He became a political attack dog for the Tories, but also one of their best fundraisers, crisscrossing the country to meet with party faithful, and record fundraising videos for the Conservatives.

His spending became a problem starting in late 2012. The Ottawa Citizen raised questions about Duffy’s living expenses, noting that he had been a long-time resident of the capital before becoming a senator for Prince Edward Island.

Behind closed doors, Duffy was under pressure to repay the expenses, at that time known to be over $30,000. It wasn’t until months later that it was revealed Duffy owed $90,000.

Duffy refused to repay anything, believing he had done nothing wrong and was playing by the rules.

That was the feeling Leger said he got when he spoke with Duffy at length in August. Sitting on the deck of Duffy’s home in Cavendish, the two had a long talk in the sun where Duffy revealed he felt deeply hurt by the Prime Minister’s Office and said he had evidence to back up all of his claims.

“It’s definitely the case that he felt deeply betrayed,” Leger said.

Walking away from that conversation – which Duffy’s wife, Heather, watched closely from a window, apparently trying to get Duffy to stop talking – Leger said he got the sense Duffy was worried about his future, seemingly aware that he had burned many bridges and had nowhere to turn for help.

“One of the first things he said to me … well, it’s all going to come out in court.”

The Senate suspended Duffy without pay in early November over charges of “gross negligence” with his expense claims. In principle, he could be reinstated by the fall of 2015.

“I can’t see these independent Liberal senators or the rest of the Conservative caucus saying, ‘let’s bring the Old Duff back.’ … It’s going to be political dynamite,” Leger said. “He’s got to be looking back and seeing a lot of smoking wreckage and wondering where to go next. He’s really in a tough spot.”

Some things to know about Mike Duffy from Dan Leger’s book

- Duffy’s father was named Wilfrid for former Liberal Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier; his mother “came from solid Tory stock”

- He won an ACTRA award for his coverage of a siege at the Turkish embassy in Ottawa in March 1985

- Married twice. Has two children from his first marriage

- In 1984, told a woman associated with the Liberals that then-Prime Minister John Turner wanted Duffy to run as a Liberal

- Joined CTV in 1988 to start his weekend political show, Sunday Edition with Mike Duffy

- After suing Frank Magazine for a story alleging he was at a “fat farm,” Duffy became a source for the magazine in 2005, talking up Conservative pals and attacking CTV colleagues he disliked

- His father died of a heart attack at age 48; Duffy himself is a heart patient.


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