Day One of Mike Duffy trial is bad news for Harper

Karl Nerenberg
rabble: April 8, 2015

On the first day of the Mike Duffy trial, both the prosecution and the defence made arguments that were damaging to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his inner circle.

Crown Prosecutor Mark Holmes said, “Sen. Duffy was probably ineligible to sit in the Senate as a representative of Prince Edward Island.”

Holmes added that this trial will not decide that thorny constitutional question.

But folks in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) must have collectively winced when they heard that assertion from a non-partisan public official.

The PMO had, it seems, made great efforts to establish that Duffy could be a Prince Edward Island resident for the purpose of representing that province in the Senate, but not for the Senate expense rules.

Duffy and his various lawyers make the opposite claim.

They argue that once Duffy was appointed Senator from Prince Edward Island, the former journalist automatically became a PEI resident in every sense of the word.

On Tuesday, Duffy’s criminal lawyer, Donald Bayne, intimated that the Prime Minister and his office, and the Conservative Senate leadership, saw things that way until Duffy’s PEI residency became a political embarrassment.

Then they turned on Duffy and decided to — in Bayne’s version — compel the PEI Senator to publicly “admit” he had made a mistake in claiming expenses for his Ottawa-area home.

In Duffy’s now famous words in the Senate chamber itself, the Prime Minister ordered him to: “Pay the money back!”

During his opening statement at the trial, Bayne even produced part of a police interview with Harper’s former Chief of Staff, Nigel Wright, in which the Bay Street multi-millionaire and one-time political wunderkind said: “We are basically forcing … somebody to repay money that they probably didn’t owe, and I wanted the prime minister to know that and be comfortable with that.”

Both sides make Harper look bad

So take your pick.

If the prosecution is right, the Prime Minister knowingly made an unconstitutional appointment to the Upper House.

If the defence is right, the Prime Minister’s Office and other senior Conservatives engaged in a scheme to whitewash a Senator’s politically embarrassing expense claims — claims which the Party leadership quite likely encouraged the Senator to make in the first place.

(read the full article at rabble)