Into Day 32 or so of the Mike Duffy trial, we have reached the impasse. After dozens of revelations that other Senators, Liberal, Conservative and Other have issues with the way Senate expenses are adjudicated, Duffy is now seen as someone who committed the worst crime: Getting Caught.
The Auditor General, Michael Ferguson, performed a two-year probe of Senate expenses and basically said the inmates were running the asylum. Nine files on specific Senators have been referred to the RCMP for possible criminal investigation, including two sitting senators. Another seventeen senators have said they will fight the AG’s findings. The big hits are for residency.
Technically, Senators are supposed to represent the region they were appointed from and maintain a primary residency in that region. Meaning, Mike Duffy, at least on the face of it, representing Prince Edward Island, should have a permanent, primary residency in PEI. At that point then the Senate will pay expenses for his Ottawa joint. The Senate does not pay for the PEI crib and naturally the Senate would pay for travel from PEI to Ottawa, or other travel the Senator may undertake on behalf of the Senate of Canada and the duties therein.
Fair enough rules, correct? You can prove your residency a couple of ways: Having a drivers license and health card from that particular province would be a simple one, or documents that say you pay a mortgage or property taxes on a joint in the province would be lesser ones. Again, fairly simple, on the face of it, you can say that, yep, I live primarily in PEI and represent PEI in the Senate. Except that if all your plane tickets are from Ottawa to wherever and practically none of them are from Charlottetown to Ottawa and back, that tells us someone is full of shit. QED, your expenses for the Ottawa joint are not allowed as it is your primary residence, which is not in the region you’re supposed to be representing.
There is always going to be some grey space in that calculation. If said Senator spent 183 nights in PEI residing in their primary residence, then hey, that’s more than half the time, barely, but we’ll let it go, if only because it passes some kind of rudimentary sniff test. There should be plenty of airline tickets on AC467 YOW-YYZ, then AC8818 YYZ-YYG showing up in the expenses. (You can’t actually fly direct from the Nation’s Capital to Charlottetown. You get to sit on your ass in the Maple Leaf Lounge in YUL or YYZ no matter what. Have the cheese and crackers and the self-serve Dorkachino that tastes almost exactly not like coffee)
The AG busting the nine Senators was not exactly the toughest task they had this year, but it did cost us $23.6 million for the audit to find $997,917 in questionable expenses. That works out to $207,017.54 per page for the 114-page AG report. Not exactly value for the money, but audits rarely are. We’d do the audit over coffee with each Senator in a half-hour, essentially two weeks worth of work, for, oh, half that tab.
Despite the lack of value for money, where the real fun lies is in watching us regular citizens finally seeing the Senate for what it is: A playpen for party hacks and bagmen with no rules, no controls and no actual responsibility to do anything except roll around in piles of our money.
The fat sense of entitlement from our Senate is the most galling, distasteful, amoral display of raw power we have short of the Prime Ministers Office.
Which is where the story can become truly fun. Duffy wasn’t doing anything more wrong than many of the 105 Senators in the Red Chamber. What did Duffy do that was so wrong that the PMO threw him under the bus, then tried to back the bus over him? What exactly does Duffy know about the inner workings of the PMO that would make him a target that big?
Answer those questions and you’ll find out the real story. We do have a Federal Election coming up in October and Duffy’s trial should wind up in a few more weeks, perhaps just in time for revelations from the trial to punch gaping holes in the Conservative’s campaign to anoint Stephen (Call me The Right Honourable Stephen Harper) Harper as the next PM.
We await the fun.