April 19, 2015 - 4:28 PM
OTTAWA - It seems everyone wanted a piece of Sen. Mike Duffy.
At least 74 former and current Conservative members of Parliament leaned on Duffy at one point or another to appear at their events, record messages for supporters or stump for them on the campaign trail, documents released at the suspended senator's trial indicate.
Duffy also did work for Ontario, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island Tories, and several unsuccessful federal Conservative candidates.
The former broadcaster's daily diaries for 2009-2012, now a courtroom exhibit, illustrate the full extent of Duffy's celebrity status when he was still in the party's good graces.
Duffy is facing 31 charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery. Eighteen of those charges deal with travel expenses claimed by Duffy, some of which involved travel to partisan events.
His defence has made the case that such partisan activities are an integral part of a senator's parliamentary functions, as stated in the Senate's administrative rules. Lawyer Donald Bayne has also emphasized how much the party leadership bought in to what he was doing.
"To Duff, a great journalist and a great senator," reads one photo entered into evidence, inscribed by none other than Prime Minister Stephen Harper, that shows the two of them together at an event.
"Thanks for being one of my best, hardest-working appointments ever."
During one stretch in the summer of 2009, Duffy went to 10 political events in 18 days in two provinces and one territory.
"Duff's Tough Talk — Current Events and our Government," was the title of one of his stops, hosted by B.C. MP Ron Cannan's riding association.
The amount of time Duffy spent travelling and working for his colleagues and the party brass might explain the lengths that the Prime Minister's Office initially went to in order to shield his living expense claims from scrutiny.
At an early stage in the Senate expense scandal, the party paid for the services of his lawyer.
His history of partisan work might also explain the sense of betrayal Duffy felt when he was ejected from the Conservative caucus in May 2013 and suspended from the upper chamber — a move instigated by his own party — that fall.
"I never received a single note from Senate Finance or the leadership that suggested anything in my travels was amiss," Duffy said in the Senate in October 2013.
"In fact, those on the other side will remember how often I was lauded by the prime minister, in a weekly meeting, for all of the travelling I was doing..."
Some of the duties that Duffy performed for the party included:
— Participating in "tele-town hall" calls, in which MPs speak to large numbers of constituents at once by phone;
— Visits to Conservative riding association meetings, picnics, barbecues, cocktails, breakfasts and dinners;
— Recording "daemon dialler" calls, where Conservative donors or supporters are alerted to events or voting in a riding;
— Shooting videos and messages for the Conservative party;
— Appearing in photographs;
At one point, even NDP MP Niki Ashton had her photo taken with Duffy and two farmers visiting from Manitoba, according to his diary. Ottawa MP Pierre Poilievre, now a cabinet minister, drew on Duffy's time at least five times.
While some ministers and MPs sprang to the defence of Harper's former chief of staff Nigel Wright for secretly paying off Duffy's $90,000 in disputed living expenses, they have kept their distance from the senator himself.
A former caucus colleague of Duffy's, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, said MPs are likely biting their tongues lest they be swept up in the controversy.
"I think there's a lot of people that appreciate the fact that Mike worked the circuit, he worked hard, he did what he thought he was supposed to be doing, as far as helping out other MPs," said the colleague.
"He was quite gracious in terms of his time."
News from © The Canadian Press, 2015