I did a little research into Mike Duffy’s early days in the Senate this week, going back to his maiden speech in the Red Chamber in January 2009.
He broke the rules on that very first day — by leaving his BlackBerry on while the Senate was in session.
During his speech, he waxed nostalgic about his early love of politics.
“I was brought up in Prince Edward Island with the old-fashioned idea that it is not the job of the media, but the job of parliamentarians to change Canada,” he said.
And change Canada he has — and decidedly for the worse.
Incidentally, you may remember that very first speech because it contained homophobic comments about an imagined coupling between then Premier Danny Williams and P.E.I. Premier Robert Ghiz.
Duffy’s puerile ramblings then are not worth repeating here, but it’s enough to note that they set the tone — and lowered the bar — in terms of what we could expect from him.
He was welcomed to the Senate that day by Senator Jim Munson, another former journalist.
“The honourable senator talked about senators doing wonderful things here,” Munson said. “This is a place where good things are done. I know that Senator (Pamela) Wallin will do good things in the Senate, too, because we can make a difference.”
Well, Munson got it right in a way. Duffy, Wallin and others of their ilk have made a difference, and that difference is that Canadians are now even more cynical about the Senate than ever before, and deservedly so.
To think that Duffy and Wallin hoovered up taxpayers’ dollars in travel expenses and housing allowances while the rest of us poor schmucks have to earn our money honestly is contemptible.
The fact that both are former journalists — normally the first people you could count on to expose government misspending — makes it all the worse.
I gave a colleague of mine a postage stamp last week so that he could post a health benefit form; he was loath to simply send it out with the company mail. That’s conscience. That’s ethics. Duffy’s and Wallin’s are in pitifully short supply.
Duffy misled the Senate about where he lived. He claimed the rules governing housing allowances were difficult to follow. He’s ducked journalists’ legitimate questions about his expense claims.
He apparently told CTV he took out a bank loan to repay his $90,000 in overpayments when in actuality he was given a cheque by the prime minister’s former chief of staff.
“I dealt with my bank personally. Nigel (Wright) played no role,” Duffy told the television network, according to The Toronto Star.
That’s not what Mr. Wright said, and he had the good sense to quit his job when that inappropriate exchange came to light.
Duffy engaged in campaign activities for the governing Conservatives while claiming Senate expenses at the same time.
When he finally had to withdraw from the Conservative caucus in the Senate, he played the sympathy card, telling The Toronto Star he would lay low for awhile, saying, “This has been a difficult time for me and my family.”
Well, boo hoo. Duffy’s a grownup and he made the decision to enter politics, dragging his family along for the ride.
And now he’s dragging other Senators down along with him by increasing public mistrust of an institution that is supposed to offer sober second thought instead of spending tax dollars like drunken sailors on shore leave.
How did his Conservative colleagues respond? Not by referring the matter to the police, as Liberal senators suggested, but by referring his sloppy paperwork back to the same secretive committee that shielded him in the first place.
The whole thing is an insult to Canadians, and particularly to Duffy’s “beloved P.E.I.,” which was so beloved by him that he chose to live in Ontario and claim his P.E.I. cottage as his primary residence.
Let’s face it, the arrogant senator who once called NDP MP Peter Stoffer a “faker” on CBC TV, when Stoffer had the audacity to call some senators’ spending “over the top” back in 2009, is the biggest faker of them all.
We’ve been duped. But not any longer.
Do us all a favour, Senator Duffy, and resign. Try to salvage a few shreds of dignity from all this if you can.
The jig is up.
Pam Frampton is a columnist and
The Telegram’s associate managing editor. She can be reached by email at