From whom — and why — should Sen. Mike Duffy continue to command any respect as a former journalist or appointed stalwart of sober second thought in this country?
Let’s be clear. Duffy is hardly worse than many others among Ottawa’s entitled class. Politicians, senators and bureaucrats of all stripes regularly help themselves to disproportionate shares of the public pie.
But Duffy’s smug dismissal of criticism is especially galling, given the man once considered himself a prince among media watchdogs, dutifully holding those in public office accountable.
Recently, reports surfaced that Duffy claimed $33,413 in Ottawa living expenses last year because he considers himself a resident of P.E.I. Unfortunately, P.E.I. doesn’t agree. He owns a renovated cottage there, but has lived, paid taxes and voted in the Ottawa area for decades. And his home province charges him non-resident taxes,
Duffy, formerly CTV’s star parliamentary reporter, is not the only senator spongeing this extra benefit off the public. The Senate Standing Committee doesn’t properly define residential status, so there’s little to stop it from happening. It’s a typical case of “everyone else is doing it.”
But a handful of senators do refrain. And even Duffy apparently feels it’s not defensible. Why? Because just before Christmas, when a review of senators’ expenses was announced, he took extraordinary measures to fast-track a P.E.I. health card — having his office call the province’s health minister directly. The minister refused to intervene.
It’s not the first time Duffy has raised eyebrows about expenses. In 2011, while travelling the country to stump for the Conservatives, the party wrote some of Duffy’s expenses off as services of a “supplier.” That meant the party was eligible for rebates from the public purse.
Short version: taxpayers helped pay for Duffy to woo voters.
With the shoe on the other foot, Mike Duffy apparently sees journalism a little differently these days.
When the Ottawa Citizen’s Glen McGregor followed up on the most recent story, the senator called it all a bunch of BS.
“Glen, I’m not speaking to you,” he told McGregor when asked for comment. “… and you’re not encouraged to call this phone.”
On Thursday, Duffy fled an energy conference in Halifax after giving a speech in which he mocked the media for straying from important issues. “You should be doing adult work,” he scolded one reporter over his shoulder as he escaped through the kitchen.
Compare that with an on-air confrontation then CTV News host Duffy had with a Liberal strategist in 2006. His guest tried to change the subject after being grilled over an embarrassing campaign ad.
“You ask me why I raise this? Because this has to do with integrity. It has to do with the people who want to lead our country. This is a perfectly legitimate issue to be raised by journalists. … We have a public responsibility to raise it. You were in here earlier when we were off the air on a commercial break trying to intimidate me into not going back to that ad. We will not be intimidated. We will do our jobs as journalists.”