OTTAWA – Sen. Mike Duffy’s lawyer says the Prime Minister’s Office arranged to pay off his client’s disallowed housing expense claims as part of an effort to hide a political embarrassment.
Donald Bayne says Nigel Wright, then the prime minister’s chief of staff, told Duffy in an email last December that his housing claims were legitimate.
But by February, Wright was urging Duffy to accept a PMO plan that included lines for the media in order to defuse the whole expense situation.
Wright later personally paid $90,000 to repay Duffy’s expense claims even though, Bayne said, Duffy felt he had done nothing wrong.
“It’s a scenario, in Nigel Wright’s own words, that was created for Sen. Duffy not because he had anything to hide or had made inappropriate claims, but because the PMO had decided that they wanted to sweep a political embarrassment to their Tory base under the rug,” Bayne told a news conference Monday.
“They threatened Sen. Duffy with wholly unconstitutional and illegal procedures of throwing him out of the Senate without a hearing if he failed to go along with it.”
Bayne said Duffy repeatedly checked to see if it was legitimate for him to claim expenses in relation to a primary residence in P.E.I. and was told it was fine.
The lawyer says the problem lies with the vague Senate rules about residency, not with Duffy.
Bayne also said Conservative senators who are backing a motion to suspend Duffy from the upper chamber without pay are acting like a mob that’s demanding a sentence before a trial.
“We can’t allow this kind of undemocratic process where the rule of law is being seized here for political reasons,” he said.
Bayne added that he initially advised his client to keep silent about his expense troubles in order to respect an ongoing police investigation.
Now, however, Bayne is on the offensive, saying Duffy is being railroaded by colleagues in the upper chamber.
“The Senate intends to act like a mob to sentence Sen. Duffy without a trial.”
The Senate Expenses Scandal:
The statement comes only one day before the upper chamber is set to debate three motions from the government, which would suspend Duffy, along with senators Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau.
It’s a move to punish the three for their improper travel and housing claims in the expense scandal.
Meantime, Wallin’s lawyer has already hinted that she is considering legal action to fight the move by the Upper Chamber, labelling it a fundamental affront to democracy and saying this is an example of backroom politics at its worst, as well as an attempt by the government to change the channel.
The notice of these motions were filed last Thursday, but earlier the same day Duffy had filed for medical leave, due to ongoing heart problems.
The government insists this will not block its efforts to suspend him.
The government leader in the Senate says all three will have a chance to defend themselves when the motions are debated.