It took over a year to do it, but a thick coat of whitewash has now been applied to the "Honourable" Michael Dennis Duffy, the Senator from Kanata [Prince Edward Island, according to the judge. Ed.], following his acquittal yesterday on 31 -- count `em, 31! -- charges of claiming expenses as a senator from Prince Edward Island on "travel status" in the national capital region, where he's actually lived for decades; claiming travel expenses as a parliamentarian while gallivanting around the country on personal or partisan business; funneling Senate money through private companies owned by a friend, and thereby avoiding Senate scrutiny in his dispersals; and accepting a bribe to repay his bad expenses once they came to light.
Mr. Justice Charles Vaillancourt astounded millions of Canadians yesterday by calling Senator Puffy an "honest man" whose conduct was "honest and reasonable". In a 308-page ruling which took the judge nearly six hours to read out, he gave the porcine solon as complete and thorough an exoneration as the Ol' Duff could have imagined in his wildest dreams.
Canucks sick of unelected party hacks gorging themselves at the Senate trough can be forgiven for wondering if the Duffy they came to know and despise was the same one Judge Vaillancourt saw in the courtroom, the one he described as a credible, hard-working senator (as former Prime Minister Steve Harper wrote on a photo introduced as an exhibit) who never padded expense claims, never ran away from questions about his residency, and sought the advice of Senate leaders and PM Harpoon himself, who all told him he was doing no wrong.
The judge's characterization of the obese sycophant was, in the words of Agent 17, enough to gag a maggot. The 31 charges were stripped of all credibility and dismissed in a complete (and sometime mocking) deconstruction of an incomplete and inept Crown case. The Senator broke no rules, Judge Vaillancourt said, because there were not rules to be broken. Some of his contracts were "unorthodox" and perhaps some of his travel could raise eyebrows, but the judge could not find Mr. Duffy was evading Senate oversight because there was no oversight in the first place.
If public money was spent foolishly or carelessly or on travel and other benefits of a personal nature, that was OK as long as Mr. Duffy included a bit of "Senate work" -- like fundraising for his party -- on his junkets. Besides, he never received any of the money personally. And, bottom line, Senator Duffy was (and still is) entitled to his entitlements.
Speaking on CBC-TV's "At Issue" panel last night, Chantal Hébert said that just because someone is not a criminal doesn't mean he is an ethical or honourable person. Just so. Having been convicted of exactly nothing, Mr. Duffy is entitled to take his extra-wide seat in the Senate once again, and be called -- or call himself -- "Honourable". But that doesn't mean anyone has to believe he is any of those nice things the judge called him. The honourable thing for him to do would be to retire to his "principal residence" in PEI. But will Mr. Duffy, who has the nerve of a canal horse, give up his place at the trough? Hah!
Note from Ed.: Full credit and a tip of the hat for the cartoon to Malcolm Mayes, whose fine work can be found in the Edmonton Journal.