Today is the day Senator Mike Duffy learns his fate. I have avoided commenting on his criminal proceedings for the past year, but want to get my prediction on the record.
The case has held Canadians’ attention since the trial started more than a year ago. Even before that, when the scandal broke surrounding Duffy’s expenses. His trial was arguably one of the major factors behind the defeat of the Conservatives in the 2015 federal election. People didn’t like what they heard about the workings of the Canadian Senate and the behavior of its Senators.
Duffy, a Conservative senator (ours are appointed, not elected) was charged with misuse of public funds. The negative publicity impacted his party’s popularity and caused many to question whether the Senate should continue to exist.
The man is facing 31 various charges. I’m not going to go into all the details; that would take a book. But I will go out on a limb and say he will be found not guilty on all charges.
Please note: “not guilty” is a legal term. I didn’t say the man was innocent.
It appears to me, and I think to everyone else in the country, that Duffy’s actions were morally wrong – but not contrary to the Senate rules and therefore not against the law. Apparently the Senate had no rules until the spotlight of publicity surrounding this case was turned upon it. (I do also have some questions about the law. I would love to know how Duffy can be charged with accepting a bribe that no-one is charged with giving. As the cliché goes, it takes two to tango.)
So what have we learned from a trial that was supposed to take a couple of weeks and has lasted more than a year? We have learned that the Senate needs fixing. And it is Senators from all parties who, after an audit, are scrambling to pay back funds that were improperly received.
Even more I think, we have learned that times have changed. Senate rules, such as they are, seem to reflect another era, a time when “gentlemen” were appointed to the upper chamber, people who would never fudge an expense claim because such things just were not done by gentlemen. Or maybe what was done was just not discussed by gentlemen.
The public has been disgusted by the revelations from the courtroom and the cavalier disregard for the use of taxpayers’ money by unelected politicians. But I suspect there is more to the outrage than that.
I suspect there is some envy at play here. We humans love it when the high and mighty are brought down to our level.
Not that being a Canadian Senator makes you all that high and mighty, but most people don’t have the opportunity for such a job. After all, the pay is about $130,000 a year and the job is yours until you are 75. Then you get a nice pension. Being appointed to the Senate is better than winning the lottery.
So we as a nation have reveled in Duffy’s tribulations since the expense scandal first came to light in 2013. If, as I expect, he is found not guilty on all charges, you can expect to hear a howl from coast to coast to coast.
Fortunately for Duffy his case is not before a jury but before a judge sitting alone. He may already have lost in the court of public opinion, but at least he has the assurance that the verdict that comes down today will be decided according to the merits of the case and the law. Which is as it should be.