Duffy a low-grade scammer?

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Oh Mike, you’ve blown it, haven’t you?

I was actually inclined to be a “little” forgiving about Mike Duffy’s primary/secondary residence scandal. Granted, a senator should know how the rules are applied in specific cases, and should seek clarification if confused, but I do recall finding the wording of the definitions of principle residence and a residence for which a housing allowance is paid a little confusing.

If memory serves, the rules stipulate a senator’s principle residence is in his home province, and funding can be received for maintaining a satellite residence in Ottawa. So rather than saying, “Wait a sec, my principle residence is already in Ottawa, what do I do now?”, he seems to have nterpreted the wording in his favour: “The government has declared the residence I own in PEI (even if I know it’s just a cottage) is my ‘principle’ residence, therefore the home I’ve owned for years in Ottawa qualifies as a satellite residence according to the rules.”

Like I said, there was some wiggle room. But his self-righteousness during the whole ordeal was tiresome given that, even if he thought he was obeying the letter of the law, surely he knew he wasn’t obeying the spirit of it. 

Then he took a gift of cash from Harper’s chief of staff to pay back the $90,000 it was decided he owed because of the residence mix-up. Again, even this isn’t a slam-dunk: yes, it has the appearance of impropriety, but the liberty lover in me also sees the simple logic of one citizen being allowed to receive a gift from another citizen. Ultimately, I find the impropriety argument persuasive – see Andrew Coye’s breakdown of the arguments: http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2013/05/15/andrew-coyne-the-only-right-thing-left-for-mike-duffy-to-do-now-is-resign/ - but this strikes me as another one of those semi-grey zones.

There is a clear infraction it looks like we can attribute to Duffy, however, and that is his apparent campaigning on behalf of the government while claiming he was on senate business: http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/05/16/conservative-senator-mike-duffy-claimed-expenses-while-campaigning-in-2011-election/

Taken in its entirety, it’s a sad little record. No grand scheme or arch-villain plot. Just the appearance of a low-grade scammer playing the system to his benefit and bending, even breaking, the rules to do it.

You shouldn’t be surprised. Frankly, I’m suspicious of any journalist who turns around and accepts an appointed political position. I judged Michaelle Jean harshly when she became Governor General and I judge Duffy harshly for becoming a senator.

If a journalist wants to move into politics, let him/her run for office. But moving from outsider and critic to pampered member of the unelected inner circle is a sell-out.

Mike’s integrity, if he had it before, started to crumble as soon as he said ‘yes’ to becoming Senator Duffy.

A final point: there’s no proof – yet – Harper knew about any of this. But the shenanigans of underlings rightly reflect on a leader. A little of this mud should stick to our PM and should be part of the final calculation when voters go to the polls. After all, this is a PM who is comfortable using taxpayer-funded mail outs to launch political attacks on opponents. Do we really think he’d have an ethical problem with Duffy campaigning for Conservatives on the public dime? 

 

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