Listen to audio of Mike Duffy’s speech here.
Thank you, honourable senators. I want to speak in support of this motion because I believe, after the excellent speech we heard from the leader of the Opposition here in the Senate, that there are a lot of questions that need answers. And while some might argue that having the proceedings before a judge and under oath might be absolutely preferable, given the size of the issue we’re dealing with, any move towards allowing senators to have their say before they’re shipped off I think is a great move and I support it.
I rise here today against the orders of my doctors, who fear my heart condition has worsened after months of unrelenting stress. But given the unprecedented nature of today’s proceedings, I feel I have no other choice than to come here and defend my good name. Like you, I took a solemn oath to put the interests of Canadians ahead of all else. However, the sad truth is, I allowed myself to be intimidated into doing what I knew in my heart was wrong out of a fear of losing my job and out of a misguided sense of loyalty.
Much has been made of the $90,000 cheque from Nigel Wright. I hope I’ll be able to give an explanation of the chain of events and the circumstances surrounding that gift without impugning the rights of others to a fair trial, should criminal proceedings follow.
Let me summarize it this way: On Dec. 3, 2012, the Ottawa Citizen ran a story asking, how could I claim expenses for my house in Kanata when I had owned the home there before I was appointed to the Senate? The inference was clear: I was doing something wrong.
I immediately contacted Nigel Wright, the prime minister’s chief of staff, and explained that I was doing nothing improper. Nigel Wright e-mailed me back, saying he had my expenses checked and he was satisfied that my accounts were in order, that all was in compliance with Senate rules. In fact, he said, there were several other senators in the same situation. This was in December 2012. Mr. Wright said: The story is a smear.
Following the PMO’s advice, I ignored the media, but the attacks from Postmedia continued and the political heat escalated. So after caucus on Feb. 13 of this year, I met the prime minister and Nigel Wright, just the three of us. I said that despite the smear in the papers, I had not broken the rules, but the prime minister wasn’t interested in explanations or the truth. It’s not about what you did; it’s about the perception of what you did that has been created in the media. The rules are inexplicable to our base. I argued: I’m just following the rules like all of the others. But it didn’t work. I was ordered by the prime minister: Pay the money back, end of discussion. Nigel Wright was present throughout, just the three of us.
The next week, while I was at home in PEI, I had a series of discussions on the phone with Nigel Wright. I said I didn’t believe I’d broken the rules and that to repay would be an admission of guilt. Canadians know me as an honest guy. To pay back money I didn’t owe would destroy my reputation.
The PMO piled on the pressure. Some honourable senators called me in PEI One senator in particular left several particularly nasty and menacing messages: Do what the prime minister wants. Do it for the PM and for the good of the party. I continued to resist. Finally, the message from the PMO became: Do what we want or else.
And what was the “else”? He said the Conservative majority on the steering committee of the Board of Internal Economy, Senator Tkachuk and Senator Stewart Olsen, would issue a press release declaring me unqualified to sit in the Senate. However, if you do what we want, the prime minister will publicly confirm that you’re entitled to sit as a senator from PEI and you won’t lose your seat. Tkachuk and Stewart Olsen are ready to make that press release now. I said: They don’t have the power to do that. He said: Agree to what we want right now or else.
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