Suspended senator Mike Duffy is expected to push to go to trial as quickly as possible to fight charges over his expense claims, a potentially explosive case that could begin before the next federal election.
RCMP laid 31 charges against Mr. Duffy in July. The first court date for his case is set for Tuesday morning in Ottawa, and a trial date could be set then.
Mr. Duffy's lawyer, Donald Bayne, said the senator will not attend the hearing. In an earlier statement, Mr. Bayne said the charges will allow him to prove that Mr. Duffy "is innocent of any criminal wrongdoing."
Mr. Bayne and Mr. Duffy both declined comment on Monday, including on how soon they would like the trial to get under way.
However, a source said Mr. Duffy's lawyer is expected to press for a trial as soon as possible, perhaps even waiving a preliminary hearing, and that a trial could take weeks or even two months to deal with the complex series of charges. The availability of a judge and a courtroom will be factors in setting the date, the source said.
The next election is scheduled for October, 2015, raising the possibility a court could be hearing testimony about the involvement of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his office during or just before a campaign.
The case is related largely to Mr. Duffy's expense claims, including those that led Mr. Harper's former chief of staff, Nigel Wright, to write him a cheque for $90,000 to cover repayment of some claims.
During Question Period on Monday, the NDP asked about a further investigation, and why Mr. Wright is not facing charges.
"I just want to congratulate the RCMP for the very thorough work that it did. As you know, Mr. Speaker, this case is before the courts right now and we will let the courts make their decision," replied Mr. Harper's parliamentary secretary, Ontario MP Paul Calandra.
Mr. Bayne's statement in July said Mr. Duffy has "never had a fair hearing, either in the Senate or in the media." In particular, it pointed to the RCMP's decision not to charge Mr. Wright.
"I am sure that I am not the only Canadian who will now wonder openly how, what was not a crime or bribe when Nigel Wright paid it on his own initiative, became however mysteriously a crime or bribe when received by Senator Duffy," Mr. Bayne's statement said.
Mr. Duffy, along with fellow Conservative senators Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau, was suspended from the Senate last fall. All were appointed by Mr. Harper. They are eligible to reclaim their seats and salaries after the next election, provided they are not suspended again.
Mr. Harper, meanwhile, has insisted the repayment plan involving Mr. Wright occurred without his knowledge, although e-mails obtained by the RCMP during their investigation allege several people in his inner circle were familiar with the plan.