Mike Duffy is suing the Senate, federal government for $8M

Sen. Mike Duffy is suing for $6.5 million in general damages, $300,000 for loss of income and benefits and $1 million in punitive damages relating to the treatment he faced during the Senate expenses scandal, his lawyer said Thursday.

Senator is suing for punitive damages related to the Senate expenses scandal

Sen. Mike Duffy is suing the federal government and the Senate for damages stemming from his criminal trial over his Senate expenses. Duffy was acquitted of all charges in 2016. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Sen. Mike Duffy is taking legal action against the Senate and the federal government, seeking nearly $8 million in damages.

The suit seeks $6.5 million in general damages, $300,000 for loss of income and benefits and $1 million in punitive damages relating to the treatment Duffy faced during the Senate expenses scandal.

In a statement, the P.E.I. senator said Conservatives are still in control of the Senate's powerful internal economy committee — which deals with budget and other personnel matters — and they have proven they are "not interested in correcting the unjustified actions taken against me by the Senate."

"The Harper Conservatives have left me with no choice but to go back to the courts for justice," Duffy said.

An Ontario judge dismissed all 31 criminal charges relating to Duffy's Senate expenses in April 2016, clearing the way for his return to the Senate. Duffy now sits as a member of the Independent Senators Group (ISG). 

Duffy said Thursday he has suffered "stress and serious financial damage" since the Senate moved to suspend him from the chamber and referred his questionable expenses to the RCMP for investigation in 2013. The senator maintains that he was not afforded due process or the presumption of innocence throughout these proceedings.

The P.E.I. senator's pay — and most of his benefits — were withheld for two years but were later restored when former prime minister Stephen Harper dissolved Parliament to call the last election. After Duffy's acquittal, the Senate also clawed back some $17,000 of expenses — which came to light during the trial — that it deemed inappropriate despite the judge's findings.

'No senator has ever been through what Mike Duffy has been through with the Senate,' says Lawrence Greenspon. 10:58

In December 2016, Duffy requested a reimbursement of the salary, living allowances and pension accruals that were withheld because of his suspension. The senator said that request has been ignored.

The Senate's interim law clerk, Jacqueline Kuehl, told CBC News the Red Chamber would not comment as the matter is before the courts. The Senate will soon be expected to file a statement of defence in response to Duffy's accusations.

A former top Harper staffer said Thursday Duffy's demand for such a large monetary sum speaks to his true character.

"By going for this grossly inflated figure of nearly $8 million, it just confirms, I think, what everybody knows about Mike Duffy and that his north star is greed," Andrew MacDougall, Harper's former director of communications, said in an interview.

Negligence by RCMP

Duffy is also accusing the RCMP of negligence in their investigation of his housing and travel expenses because they did not give him an opportunity to adequately respond to accusations against him before filing criminal charges.

He contends that his Charter rights were violated because he was subjected to "cruel and unusual punishment" during the course of the scandal.

"The message to the RCMP is: the guy you charged should have never been charged ... and you ruined his life. It's time to try and make Mike Duffy whole," Lawrence Greenspon, Duffy's lawyer, told reporters Thursday.

Duffy's statement of claim filed in court Thursday accuses the police force of inadequately training its officers, and unfairly targeting Duffy because of his high profile.

"Sen. Duffy's acquittal at trial has not remedied his damages," the claim filed in court Thursday reads.

"A significant stigma still remains. Sen. Duffy continues to suffer emotional and physical damage due to continued and prolonged reputational damage that continues to this day, including daily mention, mockery and ridicule in media outlets nationwide."

Mike Duffy's lawyer, Lawrence Greenspon, outlines why the Senator is suing the Senate and The RCMP for nearly $8 million. 1:30

The senator said he was once a sought-after public speaker, a job that afforded him a considerable salary outside of his earnings from the Senate. That work has now dried up, Duffy said.

The statement of claim documents a host of mental and physical illnesses that Duffy claims were exacerbated as a result of the scandal, including severe anxiety and depression, aggravation of a heart condition, complications with his diabetes, insomnia and nightmares.

About the Author

John Paul Tasker

Parliamentary Bureau

John Paul (J.P.) Tasker is a reporter in the CBC's Parliamentary bureau in Ottawa. He can be reached at john.tasker@cbc.ca.

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