Politics

Mike Duffy facing serious health concerns as he heads back to Senate, lawyer says

Mike Duffy's criminal defence attorney says that his vindicated client is battling serious health issues that raise concern about his well-being.

P.E.I. senator is "overwhelmed" after all 31 of his criminal charges were dismissed, Donald Bayne says

Donald Bayne, Senator Mike Duffy's lawyer, talks with Terry Milewski about Duffy's health, his return to the Senate, and about his plans to cross-examine Stephen Harper had he been called as a witness. 9:39

Mike Duffy's criminal defence attorney says that his vindicated client is battling serious health issues that raise concern about his well-being.

"I am worried about him. He has gone through the last part of this dealing with some confidential serious medical matters. He has kept a brave face through it all, but I don't think he and Heather [Duffy] fully understand the scope of what ended yesterday and how it ended," Donald Bayne said in an interview with Terry Milewski for CBC Radio's The House.

Bayne, a seasoned lawyer with a history of defending underdog clients, including accused terrorist Hassan Diab, said that Justice Vaillancourt's move to dismiss all 31 criminal charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery has left Duffy "overwhelmed."

Bayne said the stress the Duffy family has endured throughout the trial will not be rectified by a good night's sleep alone.

"I think what often happens after these type of things end is that you've probably heard of people ending a career, going off on a southern holiday and keeling over of a heart attack," he said.

While the former broadcaster is battling numerous health problems — Duffy has testified he's a diabetic with angina who is taking more than 13 daily medications — he still has every intention of returning to the Red Chamber.

"He is going back to the Senate," Bayne said definitively. His first opportunity will be Tuesday, May 3, when senators return from a break week.

Senator Mike Duffy was cleared Thursday of all 31 fraud, breach of trust and bribery charges he faced in relation to the long-running Senate expense scandal. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

The dismissal cleared the way for Duffy to return to the Senate as if the three-year saga never happened. While he has been paid since last August — his pay was held back for nearly two and a half years throughout most of these criminal proceedings — access to his office will be restored and he can hire staff to help him carry out his parliamentary duties.

"If I was him, I would certainly demand back the withheld pay from the last two and a half years. That was a suspension without pay [based on a] presumption of guilt, contrary to the presumption of innocence, contrary to the rule of law in this country," Bayne said. "Part of justice for Mike Duffy is making him whole in what he was denied."

When asked if he thought Duffy should receive a formal apology from the chamber for suspending him without due process, Bayne, a former all-star quarterback, said he didn't expect that sort of gesture from the group of people who fill the chamber's benches.

"He's not going to get that from these people."

Bayne was prepared for Stephen Harper

The defence argued throughout the trial that Duffy did nothing wrong and that all of his living and travel expenses — and service contracts with his friend Gerald Donohue — were above board and allowable under the vague or ill-defined Senate administrative rules.

Duffy testified that he was told by Senator David Tkachuk, a senior member of Conservative Senate leadership, to claim expenses and per diems so as not to put "any light" between him and other members of the Red Chamber from Atlantic Canada.

Conservative Senator David Tkachuk advised Mike Duffy to claim travel expenses from his Island home to Ottawa, but Tkachuk was never called as a witness. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

"He went to the guru ...he told him, of course you can charge living expenses here, your primary residence as of the date of your appointment is P.E.I. You're the senator from P.E.I.," Bayne said, relating what Tkachuk told Duffy after he was sworn in.

The Crown never called Tkachuk as a witness, or seriously refuted Duffy's claims. In fact, few senior players were hauled into the court to testify, something that puzzled the judge.

"There's a reason the Crown did not call those people. All of these people, David Tkachuk, Marjory Lebreton, so on down the [proposed witness] list, were all on the list," Bayne said.

"We had cross exams prepared for each and every one, including Prime Minister [Stephen Harper], and we had material to work with and they, the Crown — experienced counsel — made a decision that these would not advance the Crown's case."

Public backlash

The lawyer said he's far from surprised that some members of the public are appalled by Vaillancourt's clearing of all charges against Duffy.

"I listened to the CBC Radio morning show and was reminded by that show that there is a Twitterverse out there that has its own views," he said. "If we want to start running trials by people who have never attended a day in court, don't know the evidence, and we have justice by vigilante Twitterverse, then we are in big trouble."

Bayne said that the judge came to the only reasonable conclusion based on the evidence presented in court. 

"Mike Duffy was charged for travelling at behest of the prime minister across the country, repeatedly, arguably for partisan matters," Bayne said, adding the charges were nonsensical given the rules for that type of travel.

"The state of the Senate was a scandal."

The Power Panel discusses the Duffy trial and new comments by Mike Duffy's lawyer 8:53

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