Politics

Mike Duffy's calendar diary reveals insight into Ottawa politics

Suspended Senator Mike Duffy developed a habit over the years of taking careful, detailed notes of his daily life and interaction with prominent Canadians. Those notes, written into his calendar, provide insight into some big news stories.

Notes in calendar are evidence in ex-Conservative's Senate expenses trial on fraud, breach of trust charges

Suspended Senator Mike Duffy arrives Wednesday at the Ottawa courthouse for the second day of his trial in Ottawa. His daily calendar has been entered as evidence, and includes detailed notes that provide hints of the what was going on behind the scenes during some big politics stories. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Suspended Senator Mike Duffy developed a habit over the years of taking careful, detailed notes of his daily life and interaction with prominent Canadians.

Those notes, written into his calendar, are now part of the evidence to be used against him in his trial on 31 charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery that got underway Monday.

Duffy pleaded not guilty and says he did nothing wrong. He says the Senate's rules for travel and living expenses are unclear, and that he was entitled to the reimbursement he claimed.

The calendar seems to be the one Duffy provided to Nigel Wright, who was then Prime Minister Stephen Harper's chief of staff, in an attempt to justify his expense claims. Wright later turned over the calendar to the RCMP during the Mounties' investigation. He eventually left the job after it was revealed he gave Duffy more than $90,000 to repay the senator's expenses.

Some of the entries on his calendar provide insight into some big news stories. Others are likely to be of more interest to those who follow politics carefully, and still others are entirely mundane details like what Duffy had for dinner or what movie he watched with his wife, Heather.

The notes represent only Duffy's view of events.

Doug Finley cut out

Shortly after the May 2, 2011, election, Duffy writes that then-MP Dean Del Mastro phoned him. The Peterborough, Ont., politician had just been re-elected and had previously served as a parliamentary secretary to the heritage minister.

"Dean Del Mastro calls re: cabinet shuffle — Have I heard anything?" Duffy noted in the calendar.

During the election campaign, Duffy wrote that Conservative Senator Doug Finley phoned him. Finley had been one of the primary architects of the Conservative Party's rise to power but played a reduced role during the 2011 election. It also seems the two discussed a story Sun Media planned to run about then Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff.

"Doug Finlay [sic] calls re: Sun scoop upcoming on Ignatieff + Guy Giorno & Nigel Wright campaign shut Doug out of decision-making," Duffy wrote on April 10, 2011.

Giorno is a former chief of staff to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The story, alleging Ignatieff played a role in planning the invasion of Iraq in 2002, ran on April 20 but was quickly discredited, leading to accusations by Sun Media it had been misled and the dismissal of a Conservative campaign consultant.

MacKay felt targeted

A year later, Duffy writes about a controversy over then-defence minister Peter MacKay using a search and rescue helicopter to get from a Newfoundland and Labrador fishing resort to the airport.

"7 or 8 sens express anger at PMO's media and comms strategy," Duffy wrote on May 1, 2012.

"[Newfoundland and Labrador Senator] Fabian Manning & others enraged by Peter MacKay's handling of Search and Rescue."

A week later, Duffy says MacKay confided in him.

"National caucus — Peter MacKay tells MD [Mike Duffy], Dmitri Soudas ordered him to fly out of Nfld to do a photo op — then leaked the helicopter story to the media."

Soudas was not the source in the CBC's own reporting on the story.

'Controversy'

His early months as a senator were marked by a tendency to lean in a little too hard politically.

Duffy got himself in trouble by suggesting Liberal P.E.I. Premier Robert Ghiz could find himself crudely overcome by his Newfoundland counterpart Danny Williams, were the two premiers to climb into bed, politically. That episode prompted a call from the prime minister:

"PMSH calls re: MD I Ghiz controversy," the diary reads. An entry two days later suggests Duffy had to "make peace with Robert Ghiz."

But the "Ghiz flap," as he called it, didn't seem to slow down Duffy's political effort. His diary reveals an intense travel schedule in support of his new Conservative colleagues. He recorded fundraising ads, robocalls and other party bumf.

By the time the 2011 campaign rolled around, Duffy was travelling across the country attending as many as nine Conservative party events a week.

On April 2nd, he writes: "Ray Novak e-mails: Is MD available for events wityh(sic) the PM?"

At the time, Ray Novak was principal secretary to Harper.

The diaries reveal Duffy was keen to assist and regularly offered advice, memos and emails to the prime minister, his staff and other key Conservatives about politcal issues.

"MD - writes memo to PMO on media lines re: Stats Can & Helena Georges," he recorded in 2010.

"Write memo to Bev Oda re: CIDA {the Canadian International Development Agency]," was another, and "Write campaign de-brief memo to Jenni Byrne."

Helena Guergis was once a Conservative junior minister. Bev Oda was international development minister until the 2011 campaign and Jenni Byrne was — and is again now — the party's campaign manager.

View an interactive by The Canadian Press comparing Duffy's diary entries and expense claims.

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