Mike Duffy's 1st day of cross-examination marked by testy exchanges
Crown will continue questioning at senator's fraud trial on Thursday
Mike Duffy's first day under cross-examination was marked by a series of testy exchanges with the Crown, which included sparring over the senator's reluctance to "gossip" about former prime minister Stephen Harper.
Duffy was clearly annoyed at times by some of the questions being asked of him by Crown prosecutor Mark Holmes.
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In one exchange, Holmes pressed Duffy on his previous testimony that he told Harper he wanted to be appointed as a senator from Ontario.
Duffy said his request had nothing to do with him being a resident of Ontario. Instead, Duffy said, he was concerned about the reaction among P.E.I. Conservatives who may have had other candidates in mind.
But he also offered another reason.
"If you really want to know why I wanted to go in from Ontario, it was because of my precarious health," he said, adding that going back and forth from P.E.I. would take a toll.
Holmes then asked if Duffy had been telling the truth when he said that he preferred an Ontario appointment because of local P.E.I. political concerns.
Duffy said there were a number of factors involved.
"You didn't ask whether health was a factor in Ontario and I didn't volunteer it. I'm not withholding anything. I'm just trying to preserve a shred, just a tiny shred of dignity and privacy," Duffy said. "Bank records, bank account numbers, you've put it all out to everyone without the slightest bit of concern for anyone else's privacy."
Duffy has pleaded not guilty to 31 charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery related to expenses he claimed as a senator and later repaid in March 2013 with $90,000 from Nigel Wright. At the time, Wright was Harper's chief of staff.
Meeting with the prime minister
Holmes also zeroed in on one June 2008 meeting Duffy testified about — the first meeting the senator said he had in Harper's office.
Duffy previously testified he had been ushered into Harper's office to hear about a small error he had made on his broadcast about the public debt.
Duffy said they also discussed the appointment of new CBC president Hubert Lacroix, who, Duffy testified, had just been named to that position.
But Holmes pointed out that Lacroix had been appointed in November 2007, made effective in January 2008, six months earlier.
"When Hubert Lacroix was appointed, I was also invited to [Harper's] office," Duffy said. "So maybe the June date was not Hubert Lacroix, but I know about the conversation with Hubert Lacroix because I remembered it very clearly and I know it was in the Centre Block."
Holmes asked Duffy if he had realized the court had relied on his testimony of that meeting of being truthful and accurate.
"To the best as I could remember it," Duffy responded.
Holmes asked Duffy to check his diary to see if he put this Harper meeting and appointment conversation into the diary. Duffy said he didn't have his diary in the courtroom Wednesday, but would check and bring it back on Thursday.
Recalls Harper 'eating a hot dog'
Earlier, Holmes had focused on a particular detail of that June 2008 meeting in which Duffy said he been ushered in past top military officials who were standing there waiting to meet with Harper. Duffy suggested that by doing this, Harper was putting politics ahead of policy.
But Holmes suggested those senior officials could have been waiting for someone else before going to see Harper and that there may have been nothing untoward by having Duffy see Harper before them.
A clearly annoyed Duffy asked Holmes if he wanted to go through all the times that people were kept waiting while "the prime minister ate a hot dog and somebody ironed his shirt?"
Duffy recounted one Conservative rally in P.E.I. in which attendees, many of them seniors, had been kept waiting for over an hour.
"The prime minister was sitting there in his undershirt eating a hot dog and one of the female staffers was doing what the 'little woman' should. She was ironing his shirt."
Duffy said that for a prime minister who portrayed himself as a populist, he considered it rude behaviour
When Holmes asked Duffy to provide another example of this type of behaviour by the prime minister, Duffy said: "I'm not going to go further down this road of digging up gossip."
Duffy denies seeking to become a senator
Holmes also questioned Duffy about whether he had ever lobbied to become a senator.
Duffy said he never did, rejecting stories suggesting he had approached former prime minister Jean Chrétien for the appointment.
"If one really wanted an appointment, don't you think the wrong way to go about it would be to walk up to the prime minister and say, 'Hey, I want to be a senator,'" Duffy testified Wednesday.
Duffy told the court it would be "crass" to approach a prime minister to ask for a Senate position. It's not the way he was brought up or how the system works, he added.
Duffy said Chrétien, during a roast, had once mentioned that Duffy came up to him and said, 'I'm ready, I'm ready' in terms of a Senate appointment, but the senator stressed the prime minister was just joking.
With files from John Paul Tasker