Mike Duffy says he resisted PMO plan for housing expense repayment 'at every opportunity'
Duffy defends more than $10,000 in payments to fitness instructor
Senator Mike Duffy testified that he resisted "at every opportunity" a scenario proposed by members of Stephen Harper's PMO to have him publicly acknowledge he was mistaken to claim housing allowances for his Ottawa home and that he would repay.
"I had no part in that and no knowledge at the time it was happening, " Duffy told his lawyer Donald Bayne
"And it's wrong because I have never believed I made a mistake."
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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, who at the time was chief of staff for Harper. The trial began in April at the Ottawa provincial courthouse.
Duffy's expenses for his Ottawa residence had become a public controversy following a December 2012 article in the Ottawa Citizen by journalist Glen McGregor. The article said the P.E.I. senator had claimed over $33,000 in living allowances for his Ottawa home, even though he had been a resident in the capital since the 1970s.
Bayne went over emails involving Wright and other members of the Prime Minister's Office discussing a strategy in which Duffy would repay the allowances.
One "Duffy scenario" email, sent Feb. 20, 2013, by then issues manager Chris Woodcock, included a statement Duffy would make in which he would say he was "mistaken," but that he was "doing the right thing" and would be repaying his housing allowances.
Bayne asked if it was what he voluntarily wished to do.
"Not at all," Duffy said.
In a followup email, Wright said they should provide Duffy with some Q&As, that he should blame the mistake on ambiguities in the forms but not acknowledge any wrongdoing. Duffy said that was because Wright knew that Duffy would "never admit wrongdoing because I would never do anything wrong knowingly."
Bayne asked Duffy: "to be clear, was this scenario yours?"
"Not mine. Didn't contain my views of what had gone on. It was completely at odds, 180 degrees of what I believed."
"Did you resist this when you learned of their efforts?" Bayne asked. "At every opportunity," Duffy said.
"Did you make 'scenario' demands?" Bayne asked. "None, none," Duffy said.
Duffy did eventually go public, in an interview with the CBC on Feb. 22, saying he would repay the housing allowances.
More review of expenses
Earlier, Bayne took his client through a series of expense claims, some of which the Crown alleges were for personal services that the senator shouldn't have billed to the taxpayer.
Court has heard that a series of Senate research contracts worth $64,916.50 were awarded by Duffy to Gerald Donohue, mostly to perform editorial, research, consulting and speech-writing services.
It was out of this fund that Donohue, through his family-owned company Maple Ridge Media Inc. (which later became Ottawa ICF), paid out cheques for other expenses claimed by Duffy.
It's the Crown's contention that Duffy set up a fund with Donohue to pay for some inappropriate or non-parliamentary services — expenses that the Crown says wouldn't otherwise have been covered by Senate finance.
Some of those expenses include payments to his cousin for news clippings, the Kanata-based photo processing firm, an office volunteer, a makeup artist and a personal fitness trainer.
Duffy had claimed more than $10,000 for over a three-year period from 2010 to 2012 to pay for the services of a personal fitness instructor, who he claims was acting as a consultant on a Senate-related project on fitness for seniors.
Before Duffy had become a senator, Mike Croskery had provided him with physical fitness services at his home from 2007 to 2008. But they weren't getting any results and by 2009 the sessions had "dropped right off," Duffy said.
"If I had wanted fitness, I'm now a parliamentarian. They have a gym where parliamentarians can go for free," Duffy testified.
"The last thing I needed was more exercise," he added.
Duffy said in 2010 he called Croskery to act as a consultant on his senior fitness project, adding that he had a "list of credentials as long as your arm."
He said they continued to do some exercises, and that Croskery used him as a "guinea pig" as they tried to work out a program that would be beneficial to seniors.
Duffy said while he may have gotten an aspect of personal benefit, Croskery was being paid as a consultant to the project.
"There may have been some marginal benefit to me in terms of toning or whatever from the exercise. But that wasn't the primary reason."
Court also heard that Duffy expensed around $1,500 to Kanata, Ont.-based Jiffy Photo for photos and picture enhancements. Some of those pictures included enhancements of former U.S. first lady Barbara Bush and Duffy's daughter and grandson as well as other personal pictures.
But Duffy said that senators often take photos at different events with a number of people, whether it be VIPs or average citizens. And that for the photos in question, almost all were considered "Senate memorabilia" and part of Senate-related business.
He admitted that two pictures that cost about $7, including one of his daughter and grandson, were mistakenly expensed to the Senate.
Except for those two photos, Duffy testified that all of them "related to my job as a senator."
"It's in the rules, framing, printing, all of that," he said
With files from John Paul Tasker