Mike Duffy in his own words: Memorable moments from his trial

The lengthy trial of Mike Duffy adjourned Friday after 60 days of testimony from a parade of witnesses — ending with the senator himself in the witness box for eight days to address the 31 criminal charges against him. Here's a look at some of his most memorable exchanges from the courtroom.

The P.E.I. senator and former broadcaster defended his Senate expenses with colourful language

Sen. Mike Duffy, a former member of the Conservative caucus, makes his way into the Ottawa courthouse for trial on 31 charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

The marathon trial of Mike Duffy adjourned Friday after 60 days of testimony from a parade of witnesses — ending with the senator himself in the witness box to address the 31 criminal charges against him.

During his eight days on the stand, the former parliamentary reporter recounted his rise to fame, struggles in his family life and his fall from grace after he was suspended from the Red Chamber over his expenses.

The proceedings were invasive for the P.E.I. senator, as everything from his banking records to his fitness regimen were pored over by the Crown and his meticulous defence attorney, Donald Bayne.

Always the storyteller, Duffy regaled members of the press gallery and a smattering of interested observers from the general public with details of his life and interactions with former prime minister Stephen Harper.

The trial will resume on Feb. 22 for closing arguments, with a final verdict from the judge expected shortly thereafter. 

CBC News was in the courtroom from gavel to gavel. Below are some of the most memorable moments from Duffy's testimony.

"I was pleading with all these born-again Christians, throwing me to the lions ... It's politics at the most despicable."

Duffy has maintained all along that his expenses — both travel and residency-related — were all within Senate administrative rules. "I have not broken any rules, let alone the law," Duffy told the court during his testimony.

The senator claimed he was forced to admit wrongdoing and repay legitimate expense claims under crushing pressure from overzealous "kids in short pants" in the prime minister's office who were desperate to put an end to the media circus. 

Senator Mike Duffy says this photo, from the Prime Minister's Office, shows the moment he made a plea to Stephen Harper about repaying his Senate expenses. The photo was entered as evidence at Mike Duffy's trial Tuesday. (Prime Minister's Office)

Duffy recounted his efforts to convince Nigel Wright, Harper's former chief of staff and a devout Christian, to show him some mercy and publicly defend his spending practices. Wright refused.

The senator also pleaded with Harper himself after a Conservative caucus meeting in February 2013, but the prime minister was having none of it. He ordered Duffy to follow through with his office's "scenario for repayment," which included a public apology, an admission of wrongdoing and acceptance of a plan to whitewash an independent audit by Deloitte.

Duffy said he was "coerced into going along with this" under the threat of losing his job and being booted from the Conservative caucus.

ARCHIVE: Mike Duffy on Compass

7 years ago
Duration 6:41
Mike Duffy announces live on Compass he will repay Senate living expenses, Feb. 22, 2013.

He said he went to the Charlottetown bureau of the CBC under duress to say he would pay back his expenses. "When they pulled that knife out and held it over my head, I felt I had no other choice," he said.

"I did what they insisted I do and read the script that they wrote and then found out in the fall of that year [2013] I was suspended without pay or benefits for two years," Duffy said in court.

"I worked too hard, so I lost my kids. And I had a lost decade, where every time I went by a schoolyard I wondered what my kids were doing."

Duffy spent nearly an entire day of testimony recounting his rise to prominence as a national reporter for CBC News and later working for CTV News.

After a stint in private radio, Duffy told how he moved to the public broadcaster in 1974 to work on Parliament Hill.

Duffy told the court he worked as the company's "fireman," a colloquial term for a reporter who is dispatched to hot spots around the world as news is breaking.

Mike Duffy was a parliamentary reporter for the CBC throughout the 1970s and until 1988 when he left for Baton Broadcasting, the parent company of CTV. (CBC)

He spent time as one of the "boys on the bus," crisscrossing the country during federal election campaigns. He said the frequent travel — and an active social life — ended his marriage to Nancy, his first wife, and left him alienated from his two children.

A tearful Duffy recalled what he characterized as his "decade of darkness," where he turned to scotch each night to drown his sorrows and numb the pain of having nearly lost his family.

The hard drinking ended in health problems, and his first heart attack. But a chance encounter with a nurse, Heather, who he later married in a bedside ceremony at the Ottawa Heart Institute, turned his life around.

"The prime minister was sitting there in his undershirt eating a hot dog and one of the female staffers was sitting there doing what 'the little woman' should, ironing his shirt."

At times in the witness box, Duffy did little to hold back an apparent disdain for Harper.

Stephen Harper delivers a speech at a campaign rally in Crapaud, PEI, as Senator Mike Duffy (far right) looks on. Duffy said Harper kept senior citizens waiting for hours while he ate a hot dog back stage while a young female staff member ironed his dress shirt. (Colin MacLean/Journal Pioneer)

He told the story of a campaign stop in Crapaud, P.E.I. in August, 2010, as an example of what he called "rude" behaviour by Harper. Duffy said Harper left a number of senior citizens waiting in the hot sun for a campaign rally to start while he was sitting backstage eating a hot dog while a young female staffer ironed his dress shirt.

"I hate exercise. I want no part of it — it's just not my movie."

Duffy said he has been seized by self-consciousness about his weight since the early days of his career — initially rebuffing requests from the top brass at CBC to move from radio to television because the executive had never seen a "fat guy on TV."

Mike Croskery, a personal trainer who was paid $10,000 by Mike Duffy for consulting work, testified in April in the senator's fraud and breach of trust trial. (Greg Banning court sketch)

Duffy said efforts to exercise and lose weight had been fruitless, in part because his bad heart made physical activity an arduous task.

And yet shortly after his appointment to the Senate he made developing a national fitness program for seniors his pet project. Duffy hired a fitness trainer, Mike Croskery, as a consultant to create a low-impact workout for housebound seniors.

The Crown has argued that doesn't ring true, and that Duffy met with Croskery in his own home for personal training. The Crown argued Croskery did no research and performed no legitimate Senate business. 

"Are we into body shaming now?"

Tensions flared on another occasion when Holmes asked Duffy if he had ever heard of the giant pumpkin contest at the Saanich Fair — an event Duffy was slated to attend in B.C. The senator thought the Crown was taking a jab at his size, a claim the Crown quickly batted away with an exasperated, "You're kidding me."

"I was like Pearson airport on a Friday night."

Duffy testified he was an active surrogate for Harper during his tenure as a senator, travelling across the country stumping for the Tories. He said he was recruited for this role because of his relative fame and the respect he commanded from average Canadians. 

The photo signed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and dated June 11, 2009, carries the message: 'To Duff. A great journalist and a great senator. Thanks for being one of my best, hardest working appointments ever.' (CBC)

Duffy says he and fellow Conservative Senator Pamela Wallin were appointed to the upper house in part because of their perceived ability to bring more voters into the Conservative fold. He says they offered "third-party validation" for a leader many suspected of having a hidden agenda.

He said he never turned down an invitation from a cabinet minister or fellow caucus member to visit a riding and speak to voters. In his heyday, Duffy rarely spent a weekend at home.

"I never really referred to this as fundraising," Duffy said of the travel. "[Conservative Senator] Irving Gerstein has a machine that raises money," Duffy testified. "I'm there to friend raise."

Duffy said the considerable time and energy he devoted to getting Harper re-elected was quickly forgotten after he became a political liability — behaviour he said he didn't expect from a supposedly "honourable" man.


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