Politics

Mike Duffy insists all his travel claims are legit, denies billing for dog show

Senator Mike Duffy denied Crown allegations that he billed taxpayers to attend a dog show or visit his family in Vancouver, insisting repeatedly he never inappropriately expensed travel claims that are at the centre of his criminal trial.

Senator has pleaded not guilty to 31 charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery at Ottawa trial

Mike Duffy and his lawyer Donald Bayne arrive for his third day of testimony 1:05

Senator Mike Duffy denied Crown allegations that he billed taxpayers to attend a dog show or visit his family in Vancouver, insisting repeatedly he never inappropriately expensed travel claims that are now the focus of his criminal trial.

Duffy's lawyer Donald Bayne spent most of the day going through with his client the series of travel expenses the Crown alleges Duffy illegally claimed. Bayne repeatedly asked Duffy if he ever, at any time, had attempted to deceive or defraud the Senate. Duffy said never, insisting that all his trips were for legitimate Senate business.

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 Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The trial began in April at the Ottawa provincial courthouse.

The Crown contends that some of the trips that Duffy expensed were for partisan activities or for personal matters, and that Duffy shouldn't have claimed these expenses.

Among those are a $698 travel claim Duffy expensed for a trip to Peterborough in 2010. The Crown alleges that Duffy came to town to attend a dog show and to inquire about purchasing a dog.

'Were you shopping for a dog?'

At an earlier point in the trial, court heard from Dean Del Mastro, who was the MP for the area. Del Mastro testified that he met with Duffy, who told him he was in town for a dog show.

But under questioning from Bayne, Duffy contradicted Del Mastro's testimony. He said he had never heard about the dog show and that he had been invited to Peterborough by Del Mastro to speak to a Christian broadcaster that had been struggling.

Senator Mike 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 Prime Minister Stephen Harper. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Del Mastro was parliamentary secretary to the heritage minister. Duffy, who wanted money to fix up the Confederation Centre for the Arts in Charlottetown, said he agreed to go in part because he thought it was a good opportunity to lobby Del Mastro for federal funds for the arts centre. 

Duffy said when he got there Del Mastro told him the broadcasting issue had been resolved. Instead, he wanted to talk to Duffy about an idea for a Parliament Hill online "Dean and Mike" show.

While there, Duffy said Del Mastro also suggested they go to the dog show. But Duffy said he never bought a dog there, or inquired about purchasing a dog there. He said he went to the different booths to meet people.

"Did you get any dog at the Peterborough dog show?" Bayne asked.

"No," Duffy said

"Were you shopping for a dog?"

"No," Duffy repeated.

Bayne also questioned Duffy about a travel expense claim for a luncheon in B.C. — at the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club in 2012 — hosted by Conservative MP Andrew Saxton and his father, Andrew Saxton Sr., a prominent B.C. businessman.

The Crown alleges that for this trip to B.C. Duffy expensed nearly $4,500 and spent days with his family.

But Duffy testified that the purpose of the luncheon was for pre-budget consultations with prominent city leaders, including Saxton Sr., who was known as a "day-oner"— someone who supported Harper when he ran for the Canadian Alliance leadership.

Duffy said the PMO had told Duffy to be nice to Saxton Sr. as he was one of the party's founding fathers. Duffy testified that the assembled guests were mostly concerned about pipelines and that he wrote to Nigel Wright afterward to report what they had discussed at the lunch.

'1 of the most important meetings'

"It was probably one of the most important meetings I have ever had in all my years as a senator," Duffy testified.

Earlier, Duffy testified about his role at various events he attended at the behest of Conservative MPs. He insisted he was conducting Senate business at all of these appearances.

Duffy said there may have been a partisan aspect to some of the events — such as fundraising for a local candidate. But he said that for all of these events, he spoke about issues relating to public business and government policies, including the Conservative economic action plan. 

Bayne has previously argued that the definition of partisan activities in the Senate administrative rules is extremely broad and ambiguous. 

Duffy, because of his years as a TV journalist, said he was a much sought after speaker for these events.

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

Duffy testified earlier this week that when he was approached to become a senator, Harper's executive assistant, Jeremy Hunt, told him that the Conservatives were looking to appoint people with a national profile like Duffy to "expand the pool of accessible voters" in order to win a majority government.

What they were trying to do, Duffy testified, was to put people in the Senate who would provide "third-party validation" for Stephen Harper as someone Canadians could trust. 

Duffy said that people at these events would want to speak to him about different issues, but they also wanted to have their picture taken with him. 

With files from John Paul Tasker

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