What you need to know from the new Duffy documents

John Geddes on today's Senate revelations

Adrian Wyld/CP

Mike Duffy took command of centre stage on Parliament Hill again today in his inimitable way. His speech was a reprise of last week’s grandiloquent performance. But beyond the rhetoric, the independent senator from Prince Edward Island, after letting loose in the Senate chamber, also tabled selected documents (see below).

The most intriguing is surely a April 3, 2013 note, signed by Conservative party lawyer Arthur Hamilton, on the letterhead of the law firm Cassels Brock, confirming delivery by courier of a cheque for $13,560 to Duffy’s lawyer. This does seem to lend considerable weight to Duffy’s claim that the party, far from viewing him then as a wrongdoer who needed to be sanctioned, regarded him then as a loyalist whose legal costs the party felt it should pay.

Why would the party hold that favourable impression of Duffy? Perhaps because senior Conservatives didn’t think he’d done anything wrong from the outset. That certainly seemed to be the opinion of Nigel Wright, back when the then-chief of staff to Prime Minister Stephen Harper wrote a Dec. 4, 2012, email to Duffy, also tabled this by the embattled Senator this afternoon. In this brief note, Wright expresses his understanding that Duffy “complied with all the applicable rules,” and, referring to a news story on Duffy’s expenses commiserates that it “sure seems to be a smear.”

Going back even further, on the fundamental question of whether Duffy, who mostly lives near Ottawa, can legitimately sit as a PEI senator, Duffy tabled a Senate memoradum on qualifications, which includes this remarkable passage: “I checked all of the authorities on the Senate and residency is not defined. My interpretation of this is that there has been a longstanding convention that so long as a Senator owns preoperty in his or her province of appointment then they are allowed to sit as a Senator from that province, even if they live in Ottawa 99 per cent of the time.”

Much more to come here on from my colleague Aaron Wherry, who has been in the Senate covering yet another entertaining, unpredictable afternoon of debate.

Contact information included in the original documents has been removed.

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