The Mike Duffy trial stays too long at the fair

Up today at the Duffy trial: Gary Lunn
Duffy - June 1 - 822x462
(The Canadian Press)

The fraught and faulty nature of the human intellect as it relates to memory is the preferred subject of lots of people. Today it became the focus of defence lawyer Donald Bayne, who made a poster boy of its limitations out of the once longstanding Member of Parliament for Saanich—Gulf Islands, Gary Lunn.

Lunn is a diminutive guy who maintains the official Conservative Party haircut despite having lost his seat to Green Party leader Elizabeth May in 2011. And for whatever reason Lunn, who trained as a lawyer and who is now a developer in Greater Victoria, today elected himself Bayne’s plaything.

His testimony first thing this morning followed evidence given by a number of members of his former riding association yesterday, the substance of which, though Bayne objected to it vociferously, suggested that the suspended senator Mike Duffy did not arrive to promote the Tory party at the Saanich Fair in 2009 because Lunn’s people balked at paying for the trip.

Though it isn’t clear when his Saanich glad-handing got the axe, Duffy ended up flying to B.C. from Ottawa with his wife Heather anyway, billing the Canadian taxpayer something in the order of $8,000 for the four-day trip.

The night before his scheduled appearance at the fair, on Sept. 6, 2009—”Cancelled,” his diary notes—Duffy saw his daughter Miranda perform in a play at Vancouver’s Jericho Arts Centre. The rest of that Labour Day weekend he and Heather filled with all manner of family activities, at the Keg and the Four Seasons Hotel.

Duffy is now on trial in Courtroom 33 at Ottawa’s Elgin Street courthouse, where he’s facing 31 charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery.

Throughout Thursday, a series of Saanich—Gulf Islands Tory party stalwarts—Bruce Hallsor, Marilyn Loveless, Donald Page—batted around this issue of why Duffy’s slated appearance at the fair got cancelled. Hallsor, for one, told a story of how the riding association learned how Duffy wanted to get reimbursed for his travel.

“We politely declined having him come,” Hallsor had said, adding: “that was a collective decision I participated in.”

And again and again Bayne had taken to his feet, raising hearsay objections, and submitting that only Lunn could tell the court how things really unfolded.

Suddenly, here was Lunn, in the flesh, trudging up to the witness box.

Lunn told Crown prosecutor Mark Holmes that he’d sat in the House of Commons for 14 years, as a Reform Party representative, a member of the Canadian Alliance, and finally as a Conservative, and attended the Saanich Fair, by far the most important annual social event in his riding, each year he was an MP.

He remembered the 2009 fair in particular because, as he was Minister of State for Sport, he had access to a replica of the Olympic torch, the bona fide version of which was just then getting run across Canada ahead of the 2010 winter games.

Holmes asked Lunn about what plans had been in place to get Duffy to the fair.

“I do recall that Mr. Duffy and I had a conversation, maybe two,” Lunn told court

Duffy was known for making such celebrity appearances.

“He was very popular in caucus, people were standing up and praising him,” Lunn said.

But in the case of this Saanich Fair, nothing was every really settled.

“No details were ever finalized,” Lunn told Holmes, although he also allowed that, as a result of these discussions, Duffy very well could have believed he was set to go.

Lunn said he likely had a conversation with his riding association minions about whether to pay for Duffy’s travel a couple of weeks before Labour Day.

At this point, Bayne objected, and asked that Lunn leave the room.

In his absence, Bayne said that this version of events differed markedly from the one Lunn had given earlier in a police interview.

“There’s issues of credibility and reliability,” Bayne told Justice Charles Vaillancourt, which is hard talk in or out of a courtroom. In response, Vaillancourt more or less allowed Holmes to continue his line of questioning. But he added that it “might also provide opportunity for interesting cross-examination.”

Which is judge talk equivalent to a boxing fan’s vocal anticipation of an upcoming fight. A fight is what he got.

“Mr. Lunn, who was the president of the E.D.A. in 2009,” Bayne asked the witness when he arrived at his lectern for cross-examination—there were no introductions, no greetings of good morning. When Bayne is preparing to lay flat someone in the witness box, he leaves the courtroom in no doubt.

Lunn could not remember. He gave several possibilities. None were accurate.

Under Baynes cross, Lunn repeated that the plans to bring Duffy to the fair were never more than provisional.

So why did everyone at your riding association think he was coming? Bayne asked. Page told court on Thursday he’d been “thrilled” to hear Duffy would come.

Lunn couldn’t say.

Next Bayne set about establishing with whom Lunn had what Bayne referred to as “an alleged conversation,” about Duffy’s request that he get reimbursed for his travel. Lunn ham-fistedly provided a host of scenarios about who he spoke to on the matter.

“Did you speak to Ms. Lovelace,” Bayne asked.

“I believe I spoke to Mr. Hallsor.”

“That isn’t my question. Do you not understand the question?”

“This happened in 2009 so I don’t remember specifically,” Lunn, who was not squirming but who nevertheless had assumed a sort of foxhole position within the witness box, eventually replied.

He couldn’t say with certainty that Mr. Hallsor was the only person he spoke to. All kinds of things were possible.

“Sir, everything is possible,” Bayne told him. “We’re not here to discuss things that are in the realm of what is possible.”

Bayne now showed that during Lunn’s police interview, on Feb. 26, 2014, he could not even remember whether Duffy was at the fair or not.

At bottom, the back and forth came down to Bayne’s astonishment that Lunn didn’t tell police in his interview about his riding association’s refusal to pay Duffy’s travel. Bayne maintained that, had he remembered this, it would have been germane to the subject and the police investigator’s questions.

The suggestion was clearly that, for whatever reason, Lunn did not then remember this detail, and that he was including it in his account now because of conversations he later had with Hallsor, a close friend Lunn told court he speaks to every day.

“So Hallsor told you this?” Bayne asked him.

Bayne never really got to the bottom of this. He didn’t need to. He’d done his work.

“You’ve used the expression ‘I don’t recall’ many times here,” Bayne told Lunn.