OTTAWA – Sen. Mike Duffy dropped a bomb Tuesday, claiming he’s the victim of a conspiracy by the Prime Minister’s Office and Senate brass to commit bribery and extortion by forcing him to accept a deal to repay $90,000 or be fired.
Duffy’s defence of allegations he abused Senate resources came as he and two other condemned colleagues met their accusers in an eleventh-hour appeal to their peers, who were to vote on motions to suspend them without pay and benefits over alleged irregularities in their expense claims.
Duffy laid out a chronology leading up to Tuesday’s unprecedented hearing in the upper chamber to oust him and Sens. Patrick Brazeau and Pamela Wallin.
Duffy said when the story first broke he was given assurances by Harper’s former chief of staff, Nigel Wright, that he broke no residency rules.
But when he met with both Harper and Wright on Feb. 13, the PM said it didn’t matter what he did, it was the perception, and ordered him to repay the money back.
He said in the weeks after that meeting he received phone calls from Wright, as well as other senators, including one who left “particularly nasty and menacing” messages.
“Do what the prime minister wants. Do it for the PM and the good of the party,” he quoted that senator as saying.
“Finally the message from the PMO became: ‘Do what we want or else.’”
He said he was threatened to take the deal or Sen. Carolyn Stewart Olsen and Sen. David Tkachuk – key members of the powerful committee of the internal economy - would declare him unqualified to sit in the Senate.
“However, if you do what we want, the prime minister will publicly confirm that you are entitled to sit as a senator from P.E.I. and you won’t lose your seat,” Duffy quoted a PMO official as saying.
Tkachuk denied the allegations.
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said.
After months of rejecting the plan, Duffy finally accepted the deal that would see Wright cut a cheque while two PMO lawyers as well as his own and one from the Conservative party -- handled the details.
He said he has the e-mails from the exchanges between the parties and planned to hold on to them because those involved should be given due process while the police investigate.
“Are the police looking at possible criminal charges?” he asked. “Are they wondering about bribery, threats and extortion of a sitting legislator? This is serious stuff and the people involved … deserve to have their rights protected.”
Harper has maintained he only became aware of Wright’s actions after a news report in May.
But Duffy said in May, when he had second thoughts about the deal, Harper’s current chief of staff, Ray Novak, and Marjory LeBreton, the Government leader in the Senate, jointly called him in P.E.I.
He said LeBreton was “emphatic,” saying the deal was off and that if he didn’t quit caucus he would be thrown out and measures would be taken to remove him from the Senate.
Brazeau was also given a chance to defend himself before the Senate adjourned until Wednesday.
“If this is the Harper government’s way of believing in democracy and exercising democracy, I think we should all be very fearful.”