A booster and his reward

The Mike Duffy I met in Ottawa forty years ago was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. And you knew he was from Prince Edward Island. As a press secretary on Parliament Hill, I dealt with scores of journalists in the Parliamentary Press Gallery. Mike, then a radio reporter, was the only one among them who talked incessantly about where he was from. I knew everything about the the Garden Province right down to the name of the main taxi firm in Charlottetown – Ed’s.

These days, he wears his pride of birthplace like a shield. In a statement released on Friday, Mike said, “I represent taxpayers with care, and Canadians know I would never do anything to betray the public trust. I have a home in Prince Edward Island as required by law.” It was a statement made with care. A Senate investigation will determine whether that home is his primary residence. If his primary residence turns out to be Ontario, then the $30,000 he has received since September 2010 for his Ottawa “secondary residence” will have been inappropriately claimed.

According to today’s Globe and Mail Mike kept his Ontario Health card (one of the markers of residency along with a driver’s licence and income tax filings) so he could continue his follow-on treatment with the same doctors after heart surgery in 2006. Anyone would have similar concerns, and if Mike had left it at that, there might have been no brouhaha. The extra money puts a different light on the situation. And all over such a piddly amount, too, given that Senators earn about $130,000 a year, plus office staff and travel expenses.

Mike has done himself no good this week. As he fled through a hotel kitchen in an attempt to avoid journalists wanting comments, he said to one of them, “You should be doing adult work.” Like the Senate, I guess. There’s another kind of pride, called hubris, the kind of pride that goes before a fall. If Mike is going through such a process, I feel badly for him. If his Senate appointment ends up to be tarnished, PEI’s biggest booster will have suffered as he deserved. And the Senate, already on the outskirts of pubic esteem, along with him.

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