[Editor's note: Steve Burgess is an accredited spin doctor with a Ph.D in Centrifugal Rhetoric from the University of SASE, situated on the lovely campus of PO Box 7650, Cayman Islands. In this space he dispenses PR advice to politicians, the rich and famous, the troubled and well-heeled, the wealthy and gullible.]
Dear Dr. Steve,
I notice there are traffic closures on the Georgia Viaduct in Vancouver this month. Social media is showing pictures of carnage on the viaduct -- overturned vehicles, general mayhem and destruction. Does this have anything to do with the Mike Duffy trial?
Honest mistake. The viaduct closure is for the filming of a superhero flick -- it's a movie called Deadpool. The Duffy trial is a cesspool. Different sort of mayhem.
Deadpool, I am told, is a bit of a rascal. He doesn't play by the rules and is prone to saying things comic characters are not supposed to say, such as complaining about how little money Marvel spent making his comic; at one point in his Marvel Comics career he goes rogue and decides to kill all the other Marvel characters. In fact, he is sounding more and more like Mike Duffy all the time. To the best of my knowledge he never complains about having to eat cold Camembert, but never mind, that's a different Senate superhero.
This week, Duffy pleaded not guilty to 30 charges of fraud and breach of trust, and one of bribery. Most of the charges spring from Duffy's claim that his primary residence was not in Ottawa -- don't be fooled by his constant Ottawa presence -- but on Prince Edward Island.
But as the Crown lawyer pointed out in the trial's opening stages, Duffy is from PEI like your Aunt Mimi is from Florida, or Lance the Lifeguard is from the beach. Duffy had a cottage there. Applying the Duffy standard, I could become the senator from Danica's Baked Goods Cafe on Beatty Street. I've spent at least as much time there as Duffy has spent in PEI, and during the noon rush the population is similar.
Like Deadpool, journalist/politician Duffy has played both sides of the fence (which may not equate exactly with hero/villain dichotomy, but anyway). And like Deadpool, a cornered Duffy finally went rogue. Boy, did he. Standing up in the Senate he last year, he "J'accused" like a ninja. Duffy portrayed himself as a man under pressure to fall on his sword and admit guilt, called to a meeting with Prime Minister Harper and Nigel Wright. "Just the three of us," Duffy said, painting a picture of a menage a trois that no one in human history will ever fantasize about. "I continued to resist," Duffy told the Senate. "Finally the message from the PMO became 'Do what we want or else.' And what was the 'else?'"
Good question. Maybe they threatened to make good on his claim and force him to actually live on PEI. $90,000 could buy a lot of potatoes.
The PMO insists Duffy's version is fantasy. To switch from the Marvel universe to the Dickens, the two sides in this trial might be represented by characters in Oliver Twist. The Crown claims that Mike "Artful Dodger" Duffy was a pickpocket who stole from the public via his expense account claims, and then from sucker Nigel Wright, at the time the prime minister's chief of staff, who fell for the old "Sign-this-$90,000-cheque" trick. Meanwhile, Duffy's lawyer claims Senator Duffy was in fact poor Oliver Twist, pressured into a life of crime by Fagin's gang.
But the PMO insists Stephen "Fagin" Harper is not quite the mastermind he appears. Despite a line in a Nigel Wright email that reported PM Harper was "good to go" with the plan to reimburse Duffy, Conservative Party stalwarts insist that's misleading. After all, what does "good to go" really mean? To paraphrase Bill Clinton, it depends on what the definition of "go" is. Couldn't "good to go" mean "We are good to go for our elaborate deception," or "The PM is good to go unwittingly into our trap, still totally in the dark about our intention to reimburse Senator Duffy?" Sure it could. That's what lawyers are for.
Another thing lawyers are for -- lawyers and $90,000 cheques both -- is preventing this sort of action movie from shooting to begin with. But Duffy was not to be put off. Like any comic book hero, he wanted to pull on the skin-tight costume and cry "Havoc!"
There's no good outcome for the Harper team. It'll be day after day of one side alleging sleaze and corruption, and the other side saying the sleaze and corruption happened in a different fashion, while out on the courthouse steps the PM's people will profess to be shocked -- shocked! -- at such smears. When the whole tawdry, fascinating spectacle is over, the best the Conservatives will be able to do is ask that the jury -- that's you -- be instructed to disregard everything they've heard.
The Georgia Viaduct closures will be continuing all month -- the Duffy trial even longer. Expect mayhem.
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