Saturday, April 23, 2016
Was Duffy caught up in a sleazy, ham-fisted cover-up run out of Harper's PMO? Yes. And, as Judge Vaillancourt noted, he was under intense pressure from the highest ranks of the Prime Minister's Office and the Conservative Senate caucus to do so. Keep in mind, too, that all the while Duffy insisted his housing expenses were right in the first place.
Should Duffy have been appointed to the Senate to "represent" PEI, even though he had lived in Ottawa for years? That's a tough one. Many people had been in the same situation before, people like Joyce Fairbarn, a former Southam News reporter who worked as press secretary to Pierre Trudeau before being appointed to the Senate to "represent" Alberta. (Senators don't represent anyone or any place. They never have to take a call from a "constituent" and can vote a law in a way utterly contrary to the interests of their province, and contrary to overwhelming public opinion. It is only by the generosity of a senator that he/she even bothers to visit their "home" province at all and interact with the people there. Does this stink? Yes. But it is how it is, and it wasn't Duffy's fault.)
I like Mike Duffy. I know his faults. He is far from being an evil man, and nowhere near a criminal. A lot of media wanted to take him down, and they really thought they had him. The more closely people followed the trial in the media, the more sure they were of conviction. I watched it as someone who studied criminal law and I knew on the second or third day that the Crown had lost the case. Sometimes they were calling witness after witness to try to plug a single hole -- the dog show in Peterborough comes to mind -- and the hole would only get bigger. This was a true show trial, complete with a press release with the assistant commissioner of the RCMP's picture on it when the charges were laid. Judge Vaillancourt wrote a decision that should be read carefully by everyone who covered the Duffy case and anyone who wants to understand Stephen Harper's Ottawa.
I have been his friend for 20 years. Before he started in the Senate, I helped him fight of Internet trolling and I kept doing that when he was appointed. Eventually, he sent me a token payment, something the judge took pains to say was warranted, and was good value for public money. I am glad to see him acquitted. I hope he goes back to the Senate and embraces the one good thing it does: scrutinizing legislation.
And I hope the media, which has come as close as possible -- as I told them in a scrum outside the courthouse in the early day of the trial to much eye-rolling from reporters who were sure he was going to jail -- to killing Duffy, now leave him alone.
Thursday, April 09, 2015
RE: Canadaland's article:
I do not believe I should have been strong-armed into writing this post. I believe I should have been able to give my evidence at trial. I believe I should have been afforded the protection of privilege in testifying, and that, although sub judice contempt of court is no longer enforced (especially in judge-alone cases), I should follow the rules. However, if I waited to do so, my reputation would have been destroyed by Jesse Brown and David Akin.
I had no idea Canadaland was publishing anything about me until the item appeared. I had implored Akin to leave me alone until I testified. However, they went ahead and, within hours, it was obvious that they meant to do as much harm to me as possible. I spoke with the RCMP, then decided I really had no choice but to write this blog post to try to protect my reputation.
I also had been informed that my witness statements had been turned over to the defence, so there is nothing in this blog post that is unknown to Mike Duffy's defence team.
In 2009, I was a prof at Concordia University in Montreal. Mike Duffy asked me to do some research work on how to deal with troll posts on the Internet. Duff had been a friend of mine for 15 years. His desk was next to mine in the Press Gallery newsroom, before I went to Concordia in 2007 and he went to the Senate in 2009.
I had not written about the Senate in at least three years as I was no longer doing legal reporting that required me to cover its justice committee. So I did some research over the course of several months. We had never talked about me being paid and I did not expect to be paid. I did decide to never write about Duffy -- to recuse myself, basically, from covering him and the Senate, just because of the fact that he was my friend and I had been to his home. I tried never to develop personal friendships with politicians and kept my personal life and media work very separate. (This is a much higher standard than usual for Ottawa reporters). Several times, he asked me to ask my wife for legal advice. She did not provide him with any or talk to him.
Months later, he sent a cheque to my wife, who had just been called to the Bar. We sent it back. Then he sent a cheque to me from what appeared to be his own company. Since I did not believe I was in any kind of conflict, I cashed it. At that point, I was workimg full-time on my books. I used my gallery membership to go into the Centre Block to have lunch with friends and to use the Library of Parliament to research magazine stories, none of which involved the Senate or Mike Duffy.
I never wrote about Duffy again except in a positive review of Dan Leger's book (where I declared my friendship with Duffy), in a blog post where I talked about my friendship with Duffy and to mention Duffy's "insider" journalism and his Senate expense scandal in my book. (I had to put something in about it.) I never sold Duffy coverage, never wrote journalism that was compromised by my relationship, did nothing unethical in any way. If the Press Gallery had a method of declaring potential conflicts, I would have availed myself of it.
(This is the same press gallery, by the way, that is no soliciting corporate clients for its annual dinner, in which many journalists invite lobbyists.)
Duffy continues to be my friend. I have worried that the stress of the scandal would kill him. I offered him a big hug soon after he had another heart attack.
I have learned a lot about a few of my Hill colleagues and about hungry self-promoters like Jesse Brown. George Bain's complaint of "Gotcha" journalism has a lot of truth to it among the more immature and, frankly, stupid members of the gallery. There are many great journalists in the Gallery and I hope they understand how, in 2009, I expected to live the rest of my life of an academic who just happened to have a rather bizarre friend in the Senate. I have no psychic powers. I acted ethically by making sure I did not cover Duffy in the magazine and newspaper pieces I wrote.
I have been a loyal friend to a man who always treated me well. He and I do not share the same politics. Right now, he is in a lot of trouble. He is still my friend. He may go to jail. I will visit him if he does. I try to be a good friend, even when my friends stumble.
As for the innuendo created by Jesse Brown, David Akin and Canadaland: only one other publication followed up on it. That was Frank Magazine.
Nice work, guys.
Thursday, February 05, 2015
Reviews of Kill the Messengers: Stephen Harper's Assault on Your Right to Know
In thirteen searing chapters, Bourrie details the Harper government's politics-as-war crusade to "to kill many messengers" by blocking media inquiries, gagging watchdogs (especially climate scientists), shuttering archives and laboratories, and ramping up conservative propaganda — all in the service of relegating politics to well-connected insiders. How readers feel about Bourrie's book will no doubt hinge on their personal politics, but he certainly makes some valid points in this razor-witted, accessible account that should interest anyone who cares about Canada's future.
-Holly Doan, Blacklock’s Reporter
Mark Bourrie's thorough examination of how Stephen Harper keeps the Canadian voter from knowing what the hell is going on, how it muzzles government scientists and everyone else in the civil service, should infuriate everyone who has even the slightest regard for democracy, transparency and open government. The book is also an indictment of a lazy media. Harper has gotten away with a lot because the media has allowed it to happen. The book is wonderfully written. Breezy, very funny at times, but ultimately maddening. I hope everyone who plans to vote in the 2015 federal election ion Canada reads it.
-- Linwood Barclay, Goodreads.
Bourrie correctly identifies the most dangerous precedents Harper has set: Trying to appoint an unqualified judge to the Supreme Court; trying to change the law to make his illegal appointment legal; and publicly rebuking the chief justice of the Supreme Court for trying to tell him he was wrong."There's no point having a free press, functioning Parliament, independent parliamentary watchdogs, unfettered scientists and an end to government propaganda campaigns unless we have free elections and courts that have the power to roll back tyranny," Bourrie pleads."If we lose those, it's all over. They won't be coming back."
Siri Agrell JSource -
Friday, May 16, 2014
It's something I always wanted to do. I wrote about a lot of legal stuff, and I've wished, over the years, that I had studied law before I wrote any of it. I want to be a go-to lawyer for writers, publishers, people hit by SLAPP suits, and new Internet media start-ups. Fortunately, the University of Ottawa, just down the street from my home, has the faculty and resources to teach me how to do that.
Yea, it's weird to go back to school at an age when people are seriously considering early retirement. But idleness never had much attraction for me. And I've seen an awful lot of people in mid-life thrive in law school. Getting a law degree takes nothing away from what I do as an author, university teacher or historian. And, in 2017, when I graduate, I'll be three years older. That would have happened without law school.
So wish me luck. It's going to be a big change.