POLITICS

Mike Duffy's Cousin Was Paid After Clipping Newspaper Articles

04/20/2015 11:48 EDT | Updated 06/20/2015 05:59 EDT
OTTAWA - One of Mike Duffy's first cousins in Prince Edward Island was paid after sending him scanned copies of news articles from the local papers, the suspended senator's trial heard today.

David McCabe's testimony kicked off the third week of Duffy's trial on 31 charges of breach of trust, fraud and bribery.

A number of the charges relate to a $65,000 contract paid to Duffy's friend Gerald Donohue in Ottawa; some of that money appears to have been doled out to other recipients, beyond the scrutiny of Senate officials.

McCabe and Duffy's mothers were sisters. He recalled knowing the senator as a teen.

"Back in high school, Mike spinned the records so I'd see him at dances and stuff like that," McCabe said via video link from Charlottetown.

The court heard that even before Duffy became a senator, McCabe would send him items of interest from the papers, including photos and articles about young relatives and their sports accomplishments.

McCabe, a furniture upholsterer by trade, said he also scanned articles about political issues. He said he never expected to be paid.

He received a $500 cheque from Donohue's company and told Crown attorney Jason Neubauer that at first he had no idea who it was from or what it was for.

Defence lawyer Donald Bayne tried to demonstrate that McCabe provided a legitimate service, even if he only did about half an hour of work a week.

"By the time of Sen. Duffy's appointment, you had proven yourself as a fella on top of local issues, local commentary, newspaper coverage of those issues, and you had reliably proven to be a good source for Sen. Duffy about those issues?" said Bayne.

"I would agree with that too, yes," said McCabe.

Bayne underlined that Duffy did not derive any financial benefit from the payment to his cousin. He raised the fact that Duffy paid for furniture repair work from McCabe with a personal cheque.

"There was no suggestion or request that any aspect of this $500 that you had received for performing this service be paid back or kicked back to Sen. Duffy?" said Bayne.

Said McCabe: "Definitely not."

The Senate's 2008 resource guide says that senators may not hire family members as staff, but the description does not extend to cousins. The Senate's Conflict of Interest Code prohibits senators from furthering the private interests of family members, but it also does not include cousins in the definition.

The Crown also examined another Duffy contractor from P.E.I., Peter McQuaid. The one-time chief of staff to former P.E.I. premier Pat Binns wrote speeches and did research for Duffy over three years.

Two of those years were covered by formal contracts with the Senate, but during one of those years Duffy had Donohue's firm pay McQuaid $2,881. That year, 2009-10, Duffy received word from Senate finance officials that he had exhausted his budget for such work.

"Was there ever any discussion why there wasn't a second contract?" asked Crown attorney Mark Holmes.

"We talked about how we couldn't do it through the Senate, but he'd find another way to do it," McQuaid replied.

McQuaid agreed with Bayne during cross-examination that Duffy never asked him to keep his work secret, he did the work he was paid for, and that no kickback was every sought.

The Duffy case came up during question period on Monday, the first time MPs have been able to raise the proceedings in the Commons since the trial began.

New Democrat Charlie Angus asked about Duffy's travels to political events.

The Canadian Press reported Sunday that the former Conservative did political work for at least 74 current and former MPs between 2009 and 2012

"Why did the prime minister have Duffy travelling around the country working for the party when his job was supposed to be representing the people of Prince Edward Island?" Angus asked.

Paul Calandra, the prime minister's parliamentary secretary, deflected the questions about Duffy's political activities.

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