NEWS
08/11/2015 18:49 EDT | Updated 08/11/2016 01:12 EDT

A blow-by-blow chronology of Mike Duffy's Senate expense scandal saga

OTTAWA — The fraud, breach of trust and bribery trial for suspended senator Mike Duffy resumes on Wednesday. Here's an abridged chronology of his part in the Senate expense scandal at the heart of the allegations:

Dec. 22, 2008: Prime Minister Stephen Harper anounces Mike Duffy's appointment to the Senate as a representative of Prince Edward Island. Duffy is sworn in the next month.

December 2012: Questions are raised about how much time Duffy spends at his declared primary residence in P.E.I., since he is claiming living expenses for his longtime Ottawa-area home.

Dec. 4, 2012: Duffy says he got an email from Nigel Wright, the prime minister's chief of staff, saying it appeared that Duffy's residence expenses complied with the rules.

Feb. 5, 2013: Reports emerge that Duffy applied for a P.E.I. health card in December 2012 and that he does not receive a resident tax credit for his home on the island.

Feb. 8, 2013: Senate hires external auditing firm to review residence claims of Duffy and two other senators.

Feb. 11, 2013: Duffy sends email to Wright apparently containing advice from his lawyer. It outlines certain scenarios for repayment of the expenses and the "assurances" he would require.

Feb. 13, 2013: The date Duffy says he meets Harper and Wright after a Conservative caucus meeting. Harper tells Duffy he must repay questioned housing expenses. "The prime minister agreed I had not broken the rules but insisted I pay the money back, money I didn't owe, because the Senate's rules are, in his words, 'inexplicable to our base,'" Duffy says in an October 2013 speech in the Senate.

Feb. 21, 2013: Duffy agrees to follow what he later describes as a PMO-drafted plan to cover up the source of a $90,000 payback to the Senate, including a story that he borrowed the money from RBC.

Feb. 22, 2013: Claiming confusion with the rules, Duffy pledges to pay back the expenses.

Feb. 27, 2013: Harper says all senators meet the requirement that they live in the area they were appointed to represent.

Mar. 26, 2013: $90,172.24 is transferred to Duffy's RBC bank account, and his cheque for $90,172.24 is delivered to the Senate. The cheque cleared Duffy's bank on Mar. 28.

April 19, 2013: Duffy confirms he has repaid more than $90,000 in Senate housing expenses. "I have always said that I am a man of my word. In keeping with the commitment I made to Canadians, I can confirm that I repaid these expenses in March 2013.''

May 8, 2013: A meeting with people from the Prime Minister's Office, Conservative senators and staff discusses the altering of a committee report on Duffy's residency and expenses. Negative language is removed.

May 12, 2013: RCMP says it will examine Senate expense claims.

May 15, 2013: The PMO confirms a media report that Wright personally footed the bill for Duffy's housing expenses because Duffy couldn't make a timely payment.

May 16, 2013: The Canadian Press reports that Duffy submitted travel expense claims to the Senate on the same days that he was campaigning for Conservative candidates in 2011 and claiming expenses from them. He resigns from the Conservative caucus.

May 19, 2013:Wright announces his resignation as Harper's chief of staff, a move Harper says he accepts with "great regret." Wright is replaced in the chief of staff's role by Ray Novak. In October, Harper says Wright was "dismissed."

May 28, 2013: Senate internal economy committee holds a public meeting to review Duffy's travel expenses. Senate finance officials say they've detected a pattern that concerns them. The committee votes to send the matter to the RCMP.

June 3, 2013: The Conservative leader in the Senate says she intends to ask the auditor general to look into all the expenses of the upper chamber. 

June 6, 2013: Conservative and Liberal senators agree to invite the auditor general to scrutinize the way they spend taxpayers' money. The same day, Harper tells the Commons that Wright paid the $90,000 with his own money and that Wright regrets the "error in judgment."

June 13, 2013: The RCMP confirms it has launched a formal investigation into Wright's involvement in the expense scandal.

July 4, 2013: Media reports say RCMP investigators allege that the Conservative party had planned to repay Duffy's improperly claimed living expenses, but balked when the bill turned out nearly three times higher than expected.

July 5, 2013: Harper is accused of misleading Canadians after repeatedly insisting Wright acted on his own when he gave Duffy $90,000 to reimburse his invalid expense claims. The RCMP says in a court document that Wright told three other senior people in the PMO about the transaction.

July 17, 2013: Harper's office says it has not been asked by the RCMP for an email at the heart of its criminal investigation into the Senate expenses scandal. The PMO denies withholding the email, which apparently summarizes the deal struck between Duffy and Wright to pay off invalid expense claims.

Oct. 8, 2013: RCMP alleges Duffy awarded $65,000 in Senate contracts to Gerald Donohue, a friend and former TV technician, who did little actual work for the money.

Oct. 17, 2013: Claude Carignan, the government's new leader in the Senate, introduces motions to suspend Duffy, Sen. Pamela Wallin and Sen. Patrick Brazeau from the Senate. The motions call for the three to be stripped of their pay, benefits and Senate resources.

Oct. 21, 2013: Duffy's lawyer, Donald Bayne, alleges Harper's staff and key Conservative senators were behind a scheme to have Duffy take the fall for wrongdoing that they agreed he had not committed.

Oct. 22, 2013: In an explosive speech in the Senate, Duffy accuses Harper's office of orchestrating a ''monstrous fraud'' aimed at snuffing out controversy over his expenses. Duffy accuses the prime minister of being more interested in appeasing his Conservative base than the truth.

Oct. 28, 2013: Duffy delivers another speech, this time saying the Conservative party arranged to cover his $13,560 legal bill. He also casts doubt on whether Wright actually paid the $90,000: "I have never seen a cheque from Nigel Wright."

Nov. 5, 2013: A Nov. 1 letter from the RCMP superintendent in charge of the investigation reveals that investigators want copies of emails and documents mentioned by Duffy, including emails from the PMO related to a "script" for Duffy to follow in publicly explaining how he financed repaying the expenses. The documents "may potentially be evidence of criminal wrongdoing by others," the letter reads.

Nov. 5, 2013: Senators vote to suspend Brazeau, Duffy and Wallin without pay — but with health, dental and life insurance benefits intact — for the remainder of the parliamentary session.

 Jan. 29, 2014: Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau expels the 32 Liberal senators from his caucus in what he calls an effort to reduce partisanship in the upper chamber. He says if he becomes prime minister he would appoint only independent senators, chosen through an open public process.

April 15, 2014: RCMP tell Wright he will not face criminal charges.

July 17, 2014: Duffy is charged with 31 counts, including fraud, breach of trust and bribery.

Sept. 23, 2014: A trial date is set for April 7, 2015, with 41 days set aside in April, May and June.

April 7, 2015: The trial begins with Duffy formally pleading not guilty to all charges. Deputy Crown attorney Mark Holmes says Duffy billed the Senate for thousands in "secondary residence" expenses though he did not live in Prince Edward Island and was just "commuting" from his Ottawa home. Holmes also says Duffy claimed travel payments for Senate business when he was attending family events. Defence lawyer Donald Bayne says Duffy operated within the often-fuzzy Senate rules.

April 15, 2015: Witnesses testify they received payments for various services from Duffy through cheques issued by Maple Ridge Media, a company run by Duffy's friend Donohue.

April 22, 2015: Court is told that after his appointment to the Senate, Duffy moved quickly to declare a P.E.I. cottage as his primary residence, allowing him to claim more than $80,000 in housing expenses over the years.

May 7, 2015: Three Conservative MPs testify they recruited Duffy to speak at fundraising events in their ridings because his star power would help "rally the troops."

June 9, 2015: Duffy’s former executive assistant testifies it was common practice in his office to have him sign blank travel expense claims in order to facilitate paperwork.

June 16, 2015: A forensic accountant testifies that Duffy was withdrawing more money from his bank account than was deposited, with the difference made up from a line of credit.

June 18, 2015: The forensic accountant tracks the $90,000 Wright payment from an American account to a Canadian account, to an Ottawa law firm to Duffy's bank account. The Receiver General of Canada then received $90,172.24 from Duffy.

Aug. 2, 2015: With the dissolution of Parliament for the Oct. 19 election, Duffy's Senate suspension is no longer in force.

Aug. 12, 2015: Trial resumes.

 

The Canadian Press