Senator Mike Duffy has submitted an updated disclosure form to the Senate ethics office, a move required to keep senators in good standing and one that could be laying the ground work for his return to the upper chamber.
But the P.E.I. senator faces a substantial hurdle before that can happen — he must be exonerated of all 31 criminal charges he is facing when his trial resumes at the end of the month.
Duffy has pleaded not guilty to fraud, breach of trust and bribery charges related to expenses he claimed as a senator and later repaid in March 2013 with $90,000 he received from Nigel Wright, who at the time was chief of staff for the prime minister Stephen Harper. The trial began in April at the Ottawa provincial courthouse.
Mike Duffy arrives for his trial in 2015. (Photo: The Canadian Press)
If Duffy, who is currently on a leave of absence with pay pending the outcome of his trial, is convicted of just one criminal charge, he will be immediately suspended from the Senate, even if he moves to appeal the outcome, a Senate spokesperson told CBC News.
His $142,400 a year salary would immediately be cut off. The resources that are available to a senator, including his office, staff, and research budget (which has been at the heart of his criminal proceedings) would also end.
Duffy's suspension would remain in effect until all of his legal avenues have been exhausted.
If a conviction is upheld after an appeal, it would then be up to his fellow senators to decide whether a permanent expulsion is appropriate.
If Duffy is cleared of all criminal charges, he will return to work right away as if the whole matter — a three-year long legal saga — had never happened.
Duffy files ethics disclosure
Only days before his trial adjourned for the Christmas holidays, Duffy submitted his ethics disclosure form to Senate administration.
The move could be interpreted as an attempt by the former broadcaster to keep his paperwork above board in advance of his return.
A senator must submit a "public disclosure summary" on a yearly basis to stand in good stead with the Senate ethics officer.
As first reported Tuesday by Glen McGregor in the Ottawa Citizen, Duffy claimed income from the Canadian Pension Plan and workplace pensions he has from his time at the CBC and CTV, in addition to the salary he draws as a senator.
He has more than $10,000 in investments in both an RRSP account at TD Waterhouse, and a TFSA at RBC Royal Bank.
Also listed on the ethics form is his company, Mike Duffy Media Services, which is where money from his speaking engagements is paid to.
Closing arguments are to be heard on Feb. 22 at the trial, which has lasted more than 60 days.
The Crown contends that Duffy defrauded the Senate of funds for bogus travel expenses and questionable research contracts.
But Duffy's lawyer, Donald Bayne, has told the court that much of what the senator did was within the rules that govern senators and their funds. He was simply following the vague Senate administration rules, Bayne routinely argued.
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