Senate rules expert on stand for third straight day at Mike Duffy trial

A lack of clarity in the Senate’s rules and regulations extended to how senators were expected to spend their annual office budget, court heard Friday as the first week of Mike Duffy’s trial began drawing to a close.

OTTAWA — A lack of clarity in the Senate’s rules and regulations extended to how senators were expected to spend their annual office budget, court heard Friday as the first week of Mike Duffy’s trial began drawing to a close.

Senators have broad discretion to hire whomever they like to work in their offices, and if contracts are tendered for research or other services, proof of that service isn’t required, court was told as the upper chamber’s former law clerk took the stand for a third straight day.

Mark Audcent began his testimony on Tuesday as the Crown’s first witness, but by midday Friday he might easily have been mistaken as a witness for the defence, driving home the point that the rules governing Senate expenses provide senators with little in the way of rigid guidance.

The debate about the rules on contracting and hiring is related to the fact that a friend of Duffy’s received four contracts worth a total of $65,000 — work the Crown alleges was never performed.

But there’s nothing in the rules that say proof of completed work is required in order to be reimbursed, court heard.

The rules around contracting are so vague that an internal Senate committee recommended in 2010 they be tightened with more oversight, Duffy’s lawyer Donald Bayne told the court. The Senate disagreed with that advice.

Audcent has spent much of his time on the stand going over the various rules, policies and guidelines on the business of the Senate, given that he wielded the pen on many of them over his three decades working for the upper chamber.

The process has become more complex over time, he said.

“The Senate is like all institutions: things are becoming more administrative,” owing to a changing climate in which people want to see what is or isn’t permissable in writing, Audcent said.

The defence’s tactic of taking him through the Senate’s myriad rules and guidelines appeared several times to irritate Crown lawyer Mark Holmes, who interjected several times to express dismay at the repetitive nature of Bayne’s questions.

The nature of those rules is what’s at stake in the case, Bayne retorted.

“I think the obligation is going to be put on me by the end of the trial to say the Senate rules either prohibit something or permit something, and I can’t just stand up and say it — this is the law clerk from the Senate,” he said.

At one point, even Justice Charles Vaillancourt told Bayne to move on — and also prevented Audcent from weighing in specifically about the expenses and contracts at the heart of the criminal charges.

Audcent wouldn’t say whether any changes were made to Senate policies in light of the 2010 report, on the grounds that doing so would violate the solicitor-client privilege that exists between him and senators.

Just Posted

Red Deer ‘champion’ helps hospital by sharing ongoing petition

It’s been about three years since many physicians at Red Deer Regional… Continue reading

Weaker pump prices help inflation cool to 1.7%, the lowest reading in a year

OTTAWA — The annual pace of inflation slowed considerably last month to… Continue reading

Salt Lake City bids for 2nd Olympics in changed climate

SALT LAKE CITY — When Salt Lake City pursued the Winter Olympics… Continue reading

‘Here is my home:’ Refugee whose fingers froze off finds hope in Winnipeg

WINNIPEG — Razak Iyal still wakes up in the middle of the… Continue reading

Trudeau sees 2019 election as choice between positive Liberals, divisive Tories

OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau says he’s confident he’ll win re-election next fall… Continue reading

Alberta’s Sundial starts shipping to AGLC this week

Sundial’s Rocky View facility has received the green light from Health Canada… Continue reading

Maple Leafs among NHL teams facing cap crunches next year

There are questions Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock won’t touch with a… Continue reading

MacMaster holiday concert billed as dementia-inclusive

TORONTO — A holiday concert by fiddlers Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy… Continue reading

A journey through 2018’s top pop culture moments

And the top pop culture moments of 2018 are … Wait. WAS… Continue reading

Elon Musk unveils underground tunnel, offers rides to VIPs

LOS ANGELES — Elon Musk unveiled his underground transportation tunnel on Tuesday,… Continue reading

Penny Marshall dead at 75, best known as TV’s Laverne and director of ‘Big,’ ‘A League of Their Own’

Bronx-born Penny Marshall, who found ’70s sitcom success on “Laverne and Shirley”… Continue reading

Chabot scores overtime winner to lift Senators over Predators 4-3

OTTAWA — Thomas Chabot saw an opening and he took it. And… Continue reading

Canadian Marielle Thompson earns World Cup ski cross bronze in season opener

AROSA, Switzerland — Canada’s Marielle Thompson captured bronze at the opening World… Continue reading

Canada doesn’t make Oscars short list for best foreign language film

LOS ANGELES — Canada is no longer in the running for best… Continue reading

Most Read