Steve Rennie, The Canadian Press
OTTAWA - As much as Mike Duffy’s personal journal depicts a social butterfly who relished rubbing shoulders with politicians and power brokers, it also shines a spotlight on the gossip-fuelled, glad-handing circles in which he moved.
The journal — entered as evidence this week as part of Duffy’s criminal trial on 31 charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery — offers a rare glimpse at the life of the ultimate Ottawa insider, a fastidiously documented day-by-day account of where he went, who he met and even what he ate.
In many ways, it’s a study in contradictions.
There were cocktails and meals — including at least two pizza parties — at 24 Sussex Drive with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his family. There were dinners and drinks at Hy’s — a popular Ottawa steakhouse that’s a fixture among the political set.
On the other end of the social spectrum were dinners at Swiss Chalet and other suburban restaurants where a kid’s soccer team might end up celebrating after a big game.
There were nights spent in luxurious hotels (“taxi to Delta Grand overlooking lake — WOW!” Duffy remarked about his stay at a posh Okanagan resort) and nights spent in cheap motel rooms.
Yet the journal also suggests — as Duffy’s lawyer Donald Bayne is arguing in court — that the former television personality was a special kind of senator, a celebrity on the political circuit who crisscrossed the country to give speeches and raise money for the Conservatives.
Indeed, the diaries say little about the less glamorous aspects of senatorial life — poring over dense legislation, for example, or sitting through committee hearings.
What emerges instead is a portrait of a man so in touch with the Ottawa political scene that Conservative MPs and journalists alike would call in search of juicy tidbits, like who the prime minister had in mind for cabinet appointments.
Peter MacKay apparently confided in Duffy after reports surfaced that the former defence minister had one of the only three search-and-rescue helicopters in Newfoundland and Labrador pick him up from a private fishing lodge.
According to Duffy’s log, MacKay felt set up by Harper’s former communications director, Dimitri Soudas.
“Peter MacKay tells MD, Dimitri Soudas ordered him to fly out of Nfld. to do photo op — then leaked the helicopter story to the media,” Duffy wrote on May 9, 2012, referring to himself by his initials.
He also met Conservative Sen. Carolyn Stewart Olsen, a longtime Harper confidante, in September 2011 to discuss “caucus unrest.”
Duffy also kept in regular touch with his former journalism colleagues. Those conversations included chats about cabinet appointments following the 2011 federal election; a CTV executive’s departure from the network; and Prince William and the former Kate Middleton’s visit to Prince Edward Island in July 2011.
His diary also gives some insight into Duffy’s family life.
He chatted often with his children, Miranda and Gavin. The journal is full of major life events, such as the birth of a grandchild and the deaths of people he knew.
Indeed, some of those personal revelations are germane to the legal proceedings of which Duffy currently finds himself the centre: for one three-day window in December 2010, Duffy claimed more than $10,000 in travel costs and expenses after a trip he and his wife took to Vancouver.
His Senate expense claim said he was there on Senate business for speaking engagements and meetings. His journal reports he and his wife travelled there after his daughter gave birth to a baby boy.
After attending a fundraiser for Cockrell House in Colwood, B.C., that evening, Duffy spent the night at his son’s home; the following day, Duffy and his wife visited his daughter at the hospital. Later that day, Duffy flew to Victoria for another Cockrell House fundraiser, attending a Christmas party that evening.
His lawyer, Donald Bayne, argued earlier this week that Duffy always travelled for Senate business first, and combined a family visit if possible — something he was perfectly entitled to do.