Thursday, August 20, 2015

Duffy scandal: The differences between the Duffy Trial and the Harper (Governance) Public Trial

PM Stephen Harper, the leader of the “Harper Government”, is on trial by the public for the manner in which he governed his Prime Minister’s Office (the PMO), while senator Duffy is facing 31 charges in his criminal trial.

That there are two trials is undeniable, despite the PM’s attempt to only talk about the Duffy criminal trial.

What are the differences between the two trials?

The Type of Trial:

The Duffy trial is a criminal trial, held according to the criminal laws of Canada, which deal with the types of charges, what evidence may be led, the crime of perjury if a sworn witness does not tell the truth at a trial.

The Harper Governance Trial is not a criminal trial. It is an exercise in the democratic rights of citizens living in a democratic country like Canada, to demand high levels of competence and honesty in the conduct of public affairs by our elected officials, including our Prime Minister, our senators and our Members of Parliament.

There is an intersection of events, witnesses, and statements between the two trials, with the evidence produced in the Duffy criminal trial (especially the hundreds of emails that were sent from and to the PMO and that were produced as evidence in the criminal trial) forming the basis for evidence in the Harper Governance Trial.

The Accused:


Duffy, a former senator, is charged with 31 serious counts of fraud and bribery; these are criminal charges. He is the only one to date charged with these crimes. Others might be charged at a later date, if the public prosecutor deems the evidence shows other crimes have been charged. Witnesses at the Duffy criminal trial might also be charged with perjury, should the public prosecutor decide that the evidence for perjury exists.

Stephen Harper, the current prime minister, stands in the dock of public opinion, accused of misgoverning his PMO.

The Charges:

Duffy faces 31 criminal charges.

The charges against Harper deal with his behavior (past and present) with respect to the high standards of competence and honesty that Canadians expect of their elected representatives.

The charges are set out  in my earlier post, and in this earlier post, and can be reduced to this summary:

Lawrence Martin puts it succinctly:

On the Senate controversy alone, the work of PMO operatives included: promising Mr. Duffy he would be removed from an independent audit; concocting a secret plan to have the taxpayer-supported Tory treasury pay Mr. Duffy’s debts while telling the public a different story; planning to create a puppet-on-a-string Senate subcommittee to create a constitutional formula that would allow Mr. Duffy to continue sitting as a Prince Edward Island senator; repeatedly ordering up blatantly false party responses to questions in the Commons on the controversy.

I have summarized the charges as including these:

It is also about the judgment of the prime minister, and his tolerance for those in his Prime Minister’s Office who planned and carried out a scheme to deceive the public.

What does it say about a man who professes to be the best person to lead our country during tough economic times and in threat of further terror attacks, if he is reluctant to even consider whether he should be cleaning house? At the very least, he should be explaining why he is not distancing himself from those involved in planning and carrying out a scheme to deceive the public, interfere in a legitimate senate internal and external audit, and write scripts for others to use that are false.

What does it say about the leadership competence of a man who continues to take advice from an advisor who might, according to statements by the harried and uncomfortable looking Conservative Party spokesperson, be involved in the cover up?

And, as Lawrence Marin put it, it is about Integrity, and I see think this question reflects that conclusion:

Can you trust a man who runs an office where his most important advisors are party to such actions?

The Burden of Proof:

The onus is on the public prosecutor to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Duffy committed each of the 31 acts he is charged with. This is a very high standard of proof, required in criminal cases to protect our rights, and is much higher than the lower standard of balance of probabilities used in civil cases.

In the Harper Governance Trial, a far different standard of proof applies: the standard that voters apply to their elected representatives. It is simply the common sense conclusions of ordinary Canadians as to who is telling the truth, who is not, who is involved in planning and carrying out a scheme to deceive the public, and who knew about that scheme.

The Prosecutors:

The public prosecutor is trying Duffy’s criminal case.

In the Harper Governance Trial, the media have taken their rightful place as the prosecutors on behalf of the citizens of a democracy like ours. They are the ones producing evidence, dissecting evidence, and seeking new witnesses for the court of public perception that Harper now finds himself in.

The Court:

A judge is hearing the Duffy criminal trial, and will make the decision of guilt or innocence. There is no jury.

The Harper Governance Trial is being heard by very Canadian citizen, who have a democratic right to assume the role of the court in the Duffy case. So we, the citizens, are both judge and jury of PM Harper.

The Nature of the Evidence:

Most of the evidence produced in the Duffy criminal trial spills over into the Harper Governance Trial. The evidence under oath of members of the PMO, of any senators and others who might still be called, and the emails tabled, are also evidence in the Harper Governance Trial.

Harper also faces evidence of his past statements, in parliament and outside, and the statements made by MPs, Conservative Party spokespersons (think of the statement that it would be ‘unfathomable’ for Ray Novak to know that Wright was paying Duffy the $90,000, and Ray not telling his boss, Harper), CPC talking points in Parliament by MPs, interviews and other sources unearthed by the media.

The Decision Date:

After the explosive start of the Duffy criminal trial, we can expect about another week of evidence led by state witnesses, and then the court will be adjourned to December, long after the next election.

The conclusion of the Harper Governance Trial comes with brutal simplicity when voters cast votes on October 19. And the trial will continue until 8pm on that day.


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