OTTAWA — Eight months after his fraud trial began, Sen. Mike Duffy has taken the stand to testify in his own defence.
Duffy launched into a long tale of his family’s roots in P.E.I., his childhood and youth, getting kicked out of high school to chase news jobs, and getting bitten by the political journalism bug. It was vintage “Ol’ Duff” yarn-spinning. At one point, Justice Charles Vaillancourt simply stopped taking notes and listened, while the Crown prosecutor glanced occasionally at Duffy’s lawyers questioningly.
Duffy’s lawyer Don Bayne asked only the occasional question in more than an hour-and-a-half of testimony. He guided Duffy through early memories of trying to land reporting jobs, getting fired and rehired, getting married, having kids, getting divorced and “losing” his children.
Duffy told of “my lost decade” when he worked from 1979-1988 at CBC, being dispatched all over the world to cover stories, during which his marriage broke up, his wife moved to B.C. with his son and daughter, and he lapsed into depression and drank too much. He said he gained 60-70 pounds then, developed Type 2 diabetes, and had his first heart attack in 1992.
Duffy dropped names — said he shook Prime Minister Louis St-Laurent’s hand as a schoolchild — and did impressions of old-style news announcers with deep voices and of John Diefenbaker who he heard speak at a rally.
Duffy said when he joined CBC television in the middle of the 1974 campaign Pierre Trudeau, came over to him at a Montreal airport and “shook my hand and said good luck with the new job.”
He appeared to revel in the chance to finally tell his story to a courtroom full of spectators. But it could take a while.
By mid-morning, Duffy had only reached the point where he married his current wife, Heather Collins, a nurse who treated him post-surgery. They later married at the Ottawa Heart Institute, three days after his 1992 heart attack.
Duffy is expected to be on the stand for several days as he defends himself against 31 charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery in connection with his spending of senate resources.