September 23, 2014 5:52 pm
Updated: September 23, 2014 9:33 pm

Duffy trial to start spring 2015


WATCH: Chief Political Correspondent Tom Clark discusses the trial of suspended Senator Mike Duffy being set for next spring and what effect it may have on the next federal election, set for next fall.

OTTAWA – Sen. Mike Duffy’s trial has been set for 41 days next spring, just months before the scheduled October 15 election.

The Prime Minister’s Office said the former Conservative senator’s trial will not impact the timing of the next election.

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“There is no plan to change the election date. It will indeed be fall 2015,” spokesman Jason MacDonald wrote in an email.

But others, such as Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, aren’t so sure.

“I hope the prime minister will testify under oath in some form or another so we can actually get to the bottom of what happened in this sordid affair,” he said.

“My expectations of that happening are fairly low, as are my expectations that the prime minister will actually follow his own fixed election date.”

NDP leader Tom Mulcair said the trial will be “of  great interest” to all Canadians.

“We’re finally going to see whether Mr. Harper’s going to hide behind parliamentary privilege or he’s going to come and testify because there are certainly going to be questions for him in that affair,” he said.

On Monday, Duffy’s lawyer Donald Bayne set the trial date in court Monday for April 7 to May 12, and June 1 to June 19 in Ottawa.

“As we said from the start, we trust that the evidence will show Senator Duffy is innocent of these criminal charges,” Bayne said outside court.

“That’s really at this point all we’ve got to say.”

READ MORE: Duffy lawyer won’t rule out calling PM as witness

Bayne said his client intends to plead not guilty to all charges. The trial will take place at the Ontario Court of Justice in Ottawa.

Last week, Bayne said Duffy’s case “isn’t being run as a personal or political vendetta.” He said he’s not ruling out calling any witnesses, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Harper indicated in the House of Commons that he doesn’t know why he would be called.

Even if Harper is called, however, he could simply refuse to testify. The prime minister, like all MPs, has the right to refuse to appear as a witness in court while Parliament is in session.

The exemption extends 40 days before and after a session, as well as periods when Parliament is prorogued. It also extends 40 days after Parliament is dissolved.

Some have tried — and failed — to subpoena sitting prime ministers.

In November 1970, five people charged under the War Measures Act tried to get then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau to appear as a witness as their trial. A judge rejected their bid.

In January 1960, a judge also set aside a subpoena served to John Diefenbaker as part of a civil suit involving election campaign expenses.

But a judge ruled in December 2003 that a First Nation suing the government for $1.4 billion could call former prime minister Jean Chretien as a witness.

Duffy faces 31 charges including fraud, breach of trust and one charge of bribery.

WATCH: Donald Bayne, lawyer for Mike Duffy, says the expenses trial is set to begin in spring of 2015.

with files from The Canadian Press

© 2014 Shaw Media

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