Conservative MPs, PMO staff called as witnesses in Mike Duffy trial

Sen. Mike Duffy arrives to the Senate on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Monday, October 28, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld.

OTTAWA – One of Stephen Harper’s junior ministers joins the prime minister’s chief of staff as a Crown witness in the Mike Duffy trial.

Conservative MP John Duncan, who serves as the chief government whip and as minister of state, is one of several MPs and senators who have been subpoenaed by the Crown to be ready to testify against Duffy.

Harper’s chief of staff Ray Novak has also been subpoenaed, along with another PMO staffer who used to work for Duffy. Ashley Cain worked for the PEI senator in 2010, when RCMP allege he committed fraud by awarding his friend a consulting contract which produced little or no work.

The former Conservative senator, who faces 31 charges including fraud, bribery and breach of trust, goes on trial for 41 days starting April 7 in Ottawa.

READ MORE: RCMP lay 31 charges including bribery against Mike Duffy

Duncan’s testimony would apparently relate to a fundraising event Duffy attended in Duncan’s Vancouver Island North riding in June 2009.

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Ontario Conservative Barry Devolin’s office says he has also been asked by the Crown to testify.

RCMP investigators have alleged Duffy filed fraudulent expense claims with the Senate while campaigning, and also charged taxpayers for ceremonies and funerals.

He was suspended from the Senate without pay, along with colleagues Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau, in November 2013. Brazeau and former Liberal senator Mac Harb have also been charged with fraud and breach of trust, while the RCMP investigation into Wallin is ongoing.

Duffy’s lawyer Donald Bayne has said his client is innocent and looking forward to the trial.

Mike Duffy’s lawyer says trial set for spring

Former chief of staff Nigel Wright, who now works in London, England, is also expected to testify at the trial, which runs from April 7 to May 12 and June 1 to June 19.

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Wright provided Duffy with $90,000 to pay off his allegedly improper living and travel expenses. He was initially under criminal investigation but the RCMP did not charge Wright with any crime.

Duffy’s bribery charge relates to his dealings with Wright. Documents show the former chief of staff tried fruitlessly to get the senator to pay back the expenses himself.

While Wright’s lawyers told the RCMP that some people within the PMO were aware of the arrangement, they said Harper was not.

Other Crown witnesses include Conservative Senators Marjory LeBreton, formerly the government House leader in the Senate, as well as David Tkachuk, Carolyn Stewart-Olsen, and Liberal Senator George Furey, who sat on a Senate committee that oversaw the audit of Duffy’s expenses. Senate finance officials are also expected to be among the dozens to testify.

CBC reports that Wright’s former executive assistant, David van Hemmen, and the prime minister’s former lawyer, Benjamin Perrin, have also been subpoenaed.

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