ABOVE: Sen. Mike Duffy speaks to media in his first public comments since the Senate expenses scandal broke.
OTTAWA- Conservative Sen. Don Plett has been walking in and out of the Senate with Mike Duffy for four years.
And even a raging controversy over Sen. Duffy’s expenses, the resignation of the prime minister’s chief of staff, and accusations of a Senate cover-up aren’t enough to change that.
“Sen. Duffy is still a friend of mine. Nothing has changed in that regard,” Plett said in an interview.
It appears Plett is the first person to come to Duffy’s defence since he resigned from Conservative caucus last week. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s chief of staff Nigel Wright also resigned after he gave Duffy a personal cheque to repay $90,000 in expenses, and Sen. Pamela Wallin decided to leave caucus while an audit is underway into her travel expenses.
Plett is doing it because, well, that’s what friends are for.
“People don’t not become a friend just because they are having some difficulties,” he said. ”As a matter of fact I think that’s when they need friends more than any other time.”
Plett said he also considers suspended independent Sen. Patrick Brazeau a friend, but he doesn’t know former Liberal Sen. Mac Harb that well. Both senators are also under scrutiny over their expenses.
“Sen. Brazeau is a friend. My relationship with him probably hasn’t been as close as it has been with Mike, but I certainly I still consider him a friend as well.”
Plett arrived at the Senate Thursday in a car with Duffy, and they walked in together amid throngs of cameras.
In light of recent events, Plett said both Duffy and Wright have to answer for themselves.
“They’re both adults. I don’t know what went on. I have not asked Sen. Duffy nor do I plan to, because I don’t plan on putting him or Nigel Wright into that type of a situation,” he said.
“I remain loyal to people and I find it a little disconcerting when people go and make some of the accusations and comments that have been made out there.”
Plett, the former president of the Conservative Party of Canada who has close ties to the prime minister, said he is a “staunch supporter” of Harper.
“I am very disappointed that our prime minister has been put into a very, very difficult situation. That bothers me,” he said.
“But nevertheless that does not negate friendship.”
When asked about Duffy being potentially seen as a social pariah, Plett said “I think you’re right.”
“That’s why I was happy today when he drove up when I was walking over to the chamber,” he said.
“We happened to run into each other and he asked, ‘Can I give you a ride up?’ And far be it for me to say to a friend no I won’t take a ride with you. So that’s exactly what I did.”
He said he called Duffy a week ago to wish him well. “Obviously he has issues and so today when I spoke to him he seemed to be in pretty good spirits,” he said.
Plett said he feels for his friend.
“At the end of the day, he has to be accountable for whatever he has done. And I’m hoping at the end of the day he will be exonerated,” said Plett.
“But he is going to have to stand up for whatever he’s done and I have every confidence that he will.”