Suspended Sen. Mike Duffy's trial begins Tuesday

Russell Wangersky
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OTTAWA — Monday was the calm before the storm.

Easter Monday was a stat holiday in Ottawa, but the lunch spots were still filled with a scattering of young working lawyers, their suit coats off, ties loosened but roguishly in place. It's loose shoptalk without the partners around to tone it all down.

Bars pump music out onto the almost empty streets, luring more lunchers, and the bricked surface of Sparks Street looks like it's empty enough to only be missing tumbleweeds.

A wet spring Ottawa day, the grass sandy-coloured as it emerges from the melt.

The plans are well underway for suspended Sen. Mike Duffy's date Tuesday with the courts. Court officials are trying to handle the expected overflow of media and other spectators. Twenty House of Commons news staff have pinned down the media seats inside the court; there are more media seats in an overflow room set up in a jury room, but the suggestion is there will be more interest than there are courtroom seats.

And there are plenty more watching.

A warrant officer flying to a Gagetown, N.B., winter training program wants to know how much it will all cost.

An Ottawa cab driver wants to know why Nigel Wright hasn't been charged for paying a bribe if Duffy was charged for receiving one. "This is a justice system with holes in it," he says, shaking his head. Prayer beads hanging from his rearview shake in unison.

There's a man in a Sparks Street restaurant who bears an uncanny resemblance to a Newfoundland senator.

Walk over and ask him, and he laughs, says, "I'm not him — and if I was, I wouldn't broadcast it."


It's on the lips, and not in a way that any senator would like it to be.

The side entrance on Laurier Street is where everyone will enter Ottawa's vertical white stone courthouse. It's an unnatural bottleneck, the result of construction on the main entrance to the building. Outside, construction workers are building a temporary stage for television crews.

WASH court — the weekend and statutory holiday courtroom that kicks miscreants back onto the streets from weekend overnights in cells — was finished up by 9:30.

A beige-suited security guard comes to the door, answering a battered buzzer that's on the verge of falling off the court's outside wall. He opens the door a crack, holds it in case you're thinking of doing something stupid like pulling it open the rest of the way.

"Nothing on today, just preparing for tomorrow," he says.

You can't help but wonder if Mike Duffy the showman — the self-styled "Old Duff" — isn't getting some small kick out of all the impending attention.

But walking away, looking as the three workmen build the base of their wood-latticed platform, it's hard not to imagine that Wild West carpenters built the base of their gallows exactly the same way — and with the same overriding structural, rather than personal, interest.

When it's time for the show, well, everything still has to work.

Russell Wangersky is TC Media’s Atlantic Regional columnist. He can be reached at

Organizations: House of Commons

Geographic location: Ottawa, Sparks Street, Gagetown Newfoundland Laurier Street Wild West

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Recent comments

  • Foulis
    April 06, 2015 - 19:09

    He Looks like he is Laughing to the Bank........