Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Mike Duffy Trial Hears about His Travel Claims

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Mike Duffy Trial Hears about His Travel Claims

Article excerpt

Duffy travel claims under scrutiny

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OTTAWA - A Senate finance clerk who reviewed Mike Duffy's travel claims told his fraud trial Friday that she understood that senators could mix public and private travel.

In cross-examination of Maggie Bourgeau, Duffy's lawyer focused on that blend of travel for both for parliamentary functions with personal business.

Some of the charges Duffy faces relate to taxpayer-funded trips the RCMP allege were for solely personal reasons, including family visits.

"If you travel from point A to point B and there is both a personal aspect to it, but there's also Senate business involved ... you're entitled to reimbursement?" Donald Bayne asked.

"My understanding is that senators can combine Senate business with a personal trip," said Bourgeau, a 17-year-veteran of Senate administration. "The personal portion of the trip will not be reimbursed."

Crown prosecutor Mark Holmes also asked Bourgeau about a meeting she had with Duffy's executive assistant, Melanie Mercer, shortly after Duffy was appointed to the Senate.

Mercer testified earlier this week.

"She wanted to go over the travel policy," Bourgeau said. "We discussed what would be eligible, how to fill out a claim, taxis ... miscellaneous budget."

Earlier in the day, a lawyer representing Senate argued against the release of a two-year-old audit which examined the residency status of senators.

Max Faille argued the document is protected under parliamentary privilege, which gives legislators immunity from the courts to allow them to carry out their work freely.

"The court's role is to uphold this principle that is fundamental to the separation of powers which is itself, a foundational principle of our democracy," Faille said. …

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