The Guardian editorial,from Saturday, Feb. 7

Ill-advised remarks by a new senator

Senator Mike Duffy’s remarks do little to advance the interests of Islanders.
The honeymoon appears over for P.E.I. Senator Mike Duffy following the swirl of national controversy over his ill-advised comments in the past week about Island Premier Robert Ghiz and Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams.

Mr. Duffy first voiced his opinion about an “alliance” between Mr. Ghiz and Mr. Williams over federal transfer payment cuts during the annual meeting of the P.E.I. Progressive Conservative party last Saturday. In a surprisingly partisan speech, he launched into a tirade about the two premiers being in bed together, and that when two men get into bed, one gets the shaft. His message was that Mr. Ghiz is making a mistake by supporting Mr. Williams in his battle with Ottawa. He certainly could have made his point without lowering the tone of the conversation.

Those comments drew a mixed reaction from the people on hand in Winsloe last Saturday. Making such comments in that setting was questionable, but when Mr. Duffy rose in the Senate on Tuesday to make his maiden speech, and made essentially the same comments although with some minor changes, it caused a national firestorm. Mr. Duffy seemed genuinely surprised that his remarks, intended to be funny, actually caused offence. In trite and unapologetic remarks Thursday in the Senate, Mr. Duffy said if his metaphor caused offence, he would withdraw that metaphor. There was no hint of an apology or recognition the comments were bordering on offensive and vulgar.

When P.E.I.’s newest member of the upper chamber was appointed in late December, Mr. Duffy was seen as a welcome newcomer, essentially non-partisan, who was expected to bring a breath of fresh air to the stuffy red chamber.

Duffy said that when he was appointed, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s only question was whether he supported Senate reform. The answer was yes and that apparently clinched his appointment. Concerns about his residency were brushed aside as Mr. Duffy proudly declared he was an Islander, despite having lived in Ottawa for years.

P.E.I. Conservative leader Olive Crane has expressed concern with Mr. Duffy’s comments, saying our politicians must maintain decorum and work on behalf of all Islanders. It’s a message Mr. Duffy should listen to. As a TV commentator he routinely criticized politicians, but now Mr. Duffy is a politician with a mandate to work on behalf of all Islanders and plead their case here and in Ottawa. Mr. Duffy should be working with our premier and other Island politicians to support the province because we are going to lose millions of dollars in changes to the transfer formula. He cannot become an apologist for the prime minister and be seen as being more interested in doing his bidding than in defending P.E.I.’s interests.

His comments will not improve his relationship with our premier. He had a chance to stay above the fray and employ a non-partisan approach to his work in the Senate on behalf of Islanders and indeed all Canadians. Instead, he appears to have chosen to become the prime minister’s pit bull and political funny man. With the economy in recession, this is not the best time for P.E.I. to lose up to $20 million a year. There is nothing funny in that. As Mr. Ghiz said, if Mr. Duffy wants to be a senator from Prince Edward Island, he should act like one.
07/02/09

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