Senator Mike Duffy has been acquitted of all 31 charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery and can immediately go back to work in the Senate with a full salary and benefits.
READ MORE: Judge dismisses all charges against Duffy
When approached midday, as it increasingly looked like he would be acquitted, his Senate colleagues greeted the news with mixed emotions.
“The judge felt that the criteria to be convicted of something like that it’s got to be beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Senator David Smith. “I haven’t seen the words that were used but obviously the judge is not buying it.”
“I don’t think exonerated is the right word. We’re not talking pure as the driven snow. The judge is entitled to say they’ve got to make a case that’s beyond a reasonable doubt and obviously he feels they haven’t made it so far.”
Duffy was acquitted of all charges later that afternoon, and did not speak to reporters as he left the courthouse. A statement by Parliament’s law clerk, Michel Patrice, said that the Senate has taken note of the acquittal and the judgement “gives rise to the reinstatement of Senator Duffy as a member of the Senate in full standing with full salary and office resources.”
WATCH: Mike Duffy leaves courtroom after judge dismisses him of all charges
Senator Jim Munson was also supportive of Duffy early in the day, before the full judgement had been delivered.
“Why do we always rush to judgement? You may have your own feelings about these individual senators, but that’s beside the point,” he said.
He felt that Duffy and two other senators, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau, were unfairly treated by the Senate and media.
“There were three people, one woman and two men, pleading for their reputation. And pleading to say, ‘Can we have a forum where we can lay out what we did? And did we do it any different than other Senators?’ And the overwhelming majority here said no.’”
WATCH: Duffy’s lawyer on judge dismissing all charges against senator
Some senators were concerned about how the trial might have changed the public’s perception of the Senate. The senate expenses scandal first began in 2012, with questions about whether Duffy spent enough time living in PEI to fulfill his residency requirements as senator for that province. The story continued throughout 2013, and Duffy was finally charged in 2014. Other senators’ expenses were also questioned, and there was an Auditor General report on the issue. Duffy’s trial even briefly became an election issue, with the Conservative government closely questioned on the latest developments.
READ MORE: Key dates in the Mike Duffy trial and Senate expense scandal
“Look, it’s been a difficult time for the Senate for the last three years,” said Senator John Wallace. “All this has been, it’s obviously affected the senators who have been suspended, those that have been charged, it affects all of us. All of our reputations have suffered, our credibility. But we’re going to build that back.”
Senator Doug Black agreed. “This clearly has hurt the reputation of the Senate and the reputation of senators. But you know, that’s behind us. We live and learn. We live and learn and we’re working hard, I know I’m working very, very hard to communicate with Canadians every day that I’m on the job to let them know that we’re here to serve.”
The Senate has already changed some of its expense rules: the rules for travel expenses were changed in 2012, and the residency rules were changed in the midst of the scandal.
Prior to 2012, the Senate travel rules didn’t provide much specific guidance on what was and what wasn’t allowed to be expensed. The tightened rules include a detailed appendix on what can be approved and what can’t. These rules were not in place when Duffy filed the claims he was eventually put on trial for.
WATCH: Mike Duffy’s lawyer, Donald Bayne, said the Senate needs to create clear rules for senators on what they can and cannot do
Wallace thinks that the rules should have been changed sooner. “Many of those shortcomings, to me at least when I read the rules, and I have some experience reading rules, have been evident for many years. Probably could have been rectified sooner, but better late than never,” he said.
Smith thinks that they’re still being improved. “I think the Senate is reacting in the appropriate way to tidy it up, make it very tight so that it’s transparent and defensible,” he said.
As for Duffy, Smith is pretty sure he won’t be involved in any more questionable activities. “There were probably mistakes made. And if he comes back, I’m sure he’ll never make any more.”