More than 50 reporters, camera operators and photographers were waiting outside the Ottawa courthouse on Elgin Street Wednesday morning for a photo of Nigel Wright, the Crown’s star witness in the trial against disgraced senator Mike Duffy. A photo of Duffy himself wouldn’t be too bad either.
VICE Canada, CBC, CTV, Reuters, iPolitics, the Ottawa Citizen — at least a dozen publications were represented here, not including freelancers.
“He can’t lie, that’s perjury,” one reporter whispered to another, referencing the primary topic of media coverage leading up to this phase of the trial: Would Wright’s testimony implicate the prime minister? How much did Stephen Harper know? How much did he not know?
By 8:40 a.m., a group of concerned citizens appeared outside the building sporting comical Harper and Duffy masks, and waving around a phoney $90,000 cheque. They played a song on their stereo, something about “big liars.”
More journalists showed up.
“Uh oh, somebody’s hiding something,” someone said, as they laughed with one another, swapping names and credentials. Some showed up as early as 6 a.m. to get last-minute access to the courtroom and overflow room.
At 9 a.m., Nigel Wright himself arrived at the courthouse.
The frenzy was immediate, and reporters swarmed the prime minister’s former Chief of Staff, whose testimony will play a key role in determining Duffy’s guilt or innocence in charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.
“Mr. Wright, how do you feel about your testimony this morning?”
“Mr. Wright, are you good to go?”
Upon first glance, it’s tough to say how comfortable he felt heading into what is sure to be a series of long days in court. He certainly seemed calm and collected. He also didn't have an alternative, given the number of eyes and lenses analyzing his every move.
At 9:30 a.m., Duffy showed up.
He crossed through the plants outside the Laurier Street entrance as journalists rushed towards him for a photo.
“Mr. Duffy, how do you feel about your testimony this morning?”
“Mr. Duffy, are you worried Nigel will bury the PM?”
And that was it. The crowd dispersed. The day’s major players were now out of access, and reporters turned their attention to their coverage. Microphones went up to mouths, and video cameras started rolling.
If this morning’s turnout is any indicator, it looks like they won’t stop rolling until Nigel Wright has concluded his much-anticipated testimony.