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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shied away from commenting on the recent acquittal of Senator Mike Duffy during a media scrum in New York City on Friday, preferring instead to promote a message of Senate impartiality.
Questioned by reporters outside the UN Headquarters after ratifying the historic Paris climate change agreement, he remained overwhelmingly neutral in addressing the damaged reputation of the Senate and whether the disgraced P.E.I. representative would be welcomed back into Parliament with open arms.
Would he say 'hi' to Duffy if he saw him on the Hill?
"I don’t chat a lot with senators these days," Trudeau told media. "I am trying to keep them as independent as possible… but I am sure… that everyone in the Chamber regardless of by whom they were appointed is looking at ways to better Canadians and the institution."
The Senate still has a long way to go, the prime minister explained, but with a new Speaker of the Senate, George Furey, and a new government representative, Peter Harder, Trudeau has faith. He said "much more" work is currently underway on the topic of accountability.
"I have long said that Canadians should expect their Parliament to be less partisan and more independent, less a place for patronage and more a place for Canadians of the highest caliber," he told media. "One of the things one things to see not from this particular trial but one of the challenges… is greater transparency and accountability."
An Ontario judge ruled in Duffy's favour on Thursday after a one-year trial examining 31 charges related to bribery, fraud, and breach of trust for mishandled expenses in his first four years as senator. Duffy will now be fully reinstated to the Senate with access to pay and office resources, and permitted to take his seat in the Chamber at the next scheduled sitting.