TABLE OF CONTENTS Sep 2010 - 0 comments

From the Radio Studio to the Red Chamber

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By: Dick Drew
2010-09-01

Charlottetown's favourite son, 64 year old Mike Duffy, better known as "Duff", went from being CTV's main man in Ottawa to being Senator Michael Duffy, a main man in Ottawa's Red Chamber, on January 26, 2009.

Along with former broadcaster Pamela Wallin, downhill skier Nancy Green and 15 other leading Canadians, Duff was appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, to the Senate [both Pam and Nancy are featured as Canadian Achievers on my syndicated radio program].

Duff has been a true blue Canadian broadcaster almost from the get-go, starting as a teenaged high school reporter for CFCY in Charlottetown. Even then, the former long-serving manager of CFCY Frank Lewis told me, it was obvious he was going to become one of the best in the business: "After two years, the staff was sorry to see him go, but they all knew he was moving on to bigger and better things."

From Charlottetown, he worked his way through CKDH Amherst and CHNS Halifax, where he covered city hall. In 1967 when Robert Stanfield captured the PC party leadership in Toronto, Duff was there covering it from gavel to gavel. He was hooked; the political junkie in him took hold. After a stint at CFCF Montreal, he took a hefty pay cut to move to CFRA Ottawa in 1971, just to be closer to the political action.

Soon he was covering Parliament Hill for the "Contemporary News" service, and in 1974, he joined CBC Radio News Parliament Hill bureau. Soon he was on CBC-TV's The National. In 1986, he won an ACTRA award for his live reporting of a terrorist attack on the Turkish Embassy in Ottawa. In 1988 he moved to Baton Broadcasting (now CTV) where he really earned his spurs, becoming the host of a new Sunday network news program, called Sunday Edition.

Viewers often wondered who Duff winked at as he signed off each program.

The person receiving that wink was his special lady, his very proud mother now 93, still living on her own in PEI. His father passed away in 1972.

Known as a hard-digging, yet very fair reporter, Duff built up an enviable list of valuable contacts of all political stripes. They knew Duff could be trusted.

That was clearly demonstrated when, following a near fatal heart attack and recovery, he was welcomed back to work at a reception in the Senate Banking Committee Room.

Most of the federal cabinet was there, so were a dozen or so former Liberal cabinet ministers, NDP Leader Jack Layton and other MPs, senators, reporters, and backroom operatives, all milling around, waiting to say 'Hi'. Power brokers all, but they were his crowd, showing the respect everyone on the Hill has for the Duff.

His advice to young people in the business helps show how such respect is earned: "Dick" he told me, "You've got to be prepared to work hard in this business. Move the story ahead by always asking 'Why?' Why gives the story behind the story. It provides 'value added'. The reporter who does that will be compared to reporters who don't go that extra effort - and will look better for it. "

Well, it certainly worked for Duff.

To quote Prime Minister Harper "Dick, he is one of my best and hardest working appointments."

Following his first year in the Senate, Duffy received some criticism in the national media for his travelling expenses. I'm not surprised his travel expenses are higher than most Senator's; Duff is not happy to sit around Ottawa waiting for things to happen. His years on the news beat have trained him to be out there making things happen.

In fact, he wasn't even able to stay still during recuperation from that heart attack - while still a patient, he proposed to and then married his nurse, the former Heather Collins. He is the father of two children, Miranda and Gavin. B

Now semi-retired, Dick Drew and his wife Aline live in Maple Ridge BC, near their five grandchildren. After 50 years, Dick is still involved in the industry he loves, writing this regular column for Broadcaster Magazine and operating Drew Marketing Ltd.

Photos

Mike Duffy, as a 16 year old host of 'Club 62', and as an accomplished newsroom veteran and Member of the Senate.
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Caption: Mike Duffy, as a 16 year old host of 'Club 62', and as ...

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Dick & Aline Drew with their friend, Duff.
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Caption: Dick & Aline Drew with their friend, "Duff".
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