Senator vows to pay back allowance
Embattled Conservative Sen. Mike Duffy says he'll pay back a housing allowance to which he admits he wasn't entitled, a mistake he blamed Friday on vague and confusing Senate paperwork.
After weeks of dodging pointed questions about his expenses, the former Parliament Hill journalist unexpectedly turned up on network television to deliver a stunning mea culpa: it was all, he said, the result of an innocent slip of the pen.
"The Senate rules on housing allowances aren't clear, and the forms are confusing,'' Duffy said in a statement late Friday, timing often employed by governments looking to bury bad news.
"I filled out the Senate forms in good faith and believed I was in compliance with the rules. Now it turns out I may have been mistaken.''
Duffy is being audited along with fellow senators Pamela Wallin, Mac Harb and Patrick Brazeau following questions about their housing expense claims.
Duffy in particular has faced questions about $33,000 in living allowances he has claimed since 2010, despite also having a home in the Ottawa area. Critics have questioned whether his primary residence is indeed a cottage in Cavendish, P.E.I., as he has repeatedly stated.
The allowances will be paid back, Duffy said.
"Rather than let this issue drag on, my wife and I have decided that the allowance associated with my house in Ottawa will be repaid.''
Asked Friday about Duffy's apparent mea culpa, Sen. Marjory LeBreton, the government leader in the Senate, would only say that the audit would get to the bottom of the controversy.
"We have committed to ensuring that all expenses are appropriate, that the rules governing expenses are appropriate and to report back to the public on these matters,'' LeBreton said.
"Sen. Duffy maintains a residence in Prince Edward Island and has deep ties to the province.''
The Constitution requires senators to reside in the provinces they are appointed to represent.
Earlier this week, Duffy said he rents a home in Charlottetown during the winter, in addition to his house in Cavendish, so he can have quicker access to care in case of a medical emergency.
He said Canadians know him as an "honest man'' who wouldn't cheat on his expenses.
In his statement Friday, he took pains to sing P.E.I.'s praises and to insist he's qualified to represent the province in the Senate.
"I was born here, I was raised here, I own a house here, I pay property taxes here, and most important, my heart is here,'' he said.
"I also started my career here, and took my Island sensibilities along when I was covering politics in Ottawa. Being a senator has allowed me to do a lot of good for P.E.I. communities.
And there is a lot more to be done.''