By Emily Senger - Thursday, May 16, 2013 - 0 Comments
A round-up of press reactions
In a strange twist of fate, one-time pundit Mike Duffy is now the subject of the punditry, after his former employer CTV News reported that the senator received a $90,000 personal cheque from Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s chief of staff Nigel Wright in order to cover inappropriate housing allowance claims he made during his time as a Conservative senator.
News also came to light Wednesday that Duffy may have been making more questionable claims, saying he was on Senate business while actually campaigning and fundraising for the Conservative party during the 2011 federal election.
So, should Duffy resign? Opposition members certainly think so, as do many opinion writers and newspaper editorials. Here’s a roundup of what the press said today:
By The Canadian Press - Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 12:57 PM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – New Democrat MP Charlie Angus is asking Senate ethics officer Lyse Ricard…
OTTAWA – New Democrat MP Charlie Angus is asking Senate ethics officer Lyse Ricard to investigate a gift of $90,000 that Conservative Sen. Mike Duffy received from the prime minister’s chief of staff.
Charlie Angus, the NDP ethics critic, said the gift may have breached several Senate rules, as well as the Parliament of Canada Act.
The Prime Minister’s Office has acknowledged that Wright wrote a personal cheque to Duffy to cover the senator’s repayment of improper housing expense claims.
In a letter to Ricard, Angus said he finds the deal troubling.
By Nick Taylor-Vaisey - Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 9:01 AM - 0 Comments
Here’s one version of the story about Senator Mike Duffy: When he claimed a primary residence in P.E.I., and not the suburban Ottawa home where he’d lived for decades, he was legitimately confused about the rules. He ticked the wrong box, inadvertently—oops—and, as a result, accidentally claimed $90,172.24 in expenses.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 8:31 AM - 0 Comments
Liberal MP Sean Casey says Mike Duffy should resign and Mr. Casey likely came to that conclusion before he was aware that Mr. Duffy’s Senate expense claims seem to overlap with time he spent campaigning for the Conservatives in the last election.
The full extent of Duffy’s Senate expenses during the writ period remains a mystery — the Conservative government is refusing to reveal the full breakdown of the senator’s claims and his repayment of $90,172.24. But independent auditors at the firm Deloitte listed Duffy as being in Ottawa on Senate business and claiming a daily expense for seven days in April 2011, a month that was dominated by campaigning for the May 2 vote.
All of yesterday’s news is here.
Update 11:21am. On the off chance that the Senate Ethics Officer hadn’t heard about Mr. Duffy’s situation, NDP MP Charlie Angus has written to her to request that she look into the cheque he received from Mr. Wright.
Update 11:33am. The CBC finds more paperwork related to Senator Duffy’s campaigning in 2011.
The Deloitte audit that reviewed the living and travel expense claims for Duffy and senators Mac Harb and Patrick Brazeau shows that Duffy was neither in Ottawa or Prince Edward Island but in an “other location” on Senate business on April 27 and 28, 2011 … But an invoice written by Duffy is titled, “Mike Duffy campaigning in the GTA, April 27 & 28, 2011.” It indicates he flew out of Ottawa on April 27, spent the night in a hotel in Toronto on April 28, and flew back to Ottawa on April 29. The invoice is included in Elections Canada campaign expense records for Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver’s campaign. Oliver was elected in the Toronto riding of Eglinton-Lawrence.
An email from a political operations officer for the Conservative Party of Canada, Felix Wong, to Oliver’s campaign manager, John Penner, is also in the expense file. It says the total cost for Duffy’s trip to Toronto was $1,355.56 and “that amount will be divided between the eight ridings that he visited, so each riding will be responsible for $169.45.”
Update 11:49am. Included in CTV’s report last night was the suggestion of some influence over the Senate committee’s investigation. I asked the Prime Minister’s Office if there was a response to that report and here, for the record, is what I was told.
The committee reached its own conclusions based on the independent audits provided by Deloitte.
I also asked the office of Senator David Tkachuk questions about any knowledge he might have had of Mr. Wright’s agreement with Mr. Duffy. Here, for the record, is what I was told by his office.
Senator Tkachuk says that the cheque for reimbursement that we got from Senator Duffy was a personal cheque. We never inquired as to where he got the money for that cheque, nor will we be concerned from where Senators Harb or Brazeau get the money. Our business is to see that taxpayers are reimbursed.
Update 1:21pm. The Senate Ethics Officer won’t comment on specific cases, but I asked the office of the Senate Ethics Officer for guidance in interpreting Section 17 of the Senate’s Conflict of Interest Code—noted here yesterday and identified by the NDP today in Ms. Angus’ letter to the ethics officer—and it provided the following.
Section 17 of the Conflict of Interest Code for Senators (the Code) governs gifts or benefits, but only those that relate to a senator’s official functions…
Subsection 17(1) prohibits a senator from receiving any gift or benefit, directly or indirectly, that could reasonably be considered to relate to the senator’s position.
Subsection 17(2) is an exception to this general prohibition about receiving gifts or benefits in the context of a senator’s official duties and functions. This subsection provides that, if the gift or benefit does relate to the senator’s position, but was received by the senator as a normal expression of courtesy or protocol or was received within the customary standards of hospitality that normally accompany a senator’s position, the senator may accept it.
Under subsection 17(3), only those gifts or benefits that are received as a normal expression of courtesy or protocol, or those that are within the customary standards of hospitality that normally accompany a senator’s position, are required to be disclosed to the SEO, who then publicly discloses them, and only if the value of any such gift or benefit exceeds $500. These gifts or benefits must be disclosed to the SEO within 30 days of receipt of the gift. As already noted, the SEO will then make this information publicly available.
Whether a particular gift or benefit is acceptable depends upon the particular facts involved. So, by way of example, a gift or benefit from a family member or a friend of a senator could not, in most cases, reasonably be considered to relate to a senator’s official duties and functions and, as such, would fall outside the prohibition in subsection 17(1) of the Code. On the other hand, a gift or benefit that is provided to influence a senator in the performance of his or her duties and functions could reasonably be considered to relate to a senator’s position.
Update 4:09pm. Nigel Wright apparently still has the confidence of the Prime Minister.
Update 5:31pm. And now Senator Patrick Brazeau wants a public hearing into the expenses scandal.
Update 9:36pm. Mike Duffy has resigned from the Conservative caucus.
By The Canadian Press - Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 7:14 AM - 0 Comments
A glimpse of how Mike Duffy’s busy campaign schedule overlapped with the Senate business
OTTAWA – Conservative Sen. Mike Duffy submitted expense claims while Parliament was dissolved during the last federal election, reporting he was on Senate business on days he appeared to be campaigning for the party.
The full extent of Duffy’s Senate expenses during the writ period remains a mystery — the Conservative government is refusing to reveal the full breakdown of the senator’s claims and his repayment of $90,172.24.
But independent auditors at the firm Deloitte listed Duffy as being in Ottawa on Senate business and claiming a daily expense for seven days in April 2011, a month that was dominated by campaigning for the May 2 vote.
He was also listed as being on Senate business at an “other location” on another six days. Using cellphone records, Deloitte managed to catch one inappropriate “other location” claim from 2012 while Duffy was in Florida.
By The Canadian Press - Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 12:40 AM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – Less than a week after the Conservatives hailed Sen. Mike Duffy’s “leadership”…
OTTAWA – Less than a week after the Conservatives hailed Sen. Mike Duffy’s “leadership” in repaying $90,000 in improper housing expenses, it turns out the office of an entirely different leader made the bill go away.
Stephen Harper’s chief of staff Nigel Wright personally covered Duffy’s repayment, the Prime Minister’s Office said Wednesday — a transaction one insider described as a gift between friends that occurred without Harper’s knowledge.
The surprising transaction is raising questions about just how involved the Prime Minister’s Office might have been with an independent audit into Duffy’s expenses, and how they later portrayed that audit publicly.
The Senate’s conflict of interest code explicitly prohibits senators from accepting any gift that “could reasonably be considered to relate to the senator’s position.” The Senate ethics officer refused to comment on the matter Wednesday, despite the fact gifts are supposed to be publicly disclosed.
One government source, speaking on anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss details publicly, said the transaction was a gift to help a friend in financial difficulty, and that Harper knew nothing about it.
But according to a CTV News report Wednesday night, Duffy appeared to contradict the PMO conformation in an email to the network in which he claimed he secured a loan to repay his expense claims. Continue…
By John Geddes - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 at 5:36 PM - 0 Comments
It is tempting to frame the news that Nigel Wright, the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, took the extraordinary step of personally giving more than $90,000 to Mike Duffy, the senator from (ostensibly) Prince Edward Island, strictly in terms of the stark contrast between the two main characters.
The story—broken over at CTV by Robert Fife—has Wright giving Duffy a fat cheque to allow him to repay improperly claimed Senate housing allowances. The gift-giver could hardly be a more guardedly low-profile public office holder; the recipient is about the most outsized character in the Upper Chamber.
If Duffy’s fame as a longtime TV news personality, before his Senate appointment, was once a boon to the Conservatives, allowing him to serve as a party fundraising draw, that same notoriety now makes this unwelcome story that much bigger. And if Wright’s reticence was previously seen as an exemplary attribute in a Harper-era political aide, that same discretion might make him seem, in this new context, a rather shadowy figure.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 at 12:07 PM - 0 Comments
Back in February, Mike Duffy announced that, in order to turn the page, he would be repaying the housing allowance he had claimed as a senator.
Last night, CTV reported that there was some kind of deal between Mr. Duffy and Nigel Wright, the Prime Minister’s chief of staff. This morning, CTV reports that Mr. Wright wrote a cheque for the $90,172 in question, apparently as a gift from Mr. Wright to Mr. Duffy. The Canadian Press reports that the Prime Minister was not aware of the gift.
Here is the official statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.
The Government believes that taxpayers should not be on the hook for improper expense claims made by Senators.
Mr. Duffy agreed to repay the expenses because it was the right thing to do. However, Mr. Duffy was unable to make a timely repayment.
Mr. Wright therefore wrote a cheque from his personal account for the full amount owing so that Mr. Duffy could repay the outstanding amount.
The independent external audit by Deloitte looking into Senate expenses was completed and the results tabled.
Mr. Duffy has reimbursed taxpayers for his impugned claims. Mr. Harb and Mr. Brazeau should pay taxpayers back immediately.
Update 1:35pm. The NDP wants an “independent investigation” into this entire matter and they allege “unethical behaviour” inside the Prime Minister’s Office, but it’s not yet entirely clear how the Conflict of Interest Act or the Senate’s Conflict of Interest Code should be applied in a situation such as this. I’ve asked the Ethics Commissioner and the Senate Ethics Officer for comment.
Update 2:33pm. The ethics commissioner’s office corrects me: the Conflict of Interest Act doesn’t apply to Mike Duffy. As a Senator, he is covered by the Senate’s Conflict of Interest Code. Mr. Wright is covered, as a public office holder, by the Act, but there’s no indication that he received a gift here. Otherwise, I’m told “Commissioner Dawson is reviewing this matter in order to determine how the other provisions of the Act might apply, and is following up with Mr. Wright.”
Senator Duffy has not yet commented, but CTV’s Robert Fife’s has referred to “financial problems” and concerns that, because of health issues, Mr. Duffy’s wife might left with a debt to pay. The Canadian Press adds similar context.
A government source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said Wright and Duffy are friends and that Wright offered the money as a gift rather than a loan. Duffy had been experiencing financial difficulties, the source said.
Update 4:59pm. A statement from Senator David Tkachuk, chair of the Senate’s internal economy committee.
There have been inquiries in the press recently about untoward influence on the Senate Committee on Internal Economy’s conduct of its work involving Senator Mike Duffy’s living expense claims. The Steering Committee of Internal Economy referred Senator Duffy to independent auditors. This was supported by leadership on both sides, the point being that in the interest of propriety the issue should be dealt with at arm’s length. We on the committee conducted ourselves appropriately throughout this whole process. We made available to Deloitte all documents in the hands of our Finance Directorate pertaining to Senator Duffy’s expense claims for the entire period of the audit. We had no control – nor did we wish to have control – over what Deloitte would conclude.
The Star has reviewed some of the concerns raised about the Senate’s investigation.
Meanwhile, the Canadian Press reviews Senator Duffy’s role as a Conservative fundraiser.
Update 5:32pm. The Sun seems to have the only comment, such as it is, from Senator Duffy today.
The former television host wouldn’t comment Wednesday. “I can’t talk and I’m not talking,” he said when reached by phone.
Update 5:57pm. John Geddes considers Nigel Wright, Mike Duffy and the Senate’s Conflict of Interest Code. Here is what Section 17 of the Code states.
Prohibition: gifts and other benefits
17. (1) Neither a Senator, nor a family member, shall accept, directly or indirectly, any gift or other benefit, except compensation authorized by law, that could reasonably be considered to relate to the Senator’s position.
(2) A Senator, and a family member, may, however, accept gifts or other benefits received as a normal expression of courtesy or protocol, or within the customary standards of hospitality that normally accompany the Senator’s position.
Statement: gift or other benefit
(3) If a gift or other benefit that is accepted under subsection (2) by a Senator or his or her family members exceeds $500 in value, or if the total value of all such gifts or benefits received from one source in a 12-month period exceeds $500, the Senator shall, within 30 days after the gift or benefit is received or after that total value is exceeded, as the case may be, file with the Senate Ethics Officer a statement disclosing the nature and value of the gifts or other benefits, their source and the circumstances under which they were given.
Update 6:20pm. Kady O’Malley offers her thoughts on Section 17 and whether Mr. Wright’s gift constitutes a violation of the Code.
Update 8:33pm. Global adds some context on the relationship between Mr. Wright and Mr. Duffy.
An official speaking on background said Wright and Duffy go back to the 1980s during the Brian Mulroney days.
The Globe notes that Mr. Wright worked in Mr. Mulroney’s PMO.
What this amounts to seems, to me, to depend on whether Mr. Wright’s cheque was inappropriate or merely odd. That’s at least the question I’m still trying to sort out.
Update 11:19pm. CTV has now posted the latest report from Robert Fife—click on the video—including Senator Duffy’s denial last night that Mr. Wright was involved and Conservative sources who say Mr. Duffy and Mr. Wright were not close friends.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 3:00 PM - 0 Comments
The RCMP is apparently reviewing the Senate’s expense troubles and former senator Lowell Murray says the word “crisis” is applicable here. Meanwhile, Postmedia reported yesterday that the Senate’s internal economy committee was seeking a legal opinion on the precise nature of the Constitution’s residency requirement for senators, but that the Senate was not likely to release that legal opinion publicly.
However, the Senate should soon interpret the residency requirement to settle questions that have swirled for months and longer about Duffy but fellow Conservative Sen. Pamela Wallin.
Underlying that decision will be a legal opinion about the section of the Constitution dealing with senators’ qualifications. The Senate’s powerful internal economy committee has asked for the legal opinion, but it has not yet arrived at the committee’s table and it’s unlikely the conclusions will ever be made public.
This afternoon, I asked the office of Senator David Tkahuk, chair of the internal economy committee, why that legal opinion wouldn’t be released and have just now been told that the senator has no comment. But NDP MP Charlie Angus has written today to the Senate seeking a legal opinion that Conservative Senate Leader Marjory LeBreton apparently referenced and the legal opinion the internal economy has sought.
And now, Senator Patrick Brazeau’s office has released a statement that quibbles with the Senate’s findings against him.
On December 11, 2013, Senator Brazeau met with the sub-committee on Internal Economy to discuss issues pertaining to his primary residence. At that meeting, Senator Brazeau disclosed documentation and facts regarding that, in fact, Maniwaki, Quebec is his primary residence. As requested, Senator Brazeau provided his driver’s license, health card, income tax returns and voting information.
On February 26, 2013 Senator Brazeau met Deloitte auditors at which time additional information was requested. On February 28, 2013 the additional information was hand delivered to Deloitte. On April 15, 2013 Senator Brazeau once again met with the Deloitte auditors to answer any final questions they had.
On April 29, 2013 Senator Brazeau received a copy the draft report prepared by Deloitte. In that report, no conclusions were made regarding Senator Brazeau’s primary residence. Senator Brazeau was, nevertheless, deemed to have met all four primary residence “indicators.” Furthermore, the report states no false claims were made by Senator Brazeau.
Despite meeting Deloitte’s primary residence criteria and co-operating fully and completely, the Senate committee on Internal Economy tabled a report in the Senate Chamber on May 9, in which orders Senator Brazeau to repay the sum of $34,619 in living expenses and $144.97 in travel expenses.
It is unclear how the Committee could have come to this conclusion when there is no clear definition of what, for purposes of their own policy, constitutes a “primary residence.” Deloitte notes that the current Senate policy uses the following terms without any definitions – primary residence, secondary residence, NCR residence and provincial residence. The Deloitte report in no way finds anything untoward regarding the claims and documents filed by Senator Brazeau.
Additionally, Senator Brazeau has fulfilled his obligations in forwarding all relevant documentation requested by the Committee and auditors. It remains unclear if all other sitting Senators meet the primary residency indicators – which Senator Brazeau does — or if they were treated with the same scrutiny, rules, regulations and definitions.
As a result, Senator Brazeau will be seeking greater clarification and will explore all options to have this determination overturned by applying the current policies, rules and regulations pertaining to this matter including calling a public meeting of the Senate Committee on Internal Economy to explain their decision.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 6:41 PM - 0 Comments
And so we return to the existential question of Mike Duffy’s place in this world.
“Even the bogus investigation by his hand-picked cronies in the Senate,” Thomas Mulcair charged, rather audaciously and perhaps imprudently, in the Prime Minister’s direction this afternoon, “found that Mike Duffy does not maintain a primary residence on Prince Edward Island. The Constitution requires that a senator ‘be a resident of the province for which he is appointed.’ The Conservatives now admit, through their own bogus investigation, that Mr. Duffy is not a resident of PEI, yet still say that he is qualified to be a senator from PEI. Why is the Prime Minister allowing this continuous fraud by the Conservatives in the Senate?”
The Prime Minister’s interpretation of the day’s news differed somewhat.
“Mr. Speaker, on the contrary, an independent external auditor was brought in to examine all of these expenses,” Mr. Harper explained. “He looked obviously at the expenses of three particular senators who have had some difficulty.”
Let us from this day forward remember this moment in Senate history as the Great Difficulty. Continue…
By The Canadian Press - Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 1:57 PM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – A letter written last month by Conservative Sen. Mike Duffy suggests he…
OTTAWA – A letter written last month by Conservative Sen. Mike Duffy suggests he was tipped off about irregularities in his expense claims by the chairman of the committee that was investigating them.
The letter suggests fellow Conservative Sen. David Tkachuk, head of the Senate’s internal economy committee, told Duffy that an audit had found he collected more than $1,000 in living allowances while on vacation in Florida.
“Following our informal conversation, Tuesday evening, I went through my files for January 2012,” Duffy says in the April 18 letter, obtained by The Canadian Press.
“I discovered that through a clerical error, per diems were inadvertently charged for several days when I was not in the National Capital Region.”
The informal conversation referenced in the letter took place April 16 — the same day Tkachuk was briefed by the auditors on their findings. Continue…
By The Canadian Press - Friday, April 19, 2013 at 4:58 PM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s parliamentary House leader has denied that Conservative Sen….
OTTAWA – Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s parliamentary House leader has denied that Conservative Sen. Mike Duffy ever promised to repay his P.E.I. housing allowance.
At least, that’s the way it sounded in the House of Commons today, although Peter Van Loan’s spokesman later insisted the minister was actually disputing something else altogether.
Van Loan was responding to reports that Duffy has reneged on his public pledge to repay tens of thousands of dollars he collected by claiming that a cottage on Prince Edward Island was his principal residence.
Duffy, a former broadcaster, issued a statement in February, in the midst of a Senate expense scandal, that said he would repay the funds.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, April 19, 2013 at 11:50 AM - 0 Comments
Two months ago, Senator Mike Duffy decided he didn’t want to be a distraction and so he would be repaying the living allowance he claimed.
“So my wife and I discussed it, and we decided that in order to turn the page, to put all this behind us, we are going to voluntarily pay back my living expenses related to the house we have in Ottawa.”
Now, Senator Duffy says he will repay those expenses if he is found to have made an inappropriate claim.
“We haven’t heard from Deloitte. But I said I’m a man of my word, and if repayment is required, it’ll be repaid,” Duffy said outside the Senate Thursday. “I didn’t say I made a mistake. I said I may have made a mistake,” he said. “Words are important.”
Update 5:49pm. In a statement, Mike Duffy says he paid back his housing allowance in March. It’s not clear how to square that with his comments yesterday. In a separate statement, the Senate says he paid $90,172.24.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, March 6, 2013 at 6:16 PM - 0 Comments
And so, inevitably, we reach the point in our grand democratic experiment at which the deputy leader of the government in the Senate feels compelled to take to Twitter to clarify that another senator is no longer in a romantic relationship with an employee—this much being an issue that had come to the fore shortly after questions were asked about the senator’s decision to claim housing expenses despite no longer living in the Sherbrooke condo where his estranged wife currently resides. All of which became an issue because Mike Duffy’s residency was found to be something of an existential riddle.
The senator now in question, Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu, would seem to have both an impressive resume and a heartfelt cause, but here we apparently are.
Meanwhile, in no-less-silly but potentially more consequential news, the Senate is still thinking seriously about the possibility of challenging the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s actions and authority. Which would not only put senators in the odd position of questioning someone else’s mandate, but might also raise questions about the separation of powers between the legislative and judicial branches.
The Senate is best which is noticed least. It is most easily appreciated when it is merely being ponderous and double-checking bills and otherwise only existing. Presumably it will eventually get back to being so unremarkable. If only because it seems likely to be here for awhile yet. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 8:16 PM - 0 Comments
The Senate report on housing allowances for senators is here. The Senate committee makes three recommendations.
In order to improve stewardship of Senate operations with respect to primary and secondary declarations, your Committee makes the following recommendations:
1. That accompanying their primary residence declaration each senator furnish a driver’s licence, a health card and the relevant page of their income tax form each and every time the declaration is signed. This declaration is signed annually for the purpose of claiming living expenses in the NCR.
2. that the Internal Economy Committee instruct management to standardize terminology in the Senate’s policy instruments;
3. that the Senators’ Travel Policy be reviewed to comply with primary residence declarations.
The expenses of four senators—Mike Duffy, Mac Harb, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau—remain under review.
The committee sets aside the larger issue of the constitutional residency requirement, but the question remains. The Prime Minister apparently believes that all senators meet the requirement. Pending further clarification of precisely what the Constitution Act requires, he might be right.
In other news, senators might save money by taking the train for free.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, February 26, 2013 at 10:18 AM - 0 Comments
Meanwhile, the Senate’s internal review continues, with apparently two senators added to the list of interviewees. And Liberal Senator James Cowan questions Mr. Duffy’s qualifications to sit in the Senate as a representative of Prince Edward Island. (When Mr. Duffy conceded on his expenses last week, the government was quick to reassure that it was confident he met the constitutional standard to represent the province.)
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, February 25, 2013 at 5:40 PM - 0 Comments
Thomas Mulcair stood first to mock.
“Mr. Speaker, Conservative Senator Mike Duffy has now admitted he mistakenly collected, maybe, about, $100,000 in Senate housing allowances. How does one accidentally claim $100,000 in living expenses? He says the form was too complicated,” the NDP leader reported sarcastically. “We also have Senator Pamela Wallin who has an Ontario health card while claiming to be a resident of Saskatchewan. She told the federal government that she lived in one province but told the provincial government that she lived in another. This would be unacceptable for any other Canadian. Why does the Prime Minister seem to think it is acceptable for his Conservative senators?”
The Prime Minister was away, so it was Peter Van Loan’s responsibility this day to offer the official reassurances. “Mr. Speaker, we have committed to ensure that all expenses are appropriate,” the Government House leader reported, “that the rules governing expenses are appropriate and to report back to the public on these matters.”
But Mr. Van Loan apparently sensed that Mr. Mulcair was not sufficiently serious in his concern for the Senate. “The reality is, if we want to see real change in the Senate, real change toward an accountable Senate,” Mr. Van Loan segued, “we need to embrace the Conservative proposal to actually let Canadians have a say on who represents them in the Senate. The NDP simply will not do that.”
So if you are truly upset with the actions of the senators Mr. Harper has appointed, you simply must agree to pass Mr. Harper’s legislation to reform the Senate. Neat trick, that. Indeed, if this has been the Prime Minister’s play all along, to appoint dozens of senators—and two former members of the press gallery at that—in the hopes that somehow someday they would do something to incite the sort of controversy that would leave everyone begging for change, he is precisely three times the brilliant strategist he is often thought to be.
Of course, if Mr. Van Loan really wanted to move ahead with Senate reform, he might invoke time allocation to bring the legislation to a vote. Unless the Conservatives now believe that such maneuvering, of which they have otherwise been so fond, is somehow undemocratic.
This much though was merely the preamble this day. Indeed, for perhaps the first time since Confederation, the Senate was only the setup and not the punchline. Continue…
By The Canadian Press - Friday, February 22, 2013 at 5:48 PM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – Embattled Conservative Sen. Mike Duffy says he “may have made a mistake”…
OTTAWA – Embattled Conservative Sen. Mike Duffy says he “may have made a mistake” when he claimed a housing allowance that he now says he plans to pay back.
Duffy showed up Friday at the CBC’s studios in Charlottetown, where he promptly admitted in an interview that he erred in filling out the claim form and was wrong to claim the allowance.
He said both the forms and the rules that govern them are vague and confusing.
“Until the rules are clear — and they’re not clear now; the forms are not clear and I hope the Senate will redo the forms to make them clear — I will not claim a housing allowance,” Duffy said.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, February 22, 2013 at 5:31 PM - 0 Comments
Senator Mike Duffy apparently visited the CBC studio in Charlottetown this afternoon to say he’ll be paying back the living expenses he claimed in regards to his home in Ottawa.
“Everywhere I go, people are talking. Well where do you live? What’s it all about? …,” he said. “It’s become a major distraction. “So my wife and I discussed it, and we decided that in order to turn the page, to put all this behind us, we are going to voluntarily pay back my living expenses related to the house we have in Ottawa.”
Duffy blamed the Senate for having unclear rules and forms. “We are going to pay it back, and until the rules are clear — and they’re not clear now, the forms are not clear, and I hope the Senate will redo the forms to make them clear — I will not claim the housing allowance.”
It might still be asked whether Senator Duffy meets the residency requirement included in the Constitution, as non-specific as that clause is.
Update 5:37pm. A statement from Senator Duffy.
Four years ago, I was given the opportunity to sit in the Senate as a voice for Prince Edward Islanders in Ottawa. I jumped at the chance. 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.
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 PEI communities. And there is a lot more to be done.
Recently questions have been raised about my eligibility for the housing allowance provided to MPs and Senators.
The Senate rules on housing allowances aren’t clear, and the forms are confusing. 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.
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.
I want there to be no doubt that I’m serving Islanders first.
Update 5:42pm. A Conservative source tells me, “the government has no doubt whatsoever about Senator Duffy’s qualification to represent PEI in the Senate.”
Update 6:05pm. A statement from Conservative Senate Leader Marjory LeBreton.
“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. Senator Duffy maintains a residence in Prince Edward Island and has deep ties to the province.”
Update 6:22pm. A statement from NDP MP Charlie Angus.
Mike Duffy now says that he may have made a mistake when claiming tens of thousands of dollars of living expenses in Ottawa. If you break the rules, saying “I’m sorry” just doesn’t cut it. There must be consequences. What discipline will the Senator face?
Mr. Duffy’s track record on this is troubling. He denied any problem and ran away from questions. It seems some Senators will do almost anything to avoid accountability.
If any forms were falsified in order to try and get extra expense money, the Senate should immediately refer the matter to the police.
Senator Duffy has also still not addressed the question of whether he has met the obligations to be a Senator from Prince Edward Island.
Conservatives are now sending out inspectors to the homes of EI recipients. Perhaps what they should be doing is sending out inspectors to the homes of Conservative and Liberal Senators.
While Conservatives continue to defend the entitlements of their Senators, the NDP will continue to stand up for Canadian taxpayers.
The form in question is contained within the official Senators’ Travel Policy as Appendix E.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, February 13, 2013 at 7:05 PM - 0 Comments
In being the last of the major parties never to have formed a federal government, the NDP has won something almost nearly as satisfying: the right to pronounce shame on the Senate. Perhaps the meek shall one day inherit the earth, but first those unencumbered by never having had to do anything about the Senate shall inherit the righteous indignation about the chamber’s continued existence.
“Mr. Speaker, in the Senate, the more things change, the more they stay the same,” Thomas Mulcair sighed this afternoon. “Senator Pamela Wallin claimed more than $300,000 in travel expenses over the last three years alone. Less than ten percent of these costs were used for her movements in Saskatchewan. This is taxpayers’ money that Senator Wallin used to walk across the country to star in fundraising for the Conservatives. Does the Prime Minister think it is acceptable for taxpayers’ money to be used to raise funds for his political party?”
It is unclear how much of Mr. Mulcair’s aspersion here can be precisely substantiated—specifically how much of Senator Wallin’s travel expenses could be said to have resulted from partisan activities. Suffice it to say, the Prime Minister “regretted” the opposition leader’s “characterization.”
“In terms of Senator Wallin, I have looked at the numbers,” Mr. Harper reported.
Stand down, Deloitte.
“Her travel costs are comparable to any parliamentarian travelling from that particular area of the country over that period of time. For instance, last year Senator Wallin spent almost half of her time in the province she represents in the Senate. The costs are obviously to travel to and from that province, as any similar parliamentarian would do.”
Mr. Mulcair was not quite reassured. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, February 8, 2013 at 11:21 AM - 0 Comments
The Senate committee on internal economy announced this morning that it has referred the “residency declarations and related expenses” of senators Mike Duffy, Patrick Brazeau and Mac Harb to an independent auditor. The committee is also “seeking legal advice on the question of Senator Duffy’s residency.”
In response, Senator Duffy has issued the following statement.
“As a Prince Edward Islander, born and bred, I am proud to represent my province and its interests in the Senate of Canada.
I represent taxpayers with care, and Canadians know I would never do anything to betray the public trust. I have a home in Prince Edward Island as required by law. I will have no further comment until this review is complete.”
By macleans.ca - Friday, February 8, 2013 at 10:04 AM - 0 Comments
Embattled Senator Mike Duffy — who represents Cavendish, PEI — has just released the following statement:
“As a Prince Edward Islander, born and bred, I am proud to represent my province and its interests in the Senate of Canada.
“I represent taxpayers with care, and Canadians know I would never do anything to betray the public trust.
“I have a home in Prince Edward Island as required by law. I will have no further comment until this review is complete.”
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 6:16 PM - 0 Comments
The NDP leader had asked a straightforward question and the Prime Minister had not quite responded with a straightforward answer and so now Thomas Mulcair, the NDP leader forced to gesture demonstratively this day with only his left arm on account of a fall on his right arm this morning, leaned forward and stared down the Prime Minister.
“Mr. Speaker, Canadians deserve a straight answer,” he ventured. “Did the Prime Minister know his party was behind these fraudulent calls, yes or no?
The New Democrats applauded their man’s strict advisement of the options.
“The independence of the Canadian Electoral Boundaries Commission is fundamental to our democracy,” Mr. Mulcair continued. “Conservatives paid for fraudulent robocalls using a fake company name to misinform voters and manipulate an important part of our democratic system. Worse yet, Conservative Party officials lied to Canadians to try to avoid taking responsibility for their actions. Who will the Prime Minister hold accountable for this fraud?”
Alas, Mr. Harper was unimpressed with Mr. Mulcair’s presentation. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
Records obtained by The Guardian Tuesday from the provincial taxation and property division office show Duffy and his wife Heather are identified as non-resident owners of their Cavendish cottage and thus pay higher property taxes.
Prince Edward Island charges 50 per cent more in property taxes to owners who are not permanent residents of the Island. In order to get the lower tax rate, one must reside in the province for 183 days consecutively. The P.E.I. government does not currently offer Duffy the lower permanent resident rate and identifies him as a non-resident.
Senator Duffy also wasn’t on the PEI voters list in 2011 and cast a ballot in that year’s Ontario election. This matters because Section 23(5) of the Constitution Act specifies that a senator “shall be resident of in the Province for which he is appointed.”
Last December, it was reported that Senator Duffy was claiming living expenses for his time in Ottawa. Amid an audit of the expenses claimed by some senators, Senator Duffy appealed to the PEI health minister’s office to expedite a request for a provincial health card. The Star has video of Senator Duffy’s Cavendish cottage.
None of this would be of concern if the Senate was abolished.
By The Canadian Press - Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 4:00 AM - 0 Comments
HALIFAX – Senator Mike Duffy took a back exit through a Halifax hotel kitchen…
HALIFAX – Senator Mike Duffy took a back exit through a Halifax hotel kitchen after a speech on Wednesday night as he declined to answer reporters’ questions about his claims for living allowances for an Ottawa residence.
The former broadcaster suggested journalists focus on energy issues, the topic of the speech he’d just given to the Maritime Energy Association, rather than ask him about a controversy over his primary residence.
“You should be doing adult work. Write about energy,” said Duffy as he walked down the kitchen hallway while staff barred reporters from approaching him.
Opposition MPs are questioning whether the senator’s primary residence is a cottage in Cavendish, P.E.I., as he has repeatedly stated.
The Senate is currently auditing its members to ensure they live where they say they do.