Senator Mike Duffy's actions under scrutiny
There was lots of activity around Senator Mike Duffy’s home in Cavendish, P.E.I. today but he wasn’t interested in talking.
The New Democrats have asked the Senate ethics officer to launch a probe into Duffy's repayment of more than $90,000 in improperly claimed expenses -- money that was given to him by Nigel Wright, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's chief of staff.
The senator has become the brunt of many jokes and outright frustration since the news broke that Wright had written Duffy a cheque from his personal account to repay the improperly claimed Senate living expenses.
“The public looks up to these people…and when they’re not displaying behavior that is becoming to that, one has to be disappointed,” says P.E.I. cottage owner Andy Weeks.
“There’s lots of people on P.E.I. that he could have picked as a senator, rather than somebody who only lives here part time,” says Cavendish business manager Rowan Caseley.
Caseley says the personal cheque written by the prime minister’s chief of staff to repay Duffy’s improperly claimed housing expenses doesn’t pass the smell test.
“That’s not like a $10 gift, or a $100 gift,” he says. “Ninety-thousand dollars is a lot of money and anybody that’s given $90,000, I’d have to put it up for suspicion.”
Duffy is one of three senators whose living expenses have come under fire over allegations they were claiming tens of thousands of dollars for accommodations in the Ottawa area under the Senate’s housing allowance rule – intended to compensate those whose primary residences are more than 100 kilometres from the capital.
However, an independent audit released last week showed that Duffy, along with Sen. Patrick Brazeau and Sen. Mac Harb, spent more time in Ottawa than at the homes declared to be their primary residences, rendering their claims ineligible.
Duffy, who repaid the expenses in March, was praised by the Conservatives for showing "leadership" in his decision to pay back the ineligible claims before the audits were released.
However, there was no indication at the time that the money used had been given to Duffy by Wright.
In an email Wednesday, the prime minister's director of communications Andrew MacDougall wrote: "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."
That confirmation from the PMO contradicts Duffy's earlier explanation to CTV News.
"The Royal Bank helped me…I dealt with my bank personally. Nigel played no role," Duffy wrote in an email to CTV News Tuesday, claiming he got a loan to repay the expense claims.
Nova Scotia Liberal MP Scott Brison commented on the matter today in Halifax, saying he didn’t want to pass judgment without all the facts, but also saying the senator used very bad judgment.
“They’re crossing their wires on these stories and Canadians need to know the truth and I think that we need to have a full, thorough independent investigation of what actually went on,” says Brison.
NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair said the gift should have been publicly disclosed.
"We spend our time making lists of baseball caps and books that we receive as we tour the country and submitting those to avoid any appearance of conflict on an ethics level," he told reporters Wednesday.
Canada's ethics commissioner, Mary Dawson, said Wednesday that she will investigate Wright's cheque to Duffy.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Jacqueline Foster and CTVNews.ca