P.E.I. Health Minister Doug Currie says there will be no exceptions made when it comes to Conservative Senator Mike Duffy’s application for a P.E.I. health card.
The issue made national headlines Monday when the Ottawa Citizen reported Duffy’s office had contacted the health minister’s office, asking for a his application to be fast-tracked.
In an interview with The Guardian Monday, Currie confirmed this.
“I didn’t speak to Senator Duffy directly but I was aware that there was a request that came in,” Currie said.
Duffy’s office sent the request after an auditor’s letter was given to all senators asking for copies of their health cards, drivers licenses and tax returns to support their residency claims. They had to produce this documentation by Jan. 31.
But P.E.I. has a mandatory three-month waiting period for any new health card applications.
Currie said he directed his staff to treat Duffy’s request like any other.
“There will be no fast-tracking, because why would there be?” Currie said.
“My expectation in the department with any service, whether it’s access to a long-term care bed, whether it’s access to a family physician, whether it’s access to a medical card – there is a process in place, there is procedures. In some instances there is wait times, and in this case there is… anyone who called would be given that same information by my department.”
Duffy and a few other senators have been on the hot seat in Ottawa after media reports questioned financial claims they made for their Ottawa residences.
A senate committee is now investigating living expense claims by senators.
Senators are required to sign a declaration that says their primary residence is their home province.
But they can claim reimbursement for living expenses incurred by maintaining a secondary home for use while working in Ottawa.
According to an Ottawa Citizen report in December, Duffy has claimed more than $33,000 for living expenses in Ottawa since September 2010, despite the fact he and his wife bought their current home in Kanata five years before he was appointed to the Senate.
“There will be no fast-tracking, because why would there be?” - Health Minister Doug Currie
Duffy worked for years in the nation’s capital as a journalist covering Parliament Hill before his appointment, but he maintains his renovated cottage in Cavendish is his primary residence.
Duffy had little to say on the subject when contacted by The Guardian for comment Monday.
“I have no idea from where this story comes. Not from me,” Duffy wrote in an email to The Guardian.
“Like all senators I have responded to the request for information. That's in the hands of the (Senator) David Tkachuk and his internal economy committee and they will deal with this. I have no further comment.”
Currie did not want to comment on Duffy’s residency issues and said he will have no further involvement in his health card application.
“I can’t speak about personal information on the process other than the request came in and the message was sent very clearly that he needs to follow the process that’s in place and that was the end of it as far as my involvement,” Currie said.
Malpque MP Wayne Easter called Duffy’s attempt to have the application fast-tracked inappropriate.
“For a senator or a member of parliament, for that matter, to be using his or her personal position to gain privilege of which a citizen is not necessarily entitled to, is not appropriate. That’s wrong.”
Easter said Duffy's need to apply for a P.E.I. health card in the first place raises more questions about Duffy’s residency claims.
“For him just now to be asking for a health card to be expedited when the senate board for internal economy had called for an investigation into whether or not he’s meeting the conditions laid out by the senate, raises more suspicions about Senator Duffy than answers.”