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.
“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 of this behind us, we are going to voluntarily pay back my living expenses related to the house we have in Ottawa.”
Duffy said the controversy has nothing to do with his eligibility to represent the province of P.E.I. as a senator.
“I’m an island resident and I’m entitled to be a senator; I’ve met all of those requirements,” he said.
“The question really is one of accounting, how much time are you here, how much time are you there.”
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, as he has repeatedly stated.
“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 of this behind us, we are going to voluntarily pay back my living expenses related to the house we have in Ottawa,” - Senator Mike Duffy
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.
The Guardian attempted to talk to Duffy Friday. However, the P.E.I. senator refused an interview, saying he was too busy to talk to this newspaper following interviews at both CBC and CTV.
... More to come, full details in The Guardian Saturday.