Settling the Duffy debate

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 If Senator Mike Duffy's interviews late last week were intended to put to rest the controversy over his residency as a senator, he missed the mark. He not only failed to change the channel on this item, he turned up the volume. We're more confused, and have more questions, than ever.

After weeks of dodging the media over questions about his primary residence and whether he's entitled to expense claims for his Ottawa home as a secondary residence, Duffy surprised everyone late last week by granting interviews to two television networks. He wouldn't talk to The Guardian when approached, however, saying he was too busy, nevertheless he said in the two broadcast interviews that he wanted to pay back the money he has claimed for the Ottawa home to put the matter behind him and let everyone move on. "The Senate rules on housing allowances aren't clear and the forms are confusing," he said in a statement late Friday. "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."

But what remains in question is Duffy's status as a senator representing this province. Duffy maintains he is a resident of P.E.I. "I'm an Island resident and I'm entitled to be a senator," he told the CBC. "I've met all of those requirements. The question is really one of accounting."

That may be how he sees it, but the Senate is seeking legal advice on how to deal with the issue of his residency in P.E.I. and the matter has been raised again in both the Senate and the House of Commons. Clearly Duffy's latest explanations haven't quelled interest in this story at all.

All senators sign a yearly declaration saying their primary residence is in the province they represent. Duffy has claimed a cottage he owns in Cavendish as his primary residence, yet Island government tax records identify Duffy and his wife as non-resident owners of the cottage. Neighbours and local residents of Cavendish told The Guardian they rarely, if ever, see the senator in the area, although Duffy explained to reporters he rents a place in Charlottetown during the winter.

Taxpayers should feel somewhat satisfied that the senator intends to pay back money he mistakenly claimed, but this isn't just about the money. It's about whether he's eligible to represent Prince Edward Island in the Senate. His willingness to repay money claimed for his Ottawa home suggests he now acknowledges it as his primary residence. If that's the case, then what's the status of his Island residency and does it comply with requirements outlined in the Constitution? It will be interesting to hear what the Senate committee that's seeking legal advice on this question will have to say.

The committee's finding is relevant particularly for this province because Senator Catherine Callbeck is due to retire next year. If there are issues about Senate appointments that need to be resolved, let's get them settled now before a replacement is appointed.

           

Organizations: CBC, House of Commons, Senate committee

Geographic location: P.E.I.

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Recent comments

  • chubblybumskin
    March 04, 2013 - 18:58

    mr duffy keep your money and just do us islanders a favor stay the hell in ottawa

  • Steve D.
    March 02, 2013 - 13:24

    It seems to me, there has been no answer to the question of effectiveness. I ask "where is a federal MP most effective ?" Certainly, to know the issues of the province, some time needs to taken to understand them .... At a local level. However, can it be said that a Federal MP is most effective by attending in the senate? I would like to see that question addressed. Are we in danger of reducing the impact our Senators might have because we don't want them arttending 'at the office' more than 'at home'? If the issue was 'Duffy missing too many Senate Votes because he had to stay on PEI", I suspect there would be an uproar ! Be careful what you wish for, comes to mind. With Seantor Duffy's less than perfect health, travel must be considered. Would "Duffy's travel expenses through the roof" be a more amenable headline .... In order to ensure residency requirements ? Is this a no win situation? Guardian .... Can you investigate what the wisdom is on attendance in Ottawa. Where would islanders get the best representation? With Duffy here, or there ... active with other Senators from across Canada ? Answer that for a rounded review. Readers await.

  • The Layabout
    March 01, 2013 - 17:19

    As Islanders ,I think we all know how it really works and Duffy will keep his seat but if justice were true he shouldn't. If the seat appointment was based on fraudalent "province of residence"statements the appointment should be overturned and he (and perhaps others?) should be sent packing. Where does that leave us on the many pieces of suspect legislation the he (and others?)voted on and got passed (some of them by the skin of their teeth). Can a piece of legislation be upheld if it was voted on by someone who had no right to vote on it in the first place ?In the big scheme of things who cares about a Senator screwing the public purse for a few grand ? What about the people who have felt the wrath of a"supposed "law and order"government by being dragged thru the "justice..(for some)system ,faced legal costs and possible incarceration based on laws contained in bills that were passed by people who had no right to be voting on them? Democracy in action ....or paradox ?

  • Chester L
    March 01, 2013 - 06:37

    The View From Martinvale............Senators....to be or not to be that is the question.. 1. No excuse for not understanding the forms. 2. His Newspaper/CtV experience should have taught him better. 3. Unless this is corrected then its " Political patronage/Cronyism " at its finest. 4. His attempts to placate Islanders has fallen on listening ears...Leave Duff 5. When you see the " Power/Greed/ sense of Deportment " it is nothing 6. I am sure he has a " comfortable income " let him go and soon

  • Norm
    February 28, 2013 - 21:42

    '...but this isn't just about the money. It's about whether he's eligible to represent Prince Edward Island in the Senate' In the case of Mr. Brazeau, Ms. Wallin, Mr Duffy et al., it is also about the fact that these cheaters and obfuscators are the adults here. They are the ones that are involved with making the laws that rule us all. Is there not any better in all of Canada??

  • Justin Flontek
    February 28, 2013 - 08:11

    The senate along with harpo need to be arrested! They do nothing but steal from us!

  • Michael Laliberté
    February 28, 2013 - 08:06

    A few points: 1. Why would a PM name a Senator representing a province when he knows full well that this person has been a resident of Ottawa for the past 40 years? 2. Based on Point 1, it's obvious that the Duffy is the "government's" representative and not PEI's. 3. This should be investigated by the police. If a normal citizen gets caught stealing, he doesn't evade the justice system by "just paying back" what he stole. 4. If a Senator representing a province has to be a resident of that province, then Duffy failed to demonstrate this. He should take the high road and resign his post.

  • Island Boy
    February 28, 2013 - 07:20

    Duffy is an anchor around the neck of Island democracy.

    • Justin Flontek
      February 28, 2013 - 08:10

      Someone should tie and anchor around duff's neck and toss him over you know what. I kid of course, just toss the bum in jail.