I'm not cheating on my expenses: Duffy

Teresa Wright twright@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on February 19, 2013
P.E.I. Senator Mike Duffy speaks with reporters in Charlottetown Tuesday. 

Conservative Senator Mike Duffy says he did not cheat on his living expense claims and that he lives in both Cavendish and Charlottetown.

The embattled senator spoke with reporters in P.E.I. this morning for the first time since questions about his residency claims began making national headlines two weeks ago.

He refused to go into any great detail and only answered a few questions before making a prompt exit from the function he was attending.

He did, however, say he is not concerned about the questions that have been raised about his residency in P.E.I.

“I’m confident that in the end it will all turn out. Canadians know I’m an honest man and that I wouldn’t cheat on my expenses,” Duffy said.

“That’s not even the allegation. The allegation is I don’t live here.”

The Senate is currently seeking legal advice on how to deal with Duffy’s residency after questions were raised about whether he is a true resident of P.E.I.

Provincial government tax records identify Duffy and his wife as non-resident owners of their cottage in Cavendish. As non-residents, they pay 50 per cent more in property taxes. They also pay a lesser ‘cottage fee’ for their trash collection.

Duffy also made headlines when it was revealed his office went to the health minister looking for a P.E.I. health card for the senator – one of the proofs of residency being requested by the Senate committee investigating the residency claims of all senators.

The Guardian spent time in Cavendish earlier this month and noted the road on which Duffy’s cottage is located had not been plowed after a recent storm. Neighbours and local year-round residents of the resort municipality said they have rarely, if ever, seen the senator in the area.

Duffy explained today the reason his Cavendish cottage appears unused is because he spends his winters in Charlottetown.

“I live in Cavendish in the summer and, in the dirty winter months, I do what hundreds of Islanders do, I rent a place in town,” Duffy said.

“You can’t be out in the middle of the winter with a heart problem, or a medical problem, and get to the hospital. So I live in the city in the winter and I live in Cavendish the rest of the year.”

When asked Tuesday why he pays a higher tax rate reserved for those who live in the province less than six months a year, Duffy said he did not want to get into it “because that’s for accountants and heaven knows, I’m no accountant.”

Last night, Duffy told Guardian columnist Shane Ross at the Charlottetown airport those who raised questions about his residency will soon be ‘very embarrassed.’

When asked to explain what he meant by this, Duffy would not elaborate.

“Just wait for Deloitte’s,” he said, referring to the external auditing firm conducting an investigation into his residency expense claims.

All senators sign a declaration saying their primary residence is in the province they represent. Duffy has maintained his primary residence is his Cavendish cottage despite the fact he previously worked full-time as a journalist on Parliament Hill and bought a much larger house in Kanata, near Ottawa, five years before he was appointed to the Senate.

According to the Ottawa Citizen, Duffy has claimed more than $33,000 since September 2010 for expenses incurred due to his primary residency being more than 100 kilometres outside Ottawa.