A Prince Edward Island man has started a petition asking for a public review of Conservative Senator Mike Duffy’s eligibility to represent P.E.I. and asking the Ghiz government to publicly declare him a non-resident.
Chris Stewart of Fort Augustus says he is concerned over questions that have been raised over Duffy’s residency in P.E.I.
If his primary residence is not in the province, how can he properly represent Islanders, Stewart asked.
“I feel we here in Prince Edward Island should have the same type of representation in the Senate as is afforded to other Canadians,” Stewart said.
“I think if the person who sits in the Senate on our behalf isn’t vested to the same extent as other people, then as a province or a region we’re really missing out.”
That’s why he is now amassing signatures to petition the Senate to undergo a full, public review looking at whether Duffy meets all the constitutional requirements to represent P.E.I.
He also feels the provincial government should weigh in on the issue.
Stewart and a group of other Islanders want a motion passed in the P.E.I. legislature declaring Duffy a non-resident.
The provincial taxation department already identifies Duffy and his wife as non-resident owners of their Cavendish cottage, Stewart pointed out.
“It would tell the federal government now and federal governments to come in the future that we are not going to quietly allow residents of other provinces to be appointed to our Senate seats,” Stewart said.
The Senate is currently seeking legal advice on how to deal with the issue of Duffy's residency in P.E.I. after questions were raised last month about whether he is a true resident of the province.
Senate Government Leader Marjory LeBreton muddied the waters on the issue last week by suggesting the legal opinion had come back and cleared Duffy of any wrongdoing.
The Senate committee on internal economy has not yet received this opinion yet, however, so questions about his residency are still up in the air.
Senators must sign an annual declaration saying their primary residence is in the province they represent, and Duffy has claimed his Cavendish cottage as his primary home.
But Duffy admitted recently he “may have been mistaken” when filling out this form.
While he maintains he has done nothing wrong, he did say he will pay back tens of thousands he has claimed in housing allowance for his home in Kanata, near Ottawa.
Meanwhile, Duffy's and three other senators’ living expense claims are being probed by external auditors.
Stewart said Tuesday he will wait for the auditors’ report to come back before passing judgment on Duffy’s expenses.
But he and the others in his group remain concerned about whether Duffy is eligible to represent the Island at all.
Their online petition has only been posted for only five days and already has over 150 signatures.
Stewart said he plans to also acquire physical signatures to allow more people to lend their names to his concerns.
“This is a non-partisan venture,” he said.
“We simply deserve that the rest of Canada has – a senator who is resident in their province and was so at the time of appointment. Right now, we just don’t know.”
He has also started a Facebook group for his cause, called ‘Senator from away.’