Duffy claims to live in Charlottetown too

Shane Ross sross@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on February 19, 2013
Senator Mike Duffy waits at the carousel for his luggage at the Charlottetown Airport Monday night.
Guardian photo

Aha! So that explains it.

There’s a third residence. A mystery residence. In Charlottetown. That’s where Senator Mike Duffy stays when he comes home to P.E.I. in the winter. Not the little yellow cottage in Cavendish pain-in-butt reporter Teresa Wright went knocking on 15 days ago and started this whole quest to find out where Mike Duffy really lives.

“In the winter, I live in town because the road in Cavendish is blocked,” Duffy said yesterday — Islander Day — at the airport, moments after landing on the 5:34 flight from Ottawa.

I had gone to the airport to meet Senator Duffy, hoping to solve this mystery once and for all. He has taken a pounding by the national and local media and in letters to the editor over whether it is appropriate that he claim more than $33,000 in out-of-town living expenses when his primary residence, it would appear, is in Kanata, down the road from where the NHL’s Ottawa Senators also play.

But Mike — he told me to call him Mike — has not liked to talk about it. At an event in Halifax on Feb. 5, he cleverly dodged reporters by slipping through a hotel kitchen.

Luckily for me, his flight Monday night was delayed a half-hour, and that gave me time to scout out the airport for possible escape routes. Given Mike’s MO, the first place I checked out was Budley’s, the airport restaurant, where the daily special was a pulled pork sandwich and fries for $9.49. There appeared no easy route through the kitchen. He would have to hop the counter. That was out.

Next, I checked the conveyor belt. I always wondered where it led to. Your luggage goes through the black curtains and back around the other side. Was this a possible escape? I think I’ve even seen Shaggy and Scooby pull it off, but a senator surely wouldn’t go unnoticed.

Then I asked a cab driver if — just sayin’ — a really important person wanted to get off the plane and avoid walking through the departure area with the rest of the passengers, could it be done? The cab driver assured me no, unless there was a car waiting for him on the tarmac.

But there was no car. Mike arrived with the rest of them.

“Senator Duffy?”

He smiled and asked me to call him Mike. But when I introduced myself as Shane Ross from The Guardian, his face curled up like he had just smelled something bad. Something really bad. But he did indulge me for a couple quick questions.

He said: “Canadians know I’m an honest person,” and everything he has done has been “completely above board.”

He said there has never been a question about his expenses, and “the only issue is residence and I don’t think, when it’s all counted up, there’ll be any problem with that either.”

He said he’s here on business.

I never got a chance to ask him his favourite colour or what was playing on his iPod, but when I asked him if he would be staying at his place in Cavendish, he said he “lives” in town.

And that’s it. He wouldn’t say any more. But I had more questions. Did he own the residence? Was it an apartment or a house? How many bedrooms?

He walked away, and a few minutes later disappeared into the men’s washroom. But little did he know, I had already checked that out too. There were no windows to crawl out of, and the vent was far too small for anyone to squeeze through. I knew he would be back.

I waited and waited. Actually started to feel a little pathetic. Am I really staking out the men’s washroom? Has this poor senator not been through enough already?

Then he emerged, fly up. We locked eyes.

“Just one more question. Is the Charlottetown residence your primary residence?”

Mike sighed.

“It’s none of your business,” he said. “I’ve said too much already. When it’s all over, you all will be very embarrassed.”

Then he walked out of the airport into the snowy night, and drove home.

sross@theguardian.pe.ca