Where to begin? When it comes to now-independent senator Mike Duffy, it’s perhaps easiest to begin with the word “shameless.”
Duffy, in the series of twists and turns about his abuse of Senate expense rules, has basically proven that there is no hole too small to try and weasel his way through. First, Duffy claimed he was eligible for a housing allowance because his principal residence was in Prince Edward Island. It wasn’t. Duffy had lived in Ottawa for years before being appointed to the Senate as a P.E.I. senator, and his principal residence was where it always was.
He was then caught out trying to get the P.E.I. government to issue him a health card for that province — something he’d already have if he truly was a resident.
Then, he classed the housing subsidy as a mistake made as a result of unclear rules, and said he would pay the money back. All the while, he attacked reporters who questioned his use of the housing allowance, and never once apologized for taking the money.
After the money was paid back, he suggested he’d borrowed the money from the bank.
Except, like his steadfast claim that his summer cottage was his full-time residence, that wasn’t true. In fact, the money was a no-strings-attached $90,172 loan from Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s chief of staff, Nigel Wright. (Here’s an interesting thought: if you were to “loan” a senator $90,172 with no expectation of recovering the money, what would that loan be called?)
And, after Duffy used Wright’s cash to pay back the money he was not supposed to receive, the senator brazenly refused to co-operate with the ongoing audit of his expenses — an audit that wound up showing Duffy charged the Canadian taxpayer for expenses incurred while on vacation (an error he claims was made by his staff) and for expenses incurred while he was campaigning for the federal Conservatives during the last election.
He also apparently was charging expenses on those same days to the Conservative party. (A reminder for those who may have forgotten? Duffy also dinged the taxpayer for his speaking fees while on that campaign jaunt, because the Tories paid him to speak at fundraisers, and part of those costs were recovered by the Tories from taxpayers through election funding legislation.)
A leaked email from Duffy, by the way, says “I stayed silent on the orders of the PMO.”
Thursday night, CTV News revealed even more ethical questions, saying Duffy tried to influence the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to make a decision that would be worth millions to right-wing Sun Television. It’s a ethical car wreck that just keeps getting worse.
Now, Duffy has resigned from the Conservative caucus in the Senate. Is it because he’s finally seen the light about his own actions?
No. Duffy said in a statement that he was resigning from caucus because the whole matter was a “significant distraction” for the caucus.
A significant distraction? More like an ethical breach that deserves full investigation, not only of the man who got the money, but of the chief of staff who paid the largest share of it.
The senator is now being investigated by parliamentary ethics officials over the latest revelations.
At this point, perhaps the police should be involved. And it’s clear Duffy should resign as a senator as well.