Duffy trying to Dodge Audit?

Julian Wolfe
February 24th, 2013

It turns out that Conservative Senator Mike Duffy is out of breath running away from the media. With the controversy over his housing allowance gaining ever more spin, and a senate spending audit underway, Duffty decided he would pay back the funds he received admitting they were not entitled to him and he also claimed the situation to be a misunderstanding. Based on Duffy’s actions, it may be well worth questioning the authenticity of this action.

How can we possibly forget the huge commotion over housing allowance? When news broke that Conservative senators were cashing in on monies that weren’t entitled to them, Canadians wanted answers  and so did the media. Mike Duffy, a former reporter for CTV, received $33,000 for his housing allowance and it turns out he wasn’t entitled to it. Rather than confront the questions about the legitimacy of his eligibility to the program in an honest and sincere manner, like any innocent person would, we recall him bursting out the back of a kitchen hollering at journalists when they confronted him on this issue. First off, if Duffy wasn’t a senator, he would have been one of those journalists so he knew what to expect and second, running through a kitchen to dodge questions – does that not raise a red flag about his conscience?

“The Senate rules on housing allowances aren’t clear, and the forms are confusing,” Duffy 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.”

In the meantime, senators Duffy, Pamela Wallin, Mac Harb, and Patrick Brazeau all face an audit into the legitimacy of their housing allowance claims.

The necessity of Duffy’s housing allowance claims in particular came about when it had been discovered that his documented primary residence in Prince Edward Island was being overshadowed by another primary residence in Ottawa. The constitution requires senators to live in the provinces they were appointed to. It also came about when public figures in PEI stated that he was ineligible for permanent resident status in the province.

“Rather than let this issue drag on,” Duffy said, “my wife and I have decided that the allowance associated with my house in Ottawa will be repaid.”

Meanwhile, NDP Ethics Critic Charlie Angus charges that repaying the allowance shouldn’t be the end of the story.

“How could it be that you can fill out forms to collect money you’re not entitled to and then you have to get caught, you have to get hounded to pay it back, and then you can just shrug and say, ‘Catch me the next time.’ That’s not good enough,” Angus said.

“If an ordinary citizen did that, they’d be in jail.”

In the meantime, as Angus noted, the federal government is sending federal agents to check on EI recipients.

“If it’s good enough to go after EI claimants, if it’s good enough go after tax cheats, then they should be going after Senate cheats,” he said, adding that the police should be called in.
But while Duffy claims that the whole situation was a misunderstanding, Angus argues that the circumstances are clear enough as they stand.

“Mr. Duffy lives in Kanata. He’s claiming a housing allowance that is intended for senators who actually live in the province they represent. I don’t know how much clearer you could be,” Angus said.

Duffy’s decision to pay back Canadian taxpayers may have been the right move, but a few weeks earlier, he dodged the issue altogether by running out of a kitchen in Halifax, telling reporters that there are better things to report about like energy. In the meantime, the senate is about to audit the suspicious claims and this is the time when Duffy backs out. Is there any more expenditure to hide? Did it really have to take Duffy the fact that he got caught to do the right thing? Or was it that he would rather dodge the audit to avoid any future scrutiny on any other spending ventures that he’s been up to?

We can applaud Duffy for paying back the $33,000 he owes us, but given the circumstances in which we got it back, it should make us wonder what would have happened without the commotion and forced audit and if mandatory periodic audits of all senators should be one of those reforms Harper spoke of six years ago when he said he wouldn’t appoint his cronies to the senate. What do you think of Duffy and his situation, is his repayment a sincere mistake or a surrender to being caught? Would mandatory audits be something that can keep other senators in line and responsible with taxpayers’ money?

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   Categories: Accountability, Integrity, Senate, Spending, The Duffy Affair


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