Yes, it is quite an expensive distraction, but it is distraction from the real constitutional offense committed by “PEI” Senator Mike Duffy and Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
The $90,000 that Mike Duffy agreed to repay to the Government of Canada is not a financial error, it is an admission of guilt. The support of Prime Minister Stephen Harper for his chief of staff in paying off these expenses is collusion in this offense to our constitution.
All of this began when the Senate Finance Committee finally woke up to what most Islanders knew for years, that Mike Duffy was claiming his cottage on PEI as his primary residence when, in fact, he receives his medical care, votes, pays taxes, lives in and owns a beautiful Ottawa residence.
Our Constitution states the requirements for a Canadian to sit as a senator. They must own $4,000 of property in the province they represent and they must be resident in that province.
Now, admittedly, this requirement is outdated. In a less mobile world when only the most extremely wealthy had more than one home, this was clear. These days, residency is often determined by what I mentioned above. However, Duffy stated he was confused, not sure which home was his primary residence, his home in Ottawa, or the cottage on Prince Edward Island which, according to neighbours, is occupied for only a few weeks a year and, when he makes the occasional senatorial trip to the Island during much of the year, doesn’t even stay in, but stays in a hotel in Charlottetown.
In order to make this all go away, Mike Duffy agreed to repay the $90,000 in living expenses he has claimed for his home in Ottawa during his time as senator. He claimed these expenses by stating that Ottawa is the secondary residence he is allowed to keep as long as his “home” is 100 km outside of Ottawa.
And that is the day he should have been removed from the Senate.
By agreeing to pay back the living expenses, he admits that Ottawa is his primary residence. If PEI was his primary residence, then his expenses in Ottawa would have been legitimate, and he would have been a legitimate senator representing Prince Edward Island. If he paid back his living expenses, then Ottawa is, in fact, his home, and he is therefore NOT a legitimate senator representing Prince Edward Island.
It’s that simple. Duffy has to pay back the expenses because he is not a resident of Prince Edward Island. Therefore, he is not eligible to be a senator representing Prince Edward Island.
And the people of Prince Edward Island deserve far better. Duffy needs to resign, or he needs to be removed, not because of the money, but because he has no place in the Senate in the first place. Prime Minister Harper, who appointed Duffy, should never have let his appointment through in the first place.
Don’t get distracted by the price tag. This isn’t about taxpayers, it’s about the constitution.