Sen. Mike Duffy’s office asked P.E.I. to fast-track health card
Published Monday, February 4, 2013 10:00PM EST
Conservative Senator Mike Duffy’s office inquired about fast-tracking his health card application in Prince Edward Island as the deadline loomed for all senators to show proof of their residency.
A source confirmed to CTV News that Duffy’s office called the office of P.E.I.’s health minister to ask whether the senator’s health card could be expedited.
The health ministry refused, citing a mandatory three-month waiting period for new health card applications. Had Duffy been renewing an existing health card, the wait would have been only 10 days.
Senators had until Jan. 31 to submit documentation, including copies of health cards, drivers’ licences and tax returns, to prove the location of their primary residence.
In an interview with The Guardian, a P.E.I. newspaper, Health Minister Doug Currie said he was aware of a “request” that came in about Duffy’s health card, but he instructed his staff to treat his application like any other.
“There will be no fast-tracking, because why would there be?” Currie told the paper.
In a brief telephone conversation with CTV News, Duffy referred all questions to Sen. David Tkachuk, chairman of the Senate standing committee on internal economy.
“You tell me the problem here? How do you know that he hasn't been living there?” questioned Tkachuk.
The revelation has raised more questions about Duffy’s claims that his primary residence is a house in Cavendish, P.E.I., the province he represents in the Senate.
Under P.E.I. law, an individual must live in the province for at least 183 consecutive days in a taxation year to be considered a resident.
For years, Duffy, a former broadcaster who worked for CTV and CBC, has been claiming expenses for a home he owns in the Ottawa suburb of Kanata. Senators are allowed to charge up to $21,000 in housing and meal expenses annually, if their primary residence is located more than 100 kilometres away from Ottawa.
Duffy has claimed $42,802 for living expenses in the National Capital Region since September 2010, but has denied misusing the taxpayer-subsidized allowance.
“It seems rather strange to me that an individual who has been senator for a lengthy period of time now, who knows you have to be a permanent resident of P.E.I. in order to be a senator would just now be getting around to getting a Prince Edward Island health card,” said Liberal MP Wayne Easter, whose P.E.I. riding includes Cavendish.
Amid reports of other senators’ questionable expense claims, the Red Chamber established a three-member, bipartisan committee to look into the matter.
All senators received letters asking them to prove where they live by Jan. 31.
The Canadian Constitution requires all senators to be a resident in the province for which they are appointed. The senators’ personal property must also be “together worth four thousand dollars over and above his debts and liabilities.”
Senators have never had to show documentation before; they simply swore an oath swearing that the information they provide about their living arrangements is true. That has been the policy since 1867.
Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau has also been questioned about listing his father’s home in Maniwaki, Que., as his primary residence, for which he receives an annual $20,000 housing allowance even though he rents a home in Gatineau, just across the river from Ottawa.
Brazeau has also denied any wrongdoing, telling CTV News last week he has submitted proof to the Senate that he does, indeed, primarily live in Maniwaki.
With a report from CTV’s Daniele Hamamdjian