Likely no 'appetite' in Senate for giving Duffy back pay: Housakos
Dario Balca, CTVNews.ca
Published Sunday, May 1, 2016 11:54AM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, May 1, 2016 9:48PM EDT
The chair of the Senate Internal Economy committee says there’s likely not “much of an appetite” among members of the upper chamber to entertain the idea of reimbursing Sen. Mike Duffy for $250,000 in salary he lost during his suspension.
Sen. Leo Housakos told CTV’s Question Period that following a judge’s ruling last week that cleared Duffy of 31 charges, including fraud and bribery, the P.E.I. senator is “welcome and entitled to serve as a senator.”
But Housakos suggested that reimbursing Duffy won’t be on the Senate’s agenda.
Last week, Duffy’s lawyer, Donald Bayne, told Question Period the senator ought to be reimbursed for $250,000 in salary he forfeited during his suspension.
But Housakos said the decision to suspend Duffy was taken by the Senate as a whole and not just the Internal Economy Committee. That means reimbursing Duffy would require a motion by the entire upper chamber.
“I suspect there probably wouldn’t be much of an appetite for senators to go back and revisit that,” he said. “I think most senators feel we already had that disciplinary discussion and there was sanctions taken and it was taken based on the information we had at the time.”
Despite Duffy’s acquittal, Housakos said the Senate reacted appropriately to the situation in 2013.
“The Senate did what it needed to do in an unprecedented way to make sure that the rules of the Senate were respected,” he said. “Even though he was found innocent in a criminal court of law, we cannot underestimate the importance of the measures and steps that the Senate took, which were far more rigid in dealing with these individuals.”
Now that he has been cleared by the courts, Duffy will return to the upper chamber “with all the rights of any sitting senator.”
That means Duffy will once again have access to his office and other resources, Housakos said, including the $22,000 annual housing allowance which became the focus of the expenses scandal that plagued the senator over the past three years.
Duffy was suspended without pay and ousted from the Conservative caucus in 2013 after news emerged that he had claimed living expenses for time spent at his Ottawa home.
He faced a total of 31 criminal charges stemming from more than $100,000 in allegedly misused public funds and inappropriately claimed expenses, as well as a $90,000 payment on his behalf from Stephen Harper's former chief of staff Nigel Wright.
During the two-and-a-half-year process, however, Duffy maintained he had done nothing wrong.
After a 62-day trial that ended earlier this month, Ontario Court Justice Charles Vaillancourt found Duffy innocent of any wrongdoing.
Vaillancourt also delivered a scathing critique of the Prime Minister’s Office at the time, which he said forced the senator to go along with their repayment scheme, even though Duffy insisted he had done nothing wrong.
Stricter rules for senators
Housakos said the P.E.I senator will return to a reformed upper chamber that will no longer tolerate any abuse of resources or privileges.
“We have rules that are rigid and that are clear in the Senate,” he said, calling the Duffy trial a “catalyst” for reform that’s led to greater oversight and transparency.
Senators now have to provide a copy of their driver’s licence and other documents confirming their principal address before they can claim living expenses, Housakos said.
Under the new rules, members of the upper chamber also have to provide a detailed record of their expenses on a quarterly basis.
Housakos said Duffy will be able to claim living expenses, if his “principal residence is Prince Edward Island and he can back it up with the appropriate documentation.”
With files from CTV’s Question Period