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Mike Duffy leaves Tory caucus to sit as an Independent


QMI Agency

Senator Mike Duffy in Ottawa, MAy 9, 2013. (ANDRE FORGET/QMI Agency)

Senator Mike Duffy in Ottawa, MAy 9, 2013. (ANDRE FORGET/QMI Agency)

OTTAWA - 

Sen. Mike Duffy resigned as a Conservative senator Thursday night to sit as an Independent after new allegations were raised about inappropriate expense claims.

“It is clear the public controversy surrounding me and the repayment of my Senate expenses has become a significant distraction to my caucus colleagues, and to the government," Duffy said in a statement.

"Given that my presence within the Conservative caucus only contributes to that distraction, I have decided to step outside of the caucus and sit as an Independent senator pending resolution of these questions."

New allegations surfaced Thursday that Duffy questionable expenses during the 2011 election, lighting another fire under the critics on Parliament Hill, who are demanding the Senate ethics officer launch an investigation into Duffy's mysterious repayment of $90,000 in inappropriate housing allowance claims.

An audit by Deloitte showed Duffy had claimed expenses while on Senate business during the 2011 election, on days when other documents show he was campaigning for the Conservatives and billing those campaigns for his expenses, CBC reports.

The audit also indicated more than $1,000 in per diems he claimed while on a holiday in Florida.

The latest revelations come after the Prime Minister's Office said Wednesday that Nigel Wright, the prime minister's chief of staff, cut a personal cheque to Duffy so he could return housing allowance money he shouldn't have pocketed.

That conflicts with an e-mail Duffy sent to CTV a day earlier in which he wrote that he took out a bank loan to repay taxpayers $90,000 in March, and that Wright played no role.

On Thursday, PMO spokesman Andrew MacDougall indicated Stephen Harper wasn't aware of Wright's generosity, but stood by his comments from Wednesday that Wright wrote Duffy a cheque because the senator — who owns two homes — couldn't afford to pay.

Gifts over $500 must be reported within 30 days, according to the Senate's conflict of interest code.

The federal ethics commissioner said she would probe whether any rules were broken.

The RCMP is examining outside audit reports from last week to determine whether a criminal investigation is warranted into Duffy; Patrick Brazeau, a former Conservative senator suspended with pay from the Senate because of assault charges; and Mac Harb, who was appointed as a Liberal senator in 2003 but now sits as an independent.

A Senate committee has instructed Brazeau and Harb to return $48,000 and $51,000 in housing allowance money respectively — a request both have refused.

 


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