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Mike Duffy scandal: New Democrats smell blood

QMI Agency

Mike Duffy.  Andre Forget/QMI Agency

Mike Duffy. Andre Forget/QMI Agency

OTTAWA - 

New Democrats want all records related to Mike Duffy's expenses made public in light of allegations he billed taxpayers while campaigning for Conservative candidates in the 2011 election.

And the official Opposition says Duffy is still "mooching off taxpayers" by resigning from the Conservative caucus to sit as an independent rather than doing the honourable thing by quitting altogether.

"He's been sent to the ethical penalty box to spare the prime minister further embarrassment," said NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus.

Angus said the NDP will challenge the government to explain why Stephen Harper's chief of staff gifted more than $90,000 to help Duffy reimburse taxpayers for inappropriate housing allowances and other questionable claims.

Senior government sources say Duffy's conduct is the issue, including his "surprise" declaration that he took out a bank loan to pay back the benefits and "new" revelations he billed taxpayers for expenses unrelated to Senate duties.

The NDP also wrote Elections Canada asking it to investigate whether Duffy double-dipped in 2011 by pocketing per diems and billing expenses to local campaigns.

MPs will return to the Commons on Tuesday after a week-long break to what promises to be a raucous session before the summer recess.

A trade mission to Colombia and Peru will keep Harper away, but the controversy will follow him. Canadian media are accompanying him.

His spokesman has said Harper was unaware about Nigel Wright's gift to Duffy, whom he appointed to the upper chamber in 2008, but continued to support his right-hand man Friday afternoon.

The Senate will also be in session where audits of three senators will be up for debate. There were some rumblings the upper chamber will take a second look at Duffy's expenses.

Duffy left the Conservative caucus Thursday night, saying the growing public controversy had become a "significant distraction."

Sources said he was pushed out.

Angus said New Democrats want to learn why Duffy didn't fully co-operate with an outside audit firm that concluded he spent most of his time in Ottawa and not his primary residence in Prince Edward Island.

"What are they hiding?" he asked. "What is so damaging in those statements?"

Two other senators — Patrick Brazeau and Mac Harb — have also been ordered by Senate brass to return $48,000 and $51,000 respectively in housing expenses, but both have refused, saying they broke no rules.


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