Senator Mike Duffy resigns from Conservative caucus

Mike Duffy is out of the Conservative caucus.

On Thursday evening, the much-maligned Senator released this statement:

"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 according to the Globe and Mail.

"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.

"Throughout this entire situation I have sought only to do the right thing. I look forward to all relevant facts being made clear in due course, at which point I am hopeful I will be able to rejoin the Conservative caucus. This has been a difficult time for me and my family, and we are going to take some time away from the public. I ask the media to respect our privacy while these questions are resolved through the appropriate processes."

[ Related: Tories need to cut ties with Senator Mike Duffy ]

Some media reports suggest that Duffy was pressured, by the party, to step aside while he deals with the recent controversies.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Globe and Mail reported that Nigel Wright, the prime minister's chief of staff, "personally funded Senator Mike Duffy’s repayment of more than $90,000 in improperly-claimed living expenses."

"The government believes that taxpayers should not be on the hook for improper expense claims made by Senators," Andrew MacDougall, director of communications for Prime Minister Harper said in an email, according to the newspaper.

"Mr. Duffy agreed to repay the expenses because it was the right thing to do. However, Mr. Duffy was unable to make a timely repayment.

"Mr. Wright therefore wrote a cheque from his personal account for the full amount owing so that Mr. Duffy could repay the outstanding amount."

Whether the money was a gift, a loan or guarantee is still unclear. If was a gift, it may have broken Senate ethic rules.

What was clear, however, is that Duffy was becoming a public relations nightmare for Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party.

On Thursday morning, NDP Ethics Critic Charlie Angus asked the Senate ethics officer Lyse Ricard to investigate the Wright and Duffy deal.

Later in the day, the PMO was forced to publicly defend Wright making statement saying that he "has the confidence of the prime minister" and "he will not resign."

[ Related: Nigel Wright has 'full confidence' of PM after Duffy cheque ]

It was also learned on Thursday that Duffy claimed Senate expenses while campaigning for the Conservatives during the 2011 election.

With it being 2 years before an election, with Justin Trudeau emerging on the national scene and after 7 years in office, Duffy was a distraction that the Tories didn't need or want.

Before Duffy's resignation, political consultant, Gerry Nicholls told Yahoo! Canada, that the senator from PEI had put the Tories in an awkward position.

"Given his TV background, Mike Duffy is a high profile personality, one of the few Senators people might actually recognize," Nicholls said.

"This serves to amplify his troubles, which in turn causes more damage to the Conservative brand. That’s why they need to shut down this story and try to make it go away. The best way to do that is for Duffy to resign."

The Tories are certainly hoping that the controversies go away with Duffy.

Whether they do remains to be seen.

(Photo courtesy of the Canadian Press)

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