Senator Mike Duffy says that he’ll pay back his housing allowance

Senator Mike DuffyIt looks like Senator Mike Duffy will return the taxpayer funded living allowance he received for claiming a primary residence in Prince Edward Island.

According to a CBC report, Duffy admitted that he may not have spent enough time in PEI but he insists that he is an 'Islander.'

He said he made the decision to pay back the money because the issue was becoming a distraction.

[ Related: CBC's Rick Mercer rants about Mike Duffy ]

"So my wife and I discussed it, and we decided that in order to turn the page, to put all this behind us, we are going to voluntarily pay back my living expenses related to the house we have in Ottawa," he told CBC Radio on Friday afternoon, and subsequently blamed the Senate rules for his dilemma.

"We are going to pay it back, and until the rules are clear — and they're not clear now, the forms are not clear, and I hope the Senate will redo the forms to make them clear — I will not claim the housing allowance."

Duffy has been under fire with regard to allegations that he claimed an estimated $33,000 in Senate living allowances that he wasn't legally entitled to.

The living allowance is for individuals who keep a 'second home' in Ottawa and a primary residence somewhere else. Media reports, however, suggested that the former CTV journalist had lived in his Ottawa home for many years and even voted in the Ottawa region.

[ Related: Senator Patrick Brazeau back on Twitter? ]

Two weeks ago, the Canadian Press reported that Senate Standing Committee Chair David Tkachuk was in fact seeking a legal opinion on the question of Duffy’s residency. Tkachuk also asked audit firm Deloitte to review the travel expenses of Duffy and at least two other senators.

According to PostMedia News, the audit was to be complete within the next month.

Update: 6.20 p.m. (EST):

Mike Duffy released this statement following his radio interview on Friday afternoon:

Four years ago, I was given the opportunity to sit in the Senate as a voice for Prince Edward Islanders in Ottawa. I jumped at the chance. I was born here, I was raised here, I own a house here, I pay property taxes here, and most important, my heart is here.

I also started my career here, and took my Island sensibilities along when I was covering politics in Ottawa.

Being a Senator has allowed me to do a lot of good for PEI communities. And there is a lot more to be done.

Recently questions have been raised about my eligibility for the housing allowance provided to MPs and Senators.

The Senate rules on housing allowances aren’t clear, and the forms are confusing. I filled out the Senate forms in good faith and believed I was in compliance with the rules. Now it turns out I may have been mistaken.

Rather than let this issue drag on, my wife and I have decided that the allowance associated with my house in Ottawa will be repaid.

I want there to be no doubt that I’m serving Islanders first.

NDP MP Charlie Angus isn't satisfied with Duffy's 'mea-culpa.'

"Mike Duffy 'fesses up. So what consequences are there going to be for claiming 40k in living expenses that he wasn't eligible to claim? If you falsify your EI or your tax forms, the government comes down on you like a tonne of bricks," Angus wrote on Facebook.

"Will Harper hold his cronies in the Senate to account?"

The answer to Angus' question is: a big fat no.

According to the Canadian Press, Leader of the Government in the Senate Marjory LeBreton reaffirmed the Conservative party's support of Duffy.

"We have committed to ensuring that all expenses are appropriate, that the rules governing expenses are appropriate and to report back to the public on these matters," she said.

"Senator Duffy maintains a residence in Prince Edward Island and has deep ties to the province."

(Photo courtesy of Canadian Press)

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