Mike Duffy to repay expenses claimed for Ottawa home

Senator Mike Duffy says he's going to pay back the living expenses he's claimed for his Ottawa home.

In an exclusive interview with CBC News, Duffy said the issue has become a "major distraction" from the work he's trying to do for Prince Edward Island, the province he represents in the Senate.

"Everywhere I go, people are talking. Well where do you live? What's it all about? …," he said. "It's become a major distraction.

"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."

Duffy blamed the Senate for having unclear rules and forms.

"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."

Asked how much that was, Duffy indicated he wasn't sure.

"The accountants … you know," he said.

Senators are eligible for up to $21,000 a year to cover the expense of having a second home in the National Capital Region. He was appointed to the Senate in December 2008.

Duffy and several other senators are facing questions over their residence after media reports pointed out some long-time Ottawa residents seemed to be claiming the living allowance for their Ottawa homes. The allowances are intended for senators who maintain full-time residences in their home provinces.

Duffy has lived in Ottawa since the 1970s, where he covered Parliament Hill as a reporter.

Duffy faces the additional question of whether he qualifies to be a senator if it's determined that he doesn't live in P.E.I. The Constitution says senators must "be resident" of the province or territory which they represent, but it doesn't say what that means.

"I'm an Island resident, and I'm entitled to be a senator," Duffy said. "I've met all of those requirements."

The residency form senators have to fill in is vague, Duffy said, "and I may have made a mistake in filling in that form."

"It asks for your primary residence in the province in which you reside, and I put Cavendish, and it asks for your secondary residence and I put Kanata," he said, explaining there are no other options on the form.

The expenses of Duffy and two other senators, Patrick Brazeau and Mac Harb, are being audited by an outside accounting firm. A report on senator living expenses by the committee that handles budgets and administration is expected by the end of the month.

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