Duffy’s office tried to fast-track health card
Request came after senators asked to provide proof of residency claims
Conservative Senator Mike Duffy’s office contacted Prince Edward Island’s minister of health to discuss expediting an application for a provincial health card after being asked to produce documents proving he lives in the province.
Duffy’s office called the office of Health and Wellness Minister Doug Currie after an auditor’s letter was sent to all senators requesting they back up their residency claims by providing clear copies of their health cards, driver’s licences and relevant pages of their tax returns.
Senators must sign a declaration stating that they maintain their primary residence in their designated home provinces, as required by the Constitution.
Duffy is a longtime Ottawa resident who was appointed as a P.E.I. senator in 2009. He lists a home in Cavendish, P.E.I., as his primary residence, but counts a Kanata home he has owned since 2003 as his secondary residence in the National Capital Region.
In December, the Senate Standing Committee on Internal Economy launched an audit in response to media reports that questioned the expenses some senators claimed for their Ottawa-area homes.
The committee wrote to the senators on Dec. 12 telling them to produce documentation of their primary residence by Jan. 31.
The Senate auditor is expected to weigh the information listed on health cards and other records to determine if senators actually live in the primary residence they claimed in their signed declarations.
Currie’s office said it could not fasttrack any application because all new applicants must wait three months before receiving their health cards. For purposes of the application, Duffy was treated as a new resident.
Had Duffy required a replacement health card as a current P.E.I. resident, it would have been issued in about 10 days.
Reached at his home in P.E.I. on Saturday, Duffy said: “Glen, I’m not speaking to you.”
“I’ve spoken to David Tkachuk and that’s my interlocutor,” he said, referring to the Conservative Saskatchewan senator who chairs the standing committee. “I’m not speaking to you and you’re not encouraged to call this phone.”
Tkachuk declined to comment on Saturday. The P.E.I. Ministry of Health and Wellness said it could not comment on the matter because of privacy concerns.
“However, we can assure you that there are specific processes in place to apply and be deemed eligible for a Prince Edward Island Health Card,” spokeswoman Autumn Tremere wrote in an email.
Duffy has previously said that he did nothing wrong in his expense claims, and says he lives in the P.E.I. home he has owned for 15 years. He has substantially renovated the home in recent years, he has said.
Before his appointment, Duffy, 66, spent most of his career living and working in Ottawa as a broadcast journalist.
The Citizen reported last year that Duffy claimed more than $33,000 in living expenses incurred in the National Capital Region since 2010.
Senate rules allow senators to charge for hotels, rent, mortgages or other costs of living in the capital as long as they keep their primary residence in the province they represent.
In addition to the health cards and other documents, the committee also asked senators to provide a signed letter indicating where they vote in federal, provincial and municipal elections. As of November 2012, Elections Canada records indicated Duffy was eligible to vote federally in the Kanata-area riding of Carleton-Mississippi Mills.
While the audit continues, a subcommittee of the Committee on Internal Economy is also looking into questions about the residency of Liberal Senator Mac Harb and Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau.
It is unclear what might happen if the audit finds a senator gave inaccurate information in a residency declaration.