Mike Duffy claimed Senate expenses before starting job
Exhibits filed in court suggest Senate finance officials raised concerns starting with 1st expense report
Mike Duffy wasted no time claiming his first Senate expense: the newly announced senator from Prince Edward Island put in for the daily $81.55 living expense as of Dec. 23, 2008, one day after Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the appointment via a press release.
And while Harper announced on Dec. 22 that he was naming Duffy to the Senate, the appointment wasn't official until Jan. 2, 2009, according to the Senate's website.
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Duffy claimed the living expense twice in the two weeks before the appointment was official. The claims were for days he spent in the Ottawa-area home he'd owned for five years.
The records also show Duffy expensed a trip to Charlottetown from Dec. 29, 2008 to Jan. 4, 2009. His calendar notes he and his wife applied for driver's licences. The calendar notes an appointment that same day with the then clerk of the Senate and an official from the Prime Minister's Office regarding "property documentation."
A previously released record includes a Jan. 6, 2009, memo from a Conservative Senate staffer regarding the qualifications for being a senator.
Senators are required to be resident in the provinces from which they're appointed, as well as to own property in the province.
The appointments in the calendar suggest Duffy was concerned about showing he was qualified to sit as a senator from Prince Edward Island.
Expenses questioned from start
The records also suggest Duffy's expenses, including those for alcohol, had been questioned by finance officials from the very beginning.
An assistant to Duffy filed housing expense claims for the 31 days in January 2009, his first official month as a senator. The portion of the claim for his Kanata, Ont., home was worth $25 a night — a total of $775.
Duffy bought the house in the Ottawa suburbs in 2003, according to property records, and has lived in Ottawa since the mid-'70s.
His assistant also filed an additional expense claim for the month, which included the cost of a hotel in Charlottetown — in the province he'd declared as his primary residence — and a per diem for 19 days of meals in Ottawa. The meal expenses amounted to $1,549.45.
The expense claim also included the cost of meals in Charlottetown on the same trip for which he claimed the hotel reimbursement.
Mortgage paid off
A Feb. 23, 2009, memo from his assistant to a Senate finance official explained the hotel cost was due to wintry roads in Prince Edward Island.
"The house in Cavendish is snowed in," the assistant wrote. "Also, when his visits are short (for the weekend or something) he prefers to stay closer to the airport in order to arrive on time."
The next month's expenses were adjusted by $138 after Duffy charged alcohol as part of his hospitality budget.
"Expenses including the consumption of alcohol are very sensitive discretionary expenses and the guidelines provided are to ensure that the senator's use of public funds can withstand increasingly intense public scrutiny," the finance official wrote in an email to Duffy's staffer.
Other documents included in the exhibits show Duffy was able to pay off the remaining $76,996.63 on his Ottawa mortgage in early 2010.