04/19/2013 03:18 EDT | Updated 06/19/2013 05:12 EDT

Mike Duffy Scandal: Peter Van Loan Denies Senator Offered To Repay P.E.I. Housing Allowance

OTTAWA - Describing himself as a man of his word, embattled Conservative Sen. Mike Duffy says he has repaid more than $90,000 in Senate housing expenses.

Duffy issued a statement late today saying the expenses were repaid in March.

Shortly afterward, a terse statement from the Senate Committee on Internal Economy confirmed Duffy had reimbursed some $90,172.24 in living allowance expenses, although it didn't make clear when the payment was made.

Confusion reigned for much of the day after Duffy — who pledged in February to repay the funds — hinted in a Global TV report that he would only do so if a Senate audit committee required it.

Duffy is a long-time Ottawa resident with a full-time home in the capital, making him ineligible for a subsidy paid to senators whose jobs required them to maintain a secondary residence.

Under the Constitution, senators must reside in the provinces they are appointed to represent. Duffy represents P.E.I., where he claims a cottage as his primary residence, although neighbours and provincial records suggest he spends little time there.

"I have always said that I am a man of my word," Duffy, a former broadcaster, said in Friday's statement.

"In keeping with the commitment I made to Canadians, I can confirm that I repaid these expenses in March 2013."

The statement from the Senate was even more economical.

"Senator Duffy has reimbursed the Receiver General $90,172.24 for living allowance expenses," it said. "There will be no further comment."

Duffy issued a statement in February, in the midst of a Senate expense scandal, that said he would repay the funds.

"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," Duffy said in the February statement.

In the Global interview, Duffy said he'd not yet repaid the money, and was waiting for the results of the Senate's own expenses audit before doing so.

"If I was wrong and made a mistake, I'll repay it," he said. "And if I wasn't wrong, I assume that will be reported as well."

In January, the Senate's internal economy committee asked senators who were claiming the secondary residence allowance to prove their primary home was not within 100 kilometres of the capital, as the rules require.

Duffy requested an expedited P.E.I. health card, but he was turned down by the provincial government. Provincial tax records show Duffy and his wife are identified as non-resident owners of their island cottage.

Even Peter Van Loan, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's parliamentary House leader, seemed to have trouble keeping the facts straight Friday.

Under questioning from NDP MP Charlie Angus, Van Loan seemed to deny that Duffy had ever undertaken to repay the money.

"I do not believe he made those comments," Van Loan said.

"We will wait for the findings of the (auditor's) report, of course, but our government has been clear. We have committed to ensuring that all expenses are appropriate at the Senate, that the rules governing expenses are appropriate and that the Senate does follow through on that."

A spokesman in Van Loan's office later said the minister was not disputing Duffy's promise to repay the money, but rather the comments to Global that he had not yet done so.

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