NEWS

Do all senators meet residency rules? NDP wants to know

08/16/2013 11:26 EDT | Updated 10/16/2013 05:12 EDT
A New Democratic Party MP is calling for the government to answer whether all current senators meet residency qualifications to sit in the Senate.

At a news conference Friday, Charlie Angus said he has written a letter to Minister of State for Democratic Reform Pierre Poilievre asking him what action he intends to take to ensure senators adhere to residency rules.

Angus pointed out a Deloitte audit released on Tuesday found that Senator Pamela Wallin spends more time in Toronto than in Saskatchewan, the province she was appointed to represent.

Angus also wants to know how rigorously the Privy Council Office vetted the Senate appointments of Wallin as well as senators Mike Duffy and Patrick Brazeau, who have both been found to have claimed inappropriate expenses. He wants to know if the PCO found problems with residency requirements of the three senators, or the fact that Brazeau had "personal issues."

"He [Poilievre] also needs to come clean with these concerns if they were raised by the Privy Council," Angus said.

When he became a senator, Duffy had lived in Ottawa for four decades. He was appointed a P.E.I. senator, but kept his Ottawa home and claimed expenses for it as an out-of-town senator, declaring his primary residence was his P.E.I. winterized cottage. Brazeau was facing a sexual harassment complaint at the time of his Senate appointment, although the complaint was later dismissed.

"It's not enough to say your heart's there, that your uncle lives there or you have a cottage there," said Angus, adding that the Constitution requires a senator to reside in the province he or she was appointed to represent.

The only proof the Senate used for residency was for a senator to show ownership of property worth a least $4,000 and to annually make a declaration —a "pinky-swear" according to Angus — attesting to which province or region is their primary residence.

Last year, a Senate committee tightened the residency definition, saying a senator should have a driver's licence and health card from his or her home province, and should vote and pay taxes there.

Angus pointed out that the only requirement Wallin met is having a Saskatchewan driver's licence. A Deloitte audit revealed Duffy applied for a P.E.I. driver's licence on the day he was appointed to the Senate, but continued to maintain an Ontario health card.

Asked by a reporter if residency matters in today's mobile world, Angus replied that if senators choose to ignore the Constitution they can't be relied upon to follow other rules.

"I'm calling on the minister of democratic reform to end his silence on this scandal, to clean up the appointments process and commit to Canadians that he will put an end to using the Senate to feather the nests of the Conservative Party," Angus said.

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