OTTAWA — Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin were given reassurances that they would not be kicked out of the Senate — even if they spent 99 per cent of their time in Ottawa and hardly set foot in the provinces they were appointed to represent.
That information emerged in a 2009 memo from the office of then-Government Leader in the Senate Marjory LeBreton, tabled by Duffy in the Senate Tuesday. Duffy said the memo explained that residency does not depend “on the number of days spent in one’s home province or at a given residence” during another bombshell speech in the upper chamber.
“I followed the advice in this memo, as did my staff when they filled in my housing allowance and expense forms under the guidance and supervision of the experts at Senate Finance,” Duffy told his Senate colleagues.
LeBreton told The Huffington Post Canada the memo had “nothing to do with the claiming of expenses” and her opinion was never sought.
She noted that the two-page memo — dated Jan. 6, 2009 and addressed to Wallin and Duffy — was not on her letterhead. But it was written by her then-special advisor, Christopher McCreery, a historian now serving as the secretary for the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia.
LeBreton said was never copied on the memo.
“Obviously he acted alone,” she wrote in an email. “I knew I never advised anyone on claiming expenses, especially two weeks before they were officially sworn in.”
Duffy and Wallin were appointed by Harper in December 2008 to serve in the Senate.
McCreery does not tell Wallin or Duffy that they can claim living expenses while they are in Ottawa – the memo is silent on expensing any claims. He does tell them, however, that there is a longstanding convention that as long as a senator owns property in his or her province of appointment “then they are allowed to sit as a Senator from that province, even if they live in Ottawa 99% of the time.”
The McCreery memo seeks to calm apparent concerns from Duffy and Wallin that they could be disqualified from sitting in the Senate for reasons of residency.
McCreery writes that the “Senate has never disqualified anyone for not being a ‘resident’ of their province of appointment, providing they own property there.”
The last time a senator was disqualified was in 1915, McCreery writes, and only nine have been shown the door, all for reasons of attendance.
Given that the Senate is the master of its own house, McCreery advises that the Senate can define “residence” as it wishes.
“The Senate (like the Commons) is considered to be an ‘Honourable’ Chamber, where a member’s word/oath is taken as true, so if they say they are a resident of province X and have a deed to prove it the other Honourable Members do not question this,” McCreery writes.
According to the Constitution, senators need to own $4,000 worth of property in the geographical area they are appointed to represent. Wallin and Duffy have $4,000 worth of property in Saskatchewan and PEI respectively, although neither has lived in their province of their birth for years.
McCreery writes that when Senators are appointed they must take an oath and declare residency in their province of appointment.
“The oath is sufficient proof of their residency, and it would be up to the members of the Chamber to challenge that,” McCreery writes.
“From what I have read, this has never been done because it impugns the honesty of a fellow member.”
The Deloitte audit of Mike Duffy’s housing expenses, however, found the PEI senator spent 30 per cent of his time in his home province and 54 per cent of his time in Ottawa. The audit said that because there were no criteria for determining “primary residence,” Deloitte could not say whether he had broken any existing guidelines.
McCreery did not return calls or emails for comment.
Read the memo and other documents
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