What Stephen Harper said about the Senate residency requirement

Another big question in the Duffy affair

As Nick Taylor-Vaisey notes, CTV reported last night that Mike Duffy was spared serious questions about his residency in exchange for agreeing to let Nigel Wright pay back his questionable expenses. Senator Carolyn Stewart Olsen denies knowledge of the deal between Mr. Wright and Mr. Duffy. I’ve emailed Senator David Tkachuk, but haven’t received a response (he stepped away from the Senate’s internal economy committee earlier this summer before undergoing treatment for cancer). Here is the interview I did with Mr. Tkachuk in May.

This new twist ultimately takes us back to the constitutional requirement of residency for senators. And, on that count, the Prime Minister seemingly reassured the House in February.

Mr. Speaker, all senators conform to the residency requirements. That is the basis on which they are appointed to the Senate, and those requirements have been clear for 150 years.

That was February 27. Earlier that month, new questions had been raised about the relative state of Mr. Duffy’s residency.

The Globe reported in May that references to Ottawa being Mr. Duffy’s primary residency had been removed from the Senate’s report on his expenses. The application for a production order filed by the RCMP in June, as part of an investigation of Mr. Duffy, discusses the matter of his residency at various points.

Much of this depends on a reading of Section 23 (5) of the Constitution Acts: “He shall be resident in the Province for which he is appointed.”  Liberal Senate leader James Cowan has called on the Senate to clarify the rule, while the New Democrats attempted earlier this month to put some onus on the Harper government. The Senate has sought a legal opinion on the residency requirement and I’m told there is some hope that that legal opinion will be received in late September.

Update 1:28pm. Senator Tkachuk’s office says CTV report’s report of such a conversation between Mr. Tkachuk and Mr. Duffy is a “complete fabrication.”

Update 2:59pm. An official statement released just now by Mr. Tkachuk and Ms. Stewart Olsen.

“The CTV News report is false. At no time did we have knowledge of Mr. Wright’s payment to Senator Duffy before it was reported publicly.

“Anyone who suggests that we were aware of Mr. Wright’s payment to Senator Duffy before it was reported publicly is lying.

“Our long standing position is that Senator Duffy should have immediately repaid all ineligible expenses to taxpayers.”