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Senator Mike Duffy tried to speak with Stephen Harper about his … – National Post

Mike Duffy approached the Prime Minister in mid-February to discuss his expense claims – the only time the two spoke about the senator’s questionable spending
[np_storybar title=”A Mike Duffy timeline” link=””]
Nov. 22, 2012: Senate internal economy committee tasks three senators with reviewing Sen. Patrick Brazeau’s housing allowance.
Dec. 4:The Ottawa Citizen reports that Sen. Mike Duffy has claimed $33,413 in living expenses for a secondary home in Ottawa. Mike Duffy: “I have done nothing wrong, and am frankly tired of your B.S.”
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Dec. 7: The Senate decides to audit residency claims after questions are raised about Sen. Mac Harb’s allowances.
Dec. 12: A letter to senators tells them they have to provide their health card, driver’s licence, income tax return and signed letter stating where they vote, in order to prove their residency claims.
Feb. 7: Brazeau is arrested and charged after a domestic dispute unrelated to the Senate spending affair. He is removed from caucus. Questions emerge about Sen. Pamela Wallin’s primary residence in Wadena, Sask. Similar questions plague Duffy. Mike Duffy: “I have a home in Prince Edward Island as required by law. I will have no further comment until this review is complete.”
Feb. 8: Brazeau, Harb and Duffy expense claims are sent to auditors for review. Senate’s internal economy committee asks for special legal advice on Duffy’s residency.
Feb. 11: Senate leaders say anyone who wrongfully claimed housing allowance should repay money with interest.
Feb. 13: Harper defends the expense claims of Wallin, Brazeau and Duffy under questioning in House of Commons. Stephen Harper: “Senator Wallin has spent, last year for instance, almost half of her time in the province she represents in the Senate and the costs are obviously with travel, to and from that province, as any similar parliamentarian.”
Feb. 19: Duffy tells reporters in Prince Edward Island that he rents a second home in Charlottetown during the winter, explaining why his Cavendish, P.E.I., residence appears to have no one living there. He has previously said he spent $100,000 on the Cavendish property to make it a year-round home. Mike Duffy: “Canadians know I’m an honest man and I wouldn’t cheat on my expenses.”
Feb. 22: Duffy publicly says he will repay his living expenses, saying he may have made a mistake in declaring his primary residence in P.E.I. Mike Duffy: “The Senate rules on housing allowances aren’t clear, and the forms are confusing.”
Feb. 28: The Senate starts a review of its spending rules as all but Duffy, Brazeau and Harb are cleared of housing allowance questions.
March 7: Sen. Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu repays the Senate $907 in housing expense claims he used while staying with his office assistant with whom he was romantically linked. It emerges that Duffy owes the Senate $90,000.
March 25: Harb tells The Ottawa Citizen he will wait until the results of the audit before deciding whether he will repay any expenses.
March 25: The Senate is reimbursed for $90,172.24 of Duffy’s housing expenses. The news is not made public.
March 26: Duffy’s lawyers send a letter to auditors telling them that his participation in the audit of his expenses is no longer required.
April 19: The Senate publicly confirms the repayment of Duffy’s expenses. Mike Duffy: “I am a man of my word.”
May 9: The Senate’s internal economy committee recommends Brazeau and Harb repay about $48,000 and $51,000, respectively, in housing claims. Letters emerge suggesting Tkachuk, the committee chairman, spoke with Duffy about per diems Duffy claimed while in Florida.
May 10: Conservatives in the House of Commons, responding to questions about the Senate audit, praise Duffy for repaying his expenses.
May 12: The RCMP confirms the Mounties are examining the expense-claim audits to see if a criminal investigation is warranted.
May 15: Harper’s office confirms chief of staff Nigel Wright wrote Duffy a personal cheque of more than $90,000 to cover the repayment of expenses after a CTV report the night before detailing a backroom deal between the two men. That report also raised questions that the money was part of a “whitewash” of Duffy’s final committee report, which went easy on the Conservative senator.
May 16: Harper spokesman MacDougall says Wright has “the confidence of the prime minister” and says Wright “will not resign.” Later that day, Duffy resigns from caucus over reports he charged the Senate for expenses while campaigning for the Tories in the 2011 election. Mike Duffy: “It is clear the public controversy surrounding me and the repayment of my Senate expenses has become a significant distraction to my caucus colleagues and to the government.”
May 17: Wallin announces she is leaving the Tory caucus.
May 19: Wright resigns as Harper’s chief of staff.  Nigel Wright: “I did not advise the prime minister of the means by which Sen. Duffy’s expenses were repaid, either before or after the fact.”
May 21: Senators vote to order Brazeau to repay $48,000 in expenses and send Duffy’s final report back to the committee for review amid allegations it was whitewashed, which Conservatives deny. Sen. Marjory LeBreton: “I know that there are conspiracy theorists and I know you don’t like my answer, but my answer happens to be the truth.”
May 23: Duffy suggests there be public hearings into his expense claims. Mike Duffy: “I think Canadians have a right to know all the facts and I’m quite prepared, in the right place and time, to give them the whole story.”
May 28: Tkachuk tells the Senate there was “no whitewash” of Duffy’s final audit report from his committee. Critical language appearing in Harb and Brazeau’s reports was removed from Duffy’s because his expenses had been repaid.
May 29: The Senate decides to refer Duffy’s expenses to the RCMP for review. Liberal Senate leader James Cowan: “Parliamentarians are not trained to do the kind of investigative work the police can do.”
Senator Mike Duffy approached Prime Minister Stephen Harper following a mid-February Conservative caucus meeting to discuss his expense claims, the prime minister’s office says – the only time the two spoke about the senator’s questionable spending.
Duffy caught Harper’s attention after the meeting to talk about his claims, which he believed were in order, but the prime minister insisted any inappropriate expenses be repaid.
“Following a caucus meeting, Mr. Duffy approached the prime minister in the caucus room regarding the situation with his expenses. The prime minister was adamant that he should repay any inappropriate expenses,” Andrew MacDougall, Harper’s director of communications, told Postmedia News Friday.
The chat was the only time the two men spoke about the issue, MacDougall said.
Harper, according to some who were in the room, had just told his caucus at that February meeting that any improper expense claims should be repaid. He did not mention Duffy or any other senator by name.
On Friday, Duffy told reporters in Prince Edward Island that it’s inappropriate for him to comment much while his actions and expenses are still being examined, but
he believes he’ll be vindicated.
“When that work is done, I think that Canadians will agree, as the independent auditors at Deloitte found, that criticism of my expenses is, frankly, largely without merit,” Duffy said.
The timeline of events over the past few months suggests Duffy was under enormous pressure from his Conservative colleagues to pay back money he felt he had correctly claimed under Senate rules. On Feb. 22, Duffy said he would repay the expenses, but believed he had done nothing wrong.
The Senate was reimbursed March 25 for $90,000 in living expense claims, but the information wasn’t made public until April 19.
Information has been trickling out almost daily since Harper’s office confirmed about two weeks ago that the prime minister’s then-chief of staff, Nigel Wright, gave Duffy a $90,000 cheque to cover repayment of his expenses. Leaks of partial email exchanges to the CBC have led opposition MPs and senators to demand, unsuccessfully, that the government release any records it has.
The government says there is no documentation and, on Friday, continued to say Wright acted alone in paying Duffy.
“We know there is documentation on the Duffy affair because emails are discreetly appearing every day,” Liberal MP Marc Garneau said in the House of Commons.
Reached Friday, Duffy declined comment.
The Liberals formally asked this week for any existing documentation, sending access to information requests to the Department of Justice and the Privy Council Office, the central bureaucracy that aids the prime minister and cabinet.
The Liberals, who form the opposition in the Senate, said Friday they would publicly post any documents released to them, a process that could take months.
The request asks for all documentation or emails between Duffy and Wright regarding Duffy’s expenses, and on any agreement regarding the $90,000 cheque Duffy wrote.
“Why doesn’t the government save everybody a lot of trouble, and if they have nothing to hide, why don’t they just make everything public?” Garneau told reporters outside the Commons.
A report published Thursday suggested Duffy had been looking for a cabinet posting and other perks after being appointed to the Senate.
The CBC reported Thursday that in July 2009 — six months after being appointed to the Senate by Harper — Duffy was in consultations with the Conservatives about an expanded role in the party and additional compensation, including suggesting he be named a minister without portfolio to get a car and staff, according to an email reportedly obtained by the public broadcaster.
The leaked email, which Postmedia News has not seen, reportedly outlines how Duffy made a pitch for a driver and extra staff to help him while he travelled the country fundraising for the Tories.
According to the CBC report, the email from Duffy suggests that he spoke with Sen. Irving Gerstein about getting extra cash from the Conservative Fund of Canada — the federal party’s war chest Gerstein once chaired.
“That’s the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard,” said Senate government leader Marjory LeBreton. “He never spoke to me and I would have laughed him out of my office.”
The email, which asks how Duffy should be compensated for his “expanded role in the party,” appeared to be sent from Duffy’s private email account to an unidentified Conservative supporter, the CBC reported. It also reportedly says the additional resources will help with “pr fallout.”
LeBreton told reporters outside the Senate chamber Thursday that she had not seen the email, which mentions a “Marjory” — presumably a reference to LeBreton.
“It’s ridiculous,” she said. “The idea that the prime minister would pass over elected members of the House of Commons and name Mike Duffy a (minister) — it’s so ridiculous.”
Conservative party spokesman Fred DeLorey said in an email the party “does not pay Mr. Duffy compensation.”
At least one Conservative MP — Michelle Rempel — has suggested publicly that Duffy should resign his Senate seat. Harper appointed Duffy to the Senate in late 2008 and he officially took his seat in the Senate in January 2009.
Harper’s office wouldn’t say Friday whether Duffy should resign, insisting it’s a matter for the Senate to decide. (The prime minister doesn’t have the power to remove someone from the Senate — but the upper chamber has the power to declare a seat vacated.)
“That’s a question for the Senate to determine. They have a process there,” said MacDougall. “There’s a process for removing senators and that’s the Senate that does that, not the prime minister.”
With files from Tyler Dawson and Michael Woods, Postmedia News
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