By Andrea Klassen, Kamloops This Week
Were she in Mike Duffy’s shoes, Nancy Greene Raine would resign.
The Conservative Kamloops senator and former Rosslander said her Prince Edward Island counterpart’s behaviour in the wake of a housing expenses scandal has been “sad and disappointing” to watch.
Duffy left the Conservative caucus last week amid reports that he had taken a $90,000 personal cheque from Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s chief of staff, Nigel Wright, to repay housing expenses he shouldn’t have claimed.
Wright himself resigned from his position in the Prime Minister’s Office over the weekend.
Media have also reported Duffy may also have double dipped on his expenses — charging the Senate for time he spent campaigning for the Conservatives prior to the 2011 federal election.
“Personally, if it was me, I would resign,” Raine said May 21, a few hours before the Senate was set to meet to discuss the expenses issue.
“He’s made some huge mistakes and using public funds during election campaigns and having his expenses, double-dipping as they say, that is just not acceptable,” Raine said.
“You can’t blame that on your staff.
“You need to be on top of those things. We were told very, very clearly that Senate resources were not to be used during the writ period when you are out campaigning.”
Raine said it’s normal for senators to campaign for their colleagues in the House of Commons, but said “there is no way” she would ever submit any such expenses to the Senate for such work.
It’s not clear if Wright’s payment to Duffy was a loan or a gift — and some national media have reported the cheque was part of a larger deal to take some of the heat off the embattled senator.
The Senate’s conflict-of-interest code forbids members of the red chamber from taking “any gift or benefit” beyond their wages “that could reasonably be related to the Senator’s position.”
Wright has publicly stated he kept the deal secret from Harper and others in the Conservative government.
Harper briefly addressed the controversy on Tuesday, when he spoke to his caucus before heading to South America on a trade mission.
“I’m very upset about some conduct we have witnessed, the conduct of some parliamentarians and the conduct of my own office,” he said, without referencing Duffy or Wright by name.
Raine said Duffy’s behaviour is good reason to reform the Senate and tighten up oversight of expense accounts, but it’s not reason enough to write off other senators.
“I think there’s a lot of good the Senate can do,” she said.
“It’s just the right people have to be chosen properly and they have to be held accountable.