Senator Mike Duffy has continued using an Ontario health card since he was appointed to the Senate in 2009 despite professing to be a resident of Prince Edward Island, The Globe and Mail has learned.
The Ontario Health Insurance Plan requires eligible cardholders to have their primary residence in Ontario, while the Senate requires members to live in the province they represent. This apparent discrepancy raises further questions about where the Conservative senator calls home, an issue at the heart of a controversy about Mr. Duffy's residency claims and his housing allowance.
Mr. Duffy has billed taxpayers for more than $30,000 in housing expenses since September, 2010, according to reports, claiming that his suburban house in Ottawa is his secondary residence while his cottage in Cavendish, PEI, is his primary dwelling.
A Senate committee is seeking legal advice on Mr. Duffy's living expenses as part of a broader effort to determine whether three senators have been filing inappropriate claims.
The 66-year-old senator, who recently applied for a PEI health card, had open-heart surgery in 2006, and his care team is at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute. Mr. Duffy, at the time of his appointment in 2009, was concerned that if he began paying taxes in PEI and using its health-insurance program, he would be forced to seek treatment elsewhere, according to a source who spoke on condition of anonymity.
PEI has no cardiac care centre, so residents have to be treated in Saint John or Halifax.
The Senate Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration announced the request for legal advice in a statement on Friday. The committee also announced that the expenses of Mr. Duffy and two other senators – Patrick Brazeau and Mac Harb – have been referred to the Deloitte auditing firm.
Conservative Senator David Tkachuk, who chairs the Senate committee, stressed that the legal advice is to better understand the definition of "primary resident" under the Senate rules as it relates to expenses. Mr. Tkachuk said he had "no evidence" to suggest there would be a reason to refer matters to police.
"As a Prince Edward Islander, born and bred, I am proud to represent my province and interests in the Senate of Canada," Mr. Duffy said in a written statement on Friday.