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Senator leaves Conservatives after expense claim criticism

Mike Duffy has resigned as a Conservative senator after new allegations surfaced about inappropriate expense claims and a "secret" loan to pay them back.

Pending a resolution, Duffy said the public controversy "has become a significant distraction to my caucus colleagues and to the government" and that he will remain in the Senate as an Independent.

An investigation into questionable housing allowances and travel expense claims led to a Senate committee demanding that Duffy and two other senators repay about $190,000.

Duffy paid back $90,000 that also included expenses claimed from a Florida vacation but it was now learned the money was given to him by Prime Minister Stephen Harper's chief of staff Nigel Wright. Harper's office called it a personal gift but Duffy referred to it as loan; that raises the possibility it could be considered an ethics' violation.

The Canadian Press news service also reported Duffy campaigned for the Conservatives during the 2011 election while claiming to be on Senate business.

Sen. Mac Harb is contesting the demand that he repay $51,482 as is Sen. Patrick Brazeau who is said to owe a repayment of $48,744 in housing expenses.

Harper talks of crude

One way or another, Canadian crude from Alberta's oilsands will flow to Texas Gulf Coast refineries, Prime Minister Stephen Harper says.

In a hard-sell speech in New York, Harper said should the stalled Keystone XL pipeline not be approved, more oil will move by railway that is "far more environmentally challenging in terms of emissions and risks."

He spoke on Thursday to the Council on Foreign Relations forum as the pipeline from Alberta to Texas still faces stiff opposition from environmental activists. Harper also reminded the council that 40,000 U.S. jobs could be created over the life of the project.

News in brief

• Workers at the government-run Liquor Control Board of Ontario reached a tentative deal late Thursday just before a strike deadline. The 7,000 workers at the province's only liquor retailer warned of a dry Victoria Day holiday weekend should they have gone on strike. The main issue is a better deal for part-time workers.

• Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield is coping with a return to the effects of gravity after spending five months at the International Space Station. Hadfield, 53, who served as commander of the orbiting station, is in Houston recovering from months of weightlessness. Aside from feeling dizzy and sore, he said it's as if he "played a hard game of rugby yesterday or played full-contact hockey."

Facts and figures

• Canada's dollar has moved lower to 97.30 cents U.S. while the U.S. greenback returns $1.0277 in Canadian funds, before bank exchange fees.

• The Bank of Canada's key interest rate is steady at 1 percent while the prime-lending rate is 3 percent.

• Stock markets are lower with the Toronto exchange index at 12,541 points and the TSX Venture index 932 points.

• Lotto 6-49: (May 15) 11, 14, 21, 24, 25 and 43; bonus 12. (May 11) 2, 10, 16, 21, 24 and 49; bonus 3. Lotto Max: (May 10) 3, 10, 19, 21, 27, 35 and 36; bonus 49.

Regional briefs

• British Columbia Liberals turned back New Democratic Party polling strength to win the provincial election although Premier Christy Clark was defeated in her home riding. The Liberals were returned with a majority, electing 50 members, while the New Democrats had 33, one for the Green Party and one independent. Clark will attempt to regain her position in the legislature in a by-election.

• Dellen Millard, 27, of Toronto faces a first-degree murder charge in the death of Tim Bosma, 32, of Ancaster who was last seen giving two men a test drive in a truck he was selling. The burned remains of Bosma, married with a 2-year-old daughter, were found on an abandoned farm owned by Millard near Kitchener.

• The provincial government has ousted Paul Godfrey as head of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. Premier Kathleen Wynne said the government was "going in a different direction." The premier had expressed concern over rumors the corporation was trying to sweeten a deal to win approval to build a $4-billion casino in Toronto.

Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com.

Senator leaves Conservatives after expense claim criticism 05/18/13 [Last modified: Friday, May 17, 2013 5:12pm]
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