Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Harper Asserts All Senators Meet Constitutional Residency Requirement

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Harper Asserts All Senators Meet Constitutional Residency Requirement

Article excerpt

Harper says all senators meet residency rule


OTTAWA - Stephen Harper categorically asserts that all senators meet the constitutional requirement that they must reside in the provinces or territories they were appointed to represent.

The prime minister made the blanket assertion Wednesday amid a furor over the alleged misuse of a housing allowance meant to compensate senators who keep a secondary residence in the nation's capital.

The expenses scandal has mushroomed into a broader issue of whether several Conservative senators -- Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Dennis Patterson, all appointed by Harper -- are entitled to sit in the Senate at all.

Questions have been raised as to whether they spend sufficient time in their home provinces or territory to meet the constitutional residency requirement.

"All senators conform to the residency requirements," Harper told the House of Commons.

"That is the basis on which they are appointed to the Senate and those requirements have been clear for 150 years."

In fact, the residency requirement has never been defined and its meaning has become increasingly muddied by the expenses scandal.

The Constitution stipulates that a senator must reside in and own at least $4,000 worth of property in the province or territory he or she was appointed to represent. It does not define what is meant by reside.

A government official said Harper interprets the residency requirement to mean that senators must "own residences and maintain deep ties" to their home province.

Opposition parties and even some Conservative senators insist the standard is higher, that senators' primary residences should be in their home provinces.

For the purposes of verifying claims for the housing allowance, the Senate's internal economy committee has established that primary residence is the province or territory where a senator votes, pays income taxes, holds a driver's licence and is covered by health insurance.

If that standard was applied to the constitutional residency requirement, Duffy, Wallin and Patterson would all likely be ineligible to sit in the Senate.

Duffy, a longtime Ottawa homeowner, was appointed to represent Prince Edward Island, where he owns a cottage. …

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