Embattled Conservative Sen. Mike Duffy says he'll pay back a housing allowance to which he admits he wasn't entitled, a mistake he blamed Friday on vague and confusing Senate paperwork.
After weeks of dodging pointed questions about his expenses, the former Parliament Hill journalist unexpectedly turned up on network television to deliver a stunning mea culpa: it was all, he said, the result of an innocent slip of the pen.
"The Senate rules on housing allowances aren't clear, and the forms are confusing," Duffy said in a statement late Friday, timing often employed by governments looking to bury bad news.
"I filled out the Senate forms in good faith and believed I was in compliance with the rules. Now it turns out I may have been mistaken."
Duffy is being audited along with fellow senators Pamela Wallin, Mac Harb and Patrick Brazeau following questions about their housing expense claims.
Duffy in particular has faced questions about $33,000 in living allowances he has claimed since 2010, despite also having a home in the Ottawa area. Critics have questioned whether his primary residence is indeed a cottage in Cavendish, P.E.I., as he has repeatedly stated.
The allowances will be paid back, Duffy said.
"Rather than let this issue drag on, my wife and I have decided that the allowance associated with my house in Ottawa will be repaid."
Asked Friday about Duffy's apparent mea culpa, Sen. Marjory LeBreton, the government leader in the Senate, would only say that the audit would get to the bottom of the controversy.
"We have committed to ensuring that all expenses are appropriate, that the rules governing expenses are appropriate and to report back to the public on these matters," LeBreton said.