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Should Senators be Forced to Buy Two Homes?

9 February 2013

We all know the trials and tribulations that can come with financing a second property. If it wasn’t, we’d all own a home on the West and East coast, and maybe even another one in between. So with the high cost and the headache, is it fair that we force some Canadian politicians to own two different residences?

That is currently the case, and it’s brought up a big debate in Canada’s Senate. Senator Mike Duffy is the Senator from Prince Edward Island, which means that he needs to have a home in Ottawa for the times when duty calls him to the nation’s capital. Being from PEI, he must also have property worth over $4,000 in that province – which he does. So what’s the problem?

The problem is that now, Duffy is being attacked for claiming housing costs in Ottawa. That’s typically allowed, as Senators need that Ottawa home for business purposes; and they’re allowed to claim and be reimbursed for a portion of those costs. But, that reimbursement is only supposed to come when that Ottawa home is a second residence. And that’s where things become murky with Duffy.

Those in Ottawa are saying that Duffy’s Ottawa home is actually his primary residence, and so he shouldn’t be allowed to claim the $33,000 in housing costs that he did in 2010. Duffy of course, claims that his PEI home is his primary residence, and so he should be reimbursed for his Ottawa expenses.

But the entire issue brings two issues to light. The first, is it even fair that we expect our Senators to purchase two homes, and to pay for those homes mostly with their salaries? (Let’s remember that a $33,000 reimbursement actually does very little for the costs of a home, especially considering it needs to be purchased first.) Are they really in Ottawa that much that they couldn’t simply be put up in a hotel for the times they do come?

And if they really do need that home in Ottawa, shouldn’t they be reimbursed for some of the expenses even if it’s their primary residence (assuming of course, that they their representative areas are not in Ottawa)?

What do you think? Should Senators be expected, at all, to purchase a home in Ottawa if their representative area is not in the nation’s capital? And regardless of how much time they spend there, does it really matter if the residence is a primary one or not? If two properties are needed, shouldn’t Senators be reimbursed for at least one of them?

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