Senator Mike Duffy is stepping down from the Conservative caucus, saying the ongoing controversy over his expenses has become a significant distraction to his colleagues and the government.
Just days after being praised by the Conservative government for his "leadership" in paying back more than $90,000 in expenses, the P.E.I. Senator will now sit as an independent as he faces various potential ethics probes.
"It is clear the public controversy surrounding me and the repayment of my Senate expenses has become a significant distraction to my caucus colleagues, and to the government. Given that my presence within the Conservative caucus only contributes to that distraction, I have decided to step outside of the caucus and sit as an independent Senator pending resolution of these questions," Mr. Duffy said in a statement.
"Throughout this entire situation I have sought only to do the right thing. I look forward to all relevant facts being made clear in due course, at which point I am hopeful I will be able to rejoin the Conservative caucus. This has been a difficult time for me and my family, and we are going to take some time away from the public. I ask the media to respect our privacy while these questions are resolved through the appropriate processes."
The comments mark the Senator's first official statement since it was revealed this week that the cost of repaying his expenses was secretly covered by Nigel Wright, the chief of staff to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
A government source said there are a growing number of questions about Mr. Duffy's conduct that don't have answers.
"Mr. Duffy will have to answer as an independent Senator," said the source.