Wallin repays expense claims, but refuses to vacate Senate seat

OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail

Senator Pamela Wallin arrives at a Senate committee hearing on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, August 12, 2013. (PATRICK DOYLE/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

An unrepentant Senator Pamela Wallin has repaid the much-criticized expense claims that landed her in hot water, but is refusing to resign her seat over the matter.

A spokeswoman for the Senate confirmed that the Saskatchewan senator reimbursed the government for $100,600.98 in expenses and $13,938.19 in interest. Those payments were in addition to a $38,369 repayment Ms. Wallin made before an audit of her expenses was complete.

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Ms. Wallin was ordered to return the money after independent auditors found she had charged the Red Chamber for travel that was not related to her job as a senator. She is one of four senators who were told to give back portions of the money they had claimed after their expenses were audited earlier this year.

In a written statement issued on Friday afternoon, Ms. Wallin said she fundamentally disagrees with the way the audit was handled, but was repaying the money because, “I do not want to burden the people of Canada and, in particular the people of Saskatchewan, by engaging in a protracted legal debate about the matter.”

Ms. Wallin said she believes new rules were applied to her claims retroactively and that evidence that “casts doubt on the correctness of the amounts owing” was ignored or disregarded during the review.

The independent audit, conducted by Deloitte, listed dozens of travel claims Ms. Wallin made for trips auditors said were related to personal and partisan events. The auditors also pointed out that Ms. Wallin’s Microsoft Outlook calendar was “inconsistent” with previously archived versions, with dozens of meetings added, changed or deleted.

The Senate internal economy committee, which ordered the audit, referred the Deloitte report to the RCMP.

On Friday, Ms. Wallin said she would welcome an “independent and objective review” by police and would co-operate fully with any investigation. “I have not done anything wrong. I am not guilty of any misconduct,” she wrote, adding, “Accordingly I will not resign as a senator.”

She said she submitted her expense claims “in good faith” and believed at the time that they were appropriate. “If mistakes were made, I am responsible for those, but there was never a deliberate attempt to thwart the travel policy that was in place at the time the claims were submitted,” Ms. Wallin wrote.

Ms. Wallin said the Senate committee in charge of the audit “succumbed to a ‘lynch mob’ mentality” in handling the audit.

“There was no regard to procedural or substantive fairness. I am disappointed and angry about the way in which this matter was handled, and any implication that I behaved dishonestly,” Ms. Wallin wrote.

Earlier this summer, Ms. Wallin listed her 500-square-foot studio apartment in New York City for sale.

She bought the condo in 2005, when she was Canada’s consul-general in New York, and the listing shows that she “entered into contract,” as of Aug. 14, indicating a tentative deal to sell the property.

The Senate had given Ms. Wallin until Sept. 16 to repay the remaining money she owed or risk having it docked from her pay.

A former broadcast journalist who was appointed to the Senate by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Ms. Wallin resigned from the Conservative caucus in May.

With a report from Josh Wingrove

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