An RCMP investigation of Senator Patrick Brazeau is casting a far wider net than just living expenses charged to taxpayers, and now includes an aboriginal tax exemption he claimed prior to being appointed to the Red Chamber.
A sworn affidavit filed in court Aug. 1 reveals the Mounties are investigating the senator for alleged breach of trust over living and travel expense claims he submitted for more than two years between early-2011 and 2013.
Mr. Brazeau does not own or live in the rural Quebec home that he had designated as his primary residence so he could charge taxpayers for living expenses in Ottawa from April, 2011, onward, an RCMP investigator alleges.
In fact, the Mounties allege, Mr. Brazeau sometimes stayed at a hotel rather than at the Maniwaki, Que., house – inhabited by his father – that the senator claimed was his main residence. Maniwaki is about 135 kilometres north of Ottawa.
The RCMP provided the information to an Ontario judge to obtain documents and data from the Senate on Mr. Brazeau’s travel and expense submissions during the time he was claiming the Maniwaki home as his primary residence.
The senator is one of several Harper government appointees to the Red Chamber whose expenses have come under heavy scrutiny.
Canadian senators can charge taxpayers up to $22,000 in housing and meal expenses annually if their primary residence is located more than 100 kilometres away from Ottawa and they need to maintain a secondary residence in the capital region.
“The investigation has shown that Brazeau does not live in Maniwaki, nor does he own a home there,” RCMP Corporal Greg Horton wrote in the affidavit. He adds that he believes the senator resides in Gatineau, Que., just across the river from Parliament Hill. “I believe an analysis and audit of these records and expenses will provide evidence of the named offence by demonstrating that Brazeau’s primary residence is located within the National Capital Region.”
Mr. Brazeau has not been charged and the RCMP’s allegations have not been proven in court. He was appointed to the Senate in 2008.
Cpl. Horton also notes the passport Mr. Brazeau applied for in 2007 listed his former father-in-law’s address, in a Quebec First Nations community, as his permanent residence: Kitigan Zibi First Nation in Quebec. “Brazeau was using his father-in-law’s address, this time for government-issued identification, when in fact he owned and lived in a house in Gatineau at the time,” the RCMP officer wrote.
“A CTV News story dated February 6, 2013 alleges that Brazeau also used that same address when filing for aboriginal tax exemptions between 2004 and 2008,” Cpl. Horton wrote.
“Further investigation pertaining to those income tax claims and Brazeau’s use of his former father-in-law’s address will be conducted,” he wrote.
Cpl. Horton says the investigation found little evidence to suggest Mr. Brazeau resides in Maniwaki.
“While Brazeau started claiming his father’s residence in Maniwaki as his primary residence, both the upstairs tenants at his father’s house, and Brazeau’s ex-girlfriend state that Brazeau did not live there,” the Mountie wrote in his court affidavit. “Not only did he not live at the residence, but according to Ms. Brand Bonilla [the senator’s former girlfriend], they would sometimes stay with their children in a hotel when visiting Mr. Brazeau’s father, so that he was not disturbed.”
Mr. Brazeau and other senators, including Mike Duffy and Mac Harb, have already been the subject of an audit ordered by the Senate that concluded all three spent more time in the Ottawa area than in the locations they claimed as their primary residences. The auditors also noted the rules on residency were unclear, but the Senate committee that handled the reviews ordered all three senators to return money they had claimed for living expenses during the audit period.
The Senate announced in early July it would start clawing back Mr. Brazeau’s monthly wages in a bid to recover tens of thousands of dollars in expense claims he has refused to pay back.
Staffers in Mr. Brazeau’s office said they could not offer comment yet because they are still reading the affidavit. “We have not yet been able to review the new RCMP documents so we have no official response,” staffer Debby Simms said.