Two more senior Liberals are returning moving expenses – almost $55,000 – after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s top two advisers agreed to repay tens of thousands in “unreasonable” costs.
Earlier this week, the Prime Minister’s principal secretary, Gerald Butts, and chief of staff, Katie Telford, said they would repay almost $65,000 combined.
Mr. Trudeau has said his staff acted within the rules, but has now asked the Treasury Board to create a new policy for relocation expenses across the federal government.
In total, Mr. Butts and Ms. Telford billed taxpayers more than $207,000 to move their families from Toronto to Ottawa, mostly for real estate and legal fees.
On Friday, Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion’s office announced that Julian Ovens, Mr. Dion’s chief of staff, will pay back $32,130 in expenses. Elder Marques, chief of staff to Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains, will reimburse taxpayers $22,467.
Both offices said the two chiefs of staff were following the example of Mr. Butts and Ms. Telford.
Mr. Butts said he will repay $41,618, for a “personalized cash payout” and incidentals, which were to cover moving expenses and part of a land-transfer tax associated with his new $1.3-million home in Ottawa. Ms. Telford said she will pay back $23,373 for the personalized cash payout.
“When we reviewed these costs, we decided that the amount called ‘personalized cash payout’ which is for miscellaneous moving expenses, is unreasonable, and we will both be reimbursing that amount,” the two aides said in a joint statement this week.
Mr. Ovens is returning his personalized cash payout and a payment connected to land-transfer tax, Mr. Dion’s office said. In total, his move from Saskatoon to Ottawa cost nearly $120,000. Land records show he sold a house in Saskatoon last May valued at $780,000.
“In line with Gerry and Katie’s lead, the Chief of Staff has reviewed his expenses in addition to those of his office, all of which were submitted and reimbursed in good faith,” Mr. Dion’s office said in a statement.
Mr. Marques, whose move from Toronto to Ottawa cost $103,997, is returning most of the $26,342.10 he was paid for the land-transfer tax to buy his home in Ottawa, Mr. Bains’s office said in a statement.
“In line with the lead of Gerald Butts and Katie Telford, he is voluntarily reimbursing the difference between that amount and the amount of tax payable on the average home in Ottawa,” the statement said.
On Friday, the Conservatives demanded to know what personalized cash payments entailed.
“What is a personalized cash payment? What other Liberal staffers received personalized cash payments? Does the Prime Minister commit to telling us and telling Canadians who received these ambiguous cash payments and will they be paid back to the taxpayer?” Conservative House Leader Candice Bergen said.
In their joint statement, which included breakdowns of their expenses, Mr. Butts and Ms. Telford said they were not calling on other senior staff to repay.
The Liberals on Friday took aim at the Conservatives for their moving expenses while in government.
The Privy Council Office released figures that show 18 Tory staffers in prime minister Stephen Harper’s office claimed $324,800 over nine years.
One staff member, who was not identified, claimed nearly $93,000 for one move – which was paid primarily between 2008 and 2010.
Guy Giorno, Mr. Harper’s chief of staff for two-and-a-half-years beginning in 2008, said in an e-mail his move from Toronto to Ottawa was covered by a third-party contractor and he never saw individual costs such as real estate commission or moving expenses, although he did submit receipts for miscellaneous expenses such as home inspection. He estimates his real estate commission cost about $34,000.
He said the contractor that handled the Tory moves then charged the government. The current contractor, Brookfield, did not return calls from The Globe and Mail this week.
Mr. Giorno said on Friday evening that he believes his move cost about $79,000, mainly in real estate fees.Report Typo/Error