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Senior political adviser Gerald Butts, along with chief of staff Katie Telford, did have not been fully paid their personalized funds. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Senior political adviser Gerald Butts, along with chief of staff Katie Telford, did have not been fully paid their personalized funds. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Politics

Trudeau’s aides were not fully reimbursed for moving costs: PMO Add to ...

The Prime Minister’s Office is now saying Justin Trudeau’s two top aides were never fully reimbursed for more than $207,000 in moving expenses.

Instead, principal secretary Gerald Butts asked a third-party relocation company to stop his mysterious “personalized cash payout” of $20,799.10 when stories about his and chief of staff Katie Telford’s moving expenses were first reported last week.

Ms. Telford had also not been fully paid her personalized fund of $23,373.71 when the expenses were revealed, the office said.

But the PMO wouldn’t expand on what the payouts were for, and said the details are being worked out with Brookfield, a global relocation-services company.

“Both of their files are still open with Brookfield. They have not been fully paid … and are in the process of reconciling that with Brookfield,” Mr. Trudeau’s director of communications, Kate Purchase, said in an e-mail Monday. The company did not return calls last week from The Globe and Mail.

In a statement posted by Mr. Butts and Ms. Telford last week on Facebook, the two advisers said they were eligible for “a bunch of costs that we don’t feel comfortable about” and would be paying a portion of the money back.

“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,” they said. “The principle we took to these decisions is that we should only be reimbursed the actual cost we paid third parties to make the move happen.”

Mr. Butts also announced he will repay almost all of his land-transfer tax, $20,819, associated with buying his home in Ottawa. In total, the two aides are to repay or forgo $65,000.

A senior official said Mr. Butts and Ms. Telford were unaware the full costs of their moves from Toronto to Ottawa had risen to $126,669 and $80,382, respectively, until the information was released last week in documents tabled in the House of Commons, and did not know about the personalized cash payouts until contacting Brookfield. A large portion of their expenses was for real estate commissions on their million-dollar homes.

The federal government has had a policy to reimburse relocation costs for senior officials and their families since the 1970s, and it was last updated by the Conservatives in 2011. Mr. Trudeau has since asked the Treasury Board to create a new policy across the federal government.

The current policy outlines a myriad of options for the “personalized” fund, including insurance, building inspection, some mortgage costs, new home warranties, professional cleaning and shipments, expenses for spouses, as well as “incentives,” such as staying over on a Saturday night during a house-hunting trip. The expenses require receipts, according to policy.

Meanwhile, Conservative leadership aspirant Brad Trost said his party should “clean house” and called on Stephen Harper’s former chief of staff Guy Giorno to pay back tens of thousands in moving expenses.

Mr. Trost, a Saskatchewan MP who has declared his intention to run for federal Conservative leader but has not officially registered, says the tab for the move from Toronto – which Mr. Giorno said cost nearly $79,000, according to a real estate statement – is “outrageous” and anything over $30,000 should be repaid.

“Let’s do the right thing in our own party. The whole idea of ‘circle the wagons to protect people who do wrong in their own party,’ it’s just not right,” Mr. Trost said. “We need to clean house internally, because if you don’t – let’s be blunt. The other parties will do it for you, and they’re right to.” When contacted Monday, Mr. Giorno declined to comment.

In a Facebook post, Mr. Giorno said he contacted Mr. Trost to tell him there was no $30,000 cap on moving expenses, as had been previously reported, but Mr. Trost “decided to run with his version anyway.” He accused Mr. Trost of racking up his own six-figure travel expenses as an MP and pointed out the relocation process is run by an independent third party.

“There's a reason the system has an independent third party decide on actual costs and apply the rules fairly and consistently to everyone,” Mr. Giorno wrote. “Do we want a fair and independent determination based on consistent rules, or do we want Brad Trost to impose his arbitrary and personal opinion on people in a situation he will never have to face?”

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