When Ms. Wallin confirmed that she, too, was facing an audit, the issue of her travel expenses erupted in the House of Commons.
“Senator Wallin is using taxpayers’ money to travel around the country and to star in the Conservative Party’s fundraising activities,” NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair charged. Mr. Harper defended Ms. Wallin, saying her costs are “comparable to any parliamentarian.”
Ms. Wallin’s expenses initially raised concern because only a fraction of her bills were listed as “regular travel,” the Senate’s term for trips between a senator’s primary residence and the National Capital Region. She said earlier this year that many of her flights to Saskatchewan are not direct, and are therefore listed as “other travel” on her expense forms. But questions have been raised about whether some trips include travel that is unrelated to her Senate duties, and therefore should not have been claimed.
Ms. Wallin has repaid some of the money she claimed since becoming a senator in early 2009, including about $25,000 immediately before her audit began, according to sources familiar with the expense review.
A disclosure form filed with the Senate Ethics Officer indicates Ms. Wallin is paid at least $2,000 a year for her roles on three different boards. She sits on the boards of Porter Airlines, Gluskin Sheff & Associates, and an organization called the Ideas Council. The Globe and Mail searched corporation records and charity filings in Canada and could not find an organization with the latter name. Ms. Wallin declined to say what the council is or how much it was paying her.
“All further comment on these issues will be forthcoming as soon as the audit is complete. We are working with the auditors to provide all information and as soon as their report is concluded, I look forward to answering any and all questions,” Ms. Wallin said in a written statement.
Ms. Wallin has continued her work inside and outside the Senate. An honorary colonel of the Royal Canadian Air Force, she took part in a cadet ceremony this month in Swift Current.
“I thought she did a great job,” said Jeff Kurtz, one of the parents involved in the local air cadets. “I thought it was quite passionate and motivational.”
NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus says Ms. Wallin and Mr. Duffy pushed the limits on campaigning and sparked the firestorm.
“It allowed them the extra men on the ice during campaigns. It allowed them to be full-time partisan workers aided by the taxpayer. … It just seems that it’s Stephen Harper who takes everything to the absolute limit. And they eventually killed their golden goose.”