Senator Pamela Wallin changed her spending habits in recent months, claiming more money for travel expenses between Ottawa and her Saskatchewan residence and less for all other trips, according to newly released records.
Ms. Wallin is one of four senators whose expenses were sent to auditors for review amid a damaging controversy over improper claims in the Red Chamber. She has already returned at least $38,000, and auditors continue to examine her files to determine, in part, whether she charged the Senate for personal or business-related trips.
Ms. Wallin has typically spent significantly more on “other” travel than on trips between Ottawa and her Saskatchewan residence, a fact that has raised questions about how often she returns to the province she was appointed to represent. Senate records show that she claimed an average of about $3,000 on travel to Saskatchewan and $35,000 on other travel during the past three years.
She has said the discrepency is because there are few flights between Ottawa and Saskatchewan that are direct or arrive at a reasonable time, so she often stays overnight at her condominium in Toronto. Ms. Wallin has said the stopovers mean those trips are classified as “other” rather than regular travel to her home.
But in the three months ending May 31, she filed more than $24,000 in expense claims for trips between Ottawa and her Saskatchewan residence and about $16,000 for other travel, according to the Senate documents.
The Senate publishes financial reports on senators every three months, but does not itemize claims or show how much exactly has been returned when repayments were made.
During the same three-month period, Senator Patrick Brazeau continued to be reimbursed for the rent he pays for his Gatineau, Que., apartment, according to Senate records, even though a Senate committee ordered him in May to repay all of his living expenses for the past two years. Auditors found earlier this year that Mr. Brazeau spent more time in the Ottawa area than at his primary residence, which is located in Maniwaki, Que.
A spokeswoman for Mr. Brazeau said he leased his Gatineau apartment – located across the river from Ottawa – after reading the Senate’s policy and checking with the Finance Department. Debby Simms, a policy adviser to Mr. Brazeau, said living expense payments did not continue after the Senate report was tabled in mid-May.
A separate report on Senator Mac Harb’s expense claims shows that he was paid $2,566.92 for his living expenses during the last quarter. A spokeswoman from his office said Friday that he stopped making those claims immediately after the Senate’s internal economy committee issued its report on May 9, which ordered him to repay past living expenses.
The Senate financial records posted on Friday also show that Senator Mike Duffy returned $17,126.12 in living expenses for the quarter ending May 31. A Senate spokeswoman said on Friday that the report included only the 2012-2013 portion of Mr. Duffy’s $90,000 repayment to the Senate, which he made earlier this year using money given to him by the Prime Minister’s former chief of staff. Unlike Mr. Harb and Mr. Brazeau, Mr. Duffy was not reimbursed for any living expenses during the last quarter, according to the records.
Mr. Duffy also reduced his travel claims during the same period, cutting them from about $16,000 during the three-month period ending in March to close to $5,000 for the three month period ending at the end of May.
The Senate posts a disclaimer on Senators’ quarterly financial records warning that there may be time discrepancies depending on when the claims are processed.
With a report from Stuart A. Thompson