A Toronto-area Progressive Conservative MPP who billed taxpayers for his second home said he will “gladly” pay for it himself, as legislators moved to change the rules around housing allowances.
Earlier this week, The Globe and Mail revealed that Tory finance critic Peter Shurman received $20,719 last year to subsidize his apartment in Toronto. He is eligible for the funds because he owns a house in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., 150 kilometres from his Thornhill riding. Under current regulations, any MPP who lives more than 50 kilometres from Queen’s Park can dip into the housing allowance.
On Friday, both Government House Leader John Milloy, a Liberal, and Tory MPP Sylvia Jones formally moved to convene a meeting of the board of internal economy next week to tighten the rules.
“The government strongly believes that a review of this situation should be a priority … to ensure that only MPPs representing constituencies a burdensome travel distance from Queen’s Park are eligible for the expense,” he wrote in a letter to the Speaker.
In the meantime, Tory Leader Tim Hudak has asked Mr. Shurman not to claim the expense. In an interview on Newstalk 1010, Mr. Shurman said he will now pay rent on his Toronto apartment out of pocket.
“I will pay it and I will pay it gladly to avoid the kind of invective that has been hurled at me,” he said.
He also apologized for previously telling The Globe that he required the housing allowance because his six-figure salary is “not very much [money] at all.”
“I’m used to making money and I’m used to being honest,” he said. “I was honest, but I also treated money in a way that was rather cavalier. I apologize for that.”
Mr. Shurman said Mr. Hudak was aware of his arrangement when he started claiming the funds.
Asked why Mr. Hudak did not tell Mr. Shurman to stop receiving the allowance earlier, Tory MPP Monte McNaughton said: “He was informed the rules were being followed. They were, we all know that they were. But it’s wrong, and we want this to be fixed.”
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said she would wait to see the exact rule changes before deciding whether to support them. “If the government wants to bring forward changes, we’ll certainly look at them,” she said.