Among Senate expenses, Wallin claimed trip to mystery museum

OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail

Senator Pamela Wallin shuffles her papers while delivering a statement to journalists about an audit examining her expenses on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, August 12, 2013.

(CHRIS WATTIE/Reuters)

Pamela Wallin billed the Senate $1,828.95 for a trip to a “Bradford Museum,” though there appears to be no institution in Ontario that goes by that name.

The expense was for a return trip from Ottawa, where she works, to Toronto, where she owns a condo. Auditors said the trip “appears not to be Senate business,” and a representative for Ms. Wallin declined to comment Friday on the claim. It’s unclear whether the “Bradford Museum” entry was a typo.

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But since Tuesday’s release of an audit into Ms. Wallin’s expenses, cases have emerged where her explanations have not checked out. In one case, the senator claimed travel expenses for a speech at the Toronto Arts and Letters Club, according to the audit, but the club has no record of the trip. In another case, she claimed an expense for a speaking role at a Toronto gala that auditors found had taken place a year earlier.

One day before her audit’s release, Ms. Wallin dismissed the process as “fundamentally flawed and unfair,” saying new rules were being applied retroactively. She hasn’t spoken publicly since.

The museum case dates back to 2009. According to the audit, Ms. Wallin billed the Senate $1,828.95 for a return flight from Ottawa to Toronto, where auditors say she spends 35 per cent of her time. She left on a Friday and returned on a Sunday. Ms. Wallin filed the expense as “Senate Business (Bradford Museum).” She explained to auditors that she met with the president and CEO of an unidentified fund management company, speaking on Senate reform, but made no mention of a museum.

Auditors said the CEO’s event wasn’t included in her handwritten calendar, and was only added in her electronic calendar in 2013. “Senator’s office was unable to provide any evidence to support the occurrence or nature of this meeting, therefore, this appears not to be Senate business,” the audit says.

The audit includes no explanation of what the “Bradford Museum” might be, or whether it might have been a typo. “As a name, Bradford Museum, there’s no such thing,” said Marie Lalonde, executive director of the Ontario Museum Association, adding that there are heritage homes around Bradford, which is north of Toronto, and a museum in nearby Newmarket.

“We do not have a museum in Bradford,” the town’s mayor, Doug White, said in an e-mail. He asked whether it was Brantford, Ont., saying the towns are often mistaken.

There’s a military museum in Brantford, but there’s no indication Ms. Wallin – an honorary Air Force colonel – held an event there. “If she did, she must have snuck in,” said Rick Shaver, chairman of the Canadian Military Heritage Museum in Brantford. The Brant Historical Society’s curator also couldn’t recall any visit by Ms. Wallin, though said it’d be difficult to know for sure.

In July, 2012, Ms. Wallin claimed $5,061.20 for a single return flight between Saskatoon, in her home province, and Toronto. She claimed it as “Senate Business – Speech to Arts and Letters Club.” The club has no record of any such speech being scheduled.

“We checked our calendar and record related to the club, and no, there was nothing,” said club manager Fiona McKeown, adding: “A member may have invited her in for lunch. We don’t keep records of that. But a club-sponsored activity or event? There was nothing scheduled where Pamela Wallin was to speak in the month of July.”

In this case, Ms. Wallin conceded “that this trip was for the Senator’s private business,” and paid back what appears to be the cost, plus interest, in November of 2012. A source close to her said the auditors were told the speech was simply listed in error.

On June 4, 2009, in another case, she flew from Ottawa to Toronto, calling it only “Senate business.” She later told auditors she attended a dinner with the Institute of Corporate Directors and gave a speech. Auditors found she’d given that speech the prior year. Auditors also said that year’s event started at 5:30 p.m., with dinner at 7 p.m., while Ms. Wallin’s flight landed only at 9:05 p.m., after which she filed a travel claim for a car service with an invoice marked “airport to home.”

Auditors have recommended Ms. Wallin be asked to pay back $121,348, and perhaps another $20,978, a sum of expenses that auditors have asked the Senate to review.

Auditors found no issue with 73 per cent of her claims. She has already repaid $38,369, including the amount for the July, 2012, trip.

Auditors have said she should pay back a total of $2,567.90 for the claims related to the museum and the June 4 trip.

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