Independent Senator Elaine McCoy is suffering from a pulmonary condition that has prevented her from travelling to her home province of Alberta for nearly a year.
Speaking to The Globe and Mail, Ms. McCoy said her doctor advised her against flying since she was first hospitalized with the condition in December, 2015. She hasn't been home to Calgary since then.
"I can't fly right now. … You can hear my breath," Ms. McCoy said, speaking softly. "The doctor advised [to] be careful of flying."
Ms. McCoy said she has been hospitalized three times in the past year because of her condition: in December, 2015, January, 2016, and again last month.
Her office would not specify the precise condition, in order to protect her privacy.
Ms. McCoy said she spent the summer in an Ottawa rehabilitation program for her condition.
Although she has to take her time walking and must sit down regularly to catch her breath, she said she is still able to perform her duties as a senator. Her office said she worked numerous 12-hour days last week.
Jacqui Delaney, a spokeswoman for Conservative Senator Leo Housakos, who chairs the Senate's Board of Internal Economy, said Ms. McCoy's health issues have not affected her attendance in the Red Chamber nor had an impact on her other parliamentary duties in Ottawa.
Asked whether Ms. McCoy should take sick leave or retire, Ms. Delaney did not answer directly, saying the Senate's focus with respect to a senator's health is largely related to attendance.
Because Ms. McCoy's primary Calgary residence is more than 100 kilometres outside the National Capital Region, she is allowed to claim accommodation expenses while in Ottawa for Senate business, to a maximum of $22,000 a year. According to a Senate financial report, Ms. McCoy claimed $10,702.28 for living expenses in the National Capital Region from March 1 to June 30 of this year.
Ms. McCoy was appointed in 2005, on the recommendation of former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin.
Last year, a Senate audit identified her as one of 30 sitting and retired senators who filed allegedly questionable expense claims totalling nearly $1-million. Ms. McCoy paid back all of the $10,298 she owed, which included expenses for taxis she used to commute to her office in Ottawa.
Now 70 years old, Ms. McCoy can continue to sit in the Senate until 2021, when she is due to retire. Her office said she has no intention of retiring early from the Red Chamber.
Ms. McCoy, originally from Brandon, Man., is a lawyer by training.
She entered politics in 1986, when she ran provincially in the Alberta riding of Calgary West, which was formerly held by then Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed.
She served in former premier Don Getty's cabinet as minister of consumer and corporate affairs, women's issues, and labour. Ms. McCoy ran for the leadership of the Alberta Progressive Conservatives in 1992, when Mr. Getty retired; she lost to Ralph Klein. Ms. McCoy did not run in the 1993 Alberta election.
She went on to serve as president of the Macleod Institute, a University of Calgary affiliate organization that specializes in program evaluation and environmental management. The institute is no longer active.
Since being appointed to the Senate, Ms. McCoy has changed affiliations. She sat as an independent Progressive Conservative from the time of her appointment in 2005 until 2016, when she declared herself to be fully independent.
She has been a long-time advocate for the role of the individual senator and for effective Senate reform. Despite her illness, she spent much of her summer working on a comprehensive review of Senate administrative rules.