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Politics Company that moved Trudeau aides backtracks, says receipts not always required

Gerald Butts and Katie Telfor

Deborah Baic, Sean Kilpatri/The Globe and Mail, The Canadian Pre

The company that handles relocation costs for the federal government now says receipts are not always required for employees to be reimbursed.

Brookfield Global Relocation Services released a statement almost 24 hours after The Globe and Mail published a story quoting the senior vice-president of government services, who said employees are briefed on expenses and required to submit their own receipts, including for a category called "personalized cash payout." While Brookfield called it a clarification, the Liberals in Question Period said the company "has apologized for that erroneous information." Both the Prime Minister's Office and Brookfield said the PMO did not tell the company to issue the statement on Wednesday.

Read more: PMO denies aides were briefed on moving expense reimbursements

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Read more: Trudeau aides Butts and Telford to repay portion of moving expenses

Editorial: For Butts and Telford, hindsight is 20/20, and also convenient

Personalized cash payouts make up the bulk of the $65,000 that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's two top aides, Gerald Butts and Katie Telford, say they will no longer claim, after costs of their moving expenses from Toronto to Ottawa were revealed as tallying more than $207,000.

The specifics about Mr. Butts's and Ms. Telford's $44,172 in personalized payouts, which they have since said they are not comfortable with, have not been explained. As part of the $65,000 the two aides are forgoing, Mr. Butts also said he would reimburse $20,819, a portion of the land-transfer tax for his Ottawa home.

A government directive points to a plethora of costs covered by the "personalized" fund, including insurance, building inspection, some mortgage costs, new home warranties, professional cleaning and shipments, and expenses for spouses.

Brookfield said in an e-mail Wednesday that receipts are not required in all cases to be reimbursed for "relocation benefits" – such as meals and incidentals, because a per diem covers those expenses. Receipts are also not required when a personalized cash payout is provided from unused funds in each employee's "personal allowance envelope" – which is tabulated according to a dense formula found in a government directive.

Neither Brookfield nor the Privy Council Office, which supports the Prime Minister's Office, would provide more specifics about Mr. Butts's and Ms. Telford's personalized cash payouts – beyond the description of "miscellaneous moving expenses" the two aides said were "unreasonable" in a statement on Facebook last week.

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In an interview on Tuesday, Brookfield senior vice-president Michel Bonin said he couldn't speak about specific cases, but "transferees," or those moving, "control everything" and provide the company with receipts. He also said employees are counselled on which benefits they are entitled to according to the government directive.

"Obviously personalized cash payout is one of the elements of the relocation directive, so we would answer any questions or explain exactly what that means to the transferee," Mr. Bonin said.

When asked whether that means the company goes through the policy, shows the employees what they are entitled to under the "personalized cash payout" category, and the employees then submit receipts, Mr. Bonin said, "That's right."

The PMO denies the two aides were briefed on their expenses.

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