The Ontario Progressive Conservative MPP at the centre of a housing allowance controversy has announced his resignation after leader Tim Hudak chastised him for claiming mileage expenses.
In September, The Globe and Mail revealed that Peter Shurman, who represents the Toronto suburb of Thornhill, had received $20,000 from a government fund to pay for housing for out-of-town MPPs. He received this money because his home is in Niagara-on-the-Lake instead of in his riding. When Mr. Shurman refused to pay back the money, Mr. Hudak stripped him of his job as finance critic and demoted him to the backbench.
In a letter dated Dec. 3, Mr. Hudak criticized Mr. Shurman for further claiming expenses for his mileage to drive to and from Niagara. "In my mind and that of taxpayers, there is no distinction between the mileage claims and the housing issue you dealt with in September," Mr. Hudak wrote. "Taxpayers expect parliamentarians to hold themselves to a higher standard when it comes to expenses. They expect us to respect their tax dollars."
Mr. Shurman did not break any rules in either case, but Mr. Hudak maintained it was inappropriate for him to claim these expenses.
In a letter to constituents Tuesday, Mr. Shurman said he would resign his seat Dec. 31 and not run again.
"The decision is entirely my own and results from lengthy reflection and discussion with family," Mr. Shurman wrote, adding later: "I have concluded that continuing with my political career would be a mistake for me."
Mr. Shurman's resignation opens up a hotly contested seat that the Liberals tried hard to win in the last election. Also open is the Niagara Falls riding, vacated by Liberal MPP Kim Craitor this fall.
By-elections for both seats must be called by spring, unless there is a general election before that.
Mr. Shurman, a former talk radio host, was first elected in 2007 and re-elected in 2011.
As finance critic, he frequently accused the Liberal government of profligate spending.
After Mr. Shurman's housing allowance claims were revealed in September, the Liberals rewrote the rules to ensure MPPs who represent ridings close to Queen's Park cannot claim the funds.