Nearly half of Canada's senators have other jobs, including board positions that have paid a small group of them millions of dollars over recent years, a Globe and Mail analysis shows.
Among the multitasking senators is Pamela Wallin, who served on three boards and earned up to $999,923 in pay and stock options, records show. She was suspended this week for erroneous travel claims, including some where she allegedly billed the Senate to travel to board meetings.
Ms. Wallin's case has turned a spotlight on senators' corporate work, particularly as the Auditor-General reviews all senators' expenses for any improper claims. Not only are senators allowed to have other jobs, it was long considered the standard.
Altogether, 46 of Canada's 99 senators have other jobs, disclosure statements show. They don't need to say how much they earn, but other financial records reveal details for 12 of them. Those 12 senators, including Ms. Wallin and Conservative Party fundraising chief Irving Gerstein, have earned at least $5.8-million in cash and up to another $2-million in stock options during their time in the Senate. Some earn more from private work than from the Senate.
Related: View income details for 12 senators
For some, the work interferes with the Senate. Ms. Wallin, Mr. Gerstein and two others have missed at least one day of Senate business since 2009 to instead attend annual meetings, attendance records show.
One senator said corporate boards were traditionally seen as a way to top up the Senate salary, currently at $135,200. But senators say their role is evolving and more demanding.
"If you take this job, this has to be your main job. Everything else is secondary," says Liberal Senate leader James Cowan, who quit some positions when he was appointed. He still works as a lawyer and serves as corporate secretary to the Halifax airport, earning $243,992 since 2005. "Other senators may feel they can balance more outside activities than I could, or wanted to."
It's impossible to know which of the 46 senators earns the most money over all. Among the 12 for whom details are available, the top earner is Conservative Hugh Segal, who serves on four boards – Just Energy, Sun Life, Holcim Canada and Hudson Energy UK – and served until recently on the board of SNC-Lavalin. He has earned at least $1,911,598 in board fees since his 2005 Senate appointment, easily more than his Senate salary, and up to another $708,589 in various stock options.
"Being connected to commerce, community and economic life – providing there are no real or apparent conflicts – does make legislative work better informed," he said, noting he's in full compliance with the Senate ethics officer, who oversees financial disclosure and potential conflicts of interest. "Creating more of a bubble around parliamentarians would not, in my view, be helpful."
Mr. Gerstein, chair of his party's Conservative Fund, has earned $928,125 in board fees, more than his Senate salary, from Medical Facilities Corp., Atlantic Power Corp. and Student Transportation Inc.
Mr. Gerstein, Ms. Wallin, Mr. Segal and Dennis Patterson have all missed Senate proceedings for a board meeting since 2009, according to corporate records and the Senate's attendance registry. One such date for Mr. Segal was May 8, 2013. He says he met with a United Church delegate on the subject of residential schools, but a Sun Life spokesman said Mr. Segal also attended a board meeting that day.
In another case, on Nov. 5, 2009, Ms. Wallin claimed "unavoidable absence due to illness" to miss the Senate – but attended a Gluskin Sheff meeting.
Most, however, attended the vast majority of Senate sitting days, a fact they all stress. "[I] do not believe I have ever neglected my duties in the Senate due to occasional and rare absences," said Mr. Patterson, who said he had government permission to skip the Senate on three occasions for board meetings.
The second-highest-earning senator is David Tkachuk, who is a director for Calian Technologies Ltd. and formerly for Cline Mining Corp. In an interview, the Conservative senator said he has earned $1,602,315 in fees, the sale of stock and other compensation since 2009 from corporate work. Many senators do other work, he said. "It wasn't that long ago that you were expected to do that," he said. "Now it seems [the Senate] is a full-time job."
Larry Campbell was the top-earning Liberal, serving on the boards of the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation and Avidus Management Group. Records show he has made $396,516 in cash and up to $474,848 in stock options since 2008. He abstained from voting on one gambling bill, but otherwise has had no conflicts. "I declare everything to the ethics officer as required, and I pay taxes as required, and I don't travel on government funds for any of these things," he said.
All senators who commented said they have never done what Ms. Wallin allegedly did – bill the Senate for corporate travel. Ms. Wallin served on the boards of Porter Airlines, Gluskin Sheff and Oilsands Quest, earning $298,909 and up to $701,014 in stock options since 2009. She has since resigned all three positions. According to a court document filed Oct. 28, RCMP alleged Ms. Wallin billed the Senate for a trip that included a board meeting. An audit into her expenses also shows cases where she repaid travel claims for "private business," including one trip where Gluskin records show she attended a Nov. 2, 2011, meeting.
Thomas McInnis earned $24,000 last year from the Halifax Port Authority board, but quit when he was appointed to the Senate – fearing he wouldn't have enough time, or that it would be a conflict of interest. Asked about colleagues that serve on several boards, he said, "Oh God, what do you need the Senate for?" But Mr. McInnis stopped short of urging others to quit external jobs. "They have their own conscience. After what we went through here in the last while with senators, I would think people would want to be very, very, very, very careful," he said.
Of the 12 senators, three did not respond to requests for comment – Ms. Wallin, Mr. Gerstein and David Braley, a Conservative who has earned $133,000 in cash, and up to $58,416 in stock options, from Swisher Hygiene Inc. since 2010, one of many boards he serves on.
Josh Wingrove is a parliamentary reporter in Ottawa.