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Harper discusses previous defence of Wallin in wake of audit findings

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, right, smiles at Senator Pamela Wallin during a round table meeting with business leaders in Saskatoon, Sask., Friday, Feb. 27, 2009. Harper, who appointed Wallin to the Senate in early 2009, is now under fire after an audit of Wallin found she claimed more than $100,000 in questionable expenses.

GEOFF HOWE/The Canadian Press

Stephen Harper is defending his handling of the Senate expenses controversy in the wake of an audit showing that one of his appointees, Pamela Wallin, filed more than $120,000 in questionable claims.

Speaking during a Whitehorse stop on his annual summer tour of northern Canada, the Prime Minister also called for Ms. Wallin to be made to fully accountable for her actions.

Mr. Harper was asked why he rose in the Commons in February to defend Ms. Wallin.

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"At the time I indicated that all of the senator's individual expenses would be subject to robust scrutiny through an audit that of course has since been done and obviously has uncovered some significant problems," the prime minister said.

Distancing himself from Ms. Wallin, whom he appointed to the Senate in early 2009, Mr. Harper noted the senator had quit the Conservative caucus some months ago.

"I would expect that action will be taken to ensure full accountability for any breaking of rules," the prime minister said.

Ms. Wallin is being asked to repay $121,348 after an independent audit found a series of problems with the former broadcaster's expense claims – including billing taxpayers for partisan fundraisers.

The senator, who now sits as an independent, has already repaid $38,369.29 and has pledged to repay whatever she owes, but called the audit process "flawed and unfair."

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Steven Chase has covered federal politics in Ottawa for The Globe since mid-2001, arriving there a few months before 9/11. He previously worked in the paper's Vancouver and Calgary bureaus. Prior to that, he reported on Alberta politics for the Calgary Herald and the Calgary Sun, and on national issues for Alberta Report. More

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