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Ontario government promising stricter rules for housing allowances

Ontario Progressive Conservative MPP Peter Shurman made a statement to the media at Queen’s Park in Toronto on March 4, 2013.

PETER POWER/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Ontario's Liberal government is vowing to tighten the rules around housing allowances after The Globe and Mail revealed a Toronto-area opposition MPP is billing taxpayers for his second residence.

The MPP in question, Progressive Conservative finance critic Peter Shurman, also agreed to stop claiming money from the housing allowance Thursday. However, it appears he will not pay back the funds he has already received.

Mr. Shurman, who represents the Toronto suburb of Thornhill, last year charged the government $20,719, the maximum allowed. He was able to do this because he owns a house in Niagara-on-the-Lake, 150 kilometres away from his constituency. Under the current rules, any MPP who lives more than 50 kilometres from Queen's Park is eligible for the funds.

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But the Liberals said the purpose of the allowance is for MPPs from far-flung constituencies to maintain secondary homes in Toronto.

"The spirit of the rule is crystal clear: members who represent communities outside of Toronto where a commute is impossible or a commute is so long they'd be spending most of their time on the road are allowed to have apartments in Toronto," Government House Leader John Milloy said, pleding to move to change the regulations, so only those whose ridings are far from Queen's Park can make the claims.

On Thursday evening, Mr. Hudak said he has now asked Mr. Shurman to pay the expenses himself in future.

"Any taxpayer looking at this will know this system doesn't make sense and needs to be fixed," Mr. Hudak said in a statement.

Shortly before this announcement, Mr. Shurman said claiming the subsidy was "the best way" to pay for accommodation.

"If you bother to find out who I am and who I have been for 66 years of life, you would discover a person of great integrity, who would never try to game a system, would never try to obfuscate rules, would never try to move anything to his advantage," he said. "My home is in Niagara-on-the-Lake. That's it, okay? When I'm in Toronto, I need accommodation. It is the best way to gain that accommodation to do exactly what I'm doing."

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About the Author
Washington correspondent

Adrian Morrow covers U.S. politics from Washington, D.C. Previously he was The Globe's Ontario politics reporter. He's covered news, crime and sports for The Globe since 2010. He won the National Newspaper Award for politics reporting in 2016. More

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