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NDP accuses unelected senators of fraud

Mark Dunn. (Andre Forget/QMI Agency)

By Mark Dunn, Senior National Reporter

Pamela Wallin in Peterborough, Ont., (CLIFFORD SKARSTEDT/QMI Agency)

Pamela Wallin in Peterborough, Ont., (CLIFFORD SKARSTEDT/QMI Agency)

OTTAWA - The NDP says there's only one word to describe senators who don't know where they live and collect a fat housing allowance - fraud.

With no senators in the unelected upper chamber, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair pounced Monday on allegations senators are collecting tens of thousands of tax dollars on top of their $132,000 annual salaries by fudging details about where they reside.

New Democrats drew a parallel between the Conservative government's zeal to crack down on employment insurance fraudsters while ignoring what they said were fake claims being made by senators.

"Conservatives don't shy away from gratuitously accusing EI claimants of fraud, but they don't prevent their own senators committing fraud. It's a double standard. Why won't Conservatives really investigate fraud in the Senate?" Mulcair said in the Commons.

Government House Leader Peter Van Loan defended his peers, saying they were all qualified to represent their various jurisdictions and accused the NDP of standing in the way of Senate reform.

At least five senators -- Conservatives Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin, Dennis Patterson and Patrick Brazeau, and Liberal Mac Harb -- are facing scrutiny over housing claims.

After months of denying any wrongdoing, Duffy said Friday he planned to reimburse the money he's collected since Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed him to the post in 2009.

Some reports suggest he has billed upwards of $90,000 in housing subsidies. He did not return an e-mail to confirm the amount.

The opposition mocked his admission the form used to make an expense claim was too complicated and that he only recently understood that he may have checked off the wrong box when he disclosed his primary residence.

Duffy, a former broadcaster, has a cottage and apartment in P.E.I., but mostly resides in Ottawa where he owns a house

To claim a secondary housing allowance, a senator has to prove his or her primary residence is more than 100 km outside Ottawa and therefore needs to have housing in both locations.

Harb's office did not know his whereabouts Monday to answer charges about improprieties about his allowance. He was appointed in 2003.

Wallin, also a former broadcaster, was the subject of a report Monday that she has a valid Ontario health card, which are only given to those whose primary residence is in the province.

Wallin was appointed to the Senate in 2009 to represent Saskatchewan. She's also facing scrutiny for running up travel expenses in excess of $350,000 over a two-year period.

Mark.Dunn@sunmedia.ca

Twitter:MarkDunnSun

 

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