Top senators review damning Senate spending report
Canada's Auditor General Michael Ferguson speaks during a news conference upon the release of his report in Ottawa April 28, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Wattie
Senators are combing through an advance copy of Auditor General Michael Ferguson's damning report that reportedly accuses 21 senators of inappropriate expenses and referred the cases of nine others to the RCMP.
Senate Speaker Leo Housakos, government leader Claude Carignan and Opposition leader James Cowan are among the 21 senators named in the two-year review, they confirmed to The Canadian Press.
Carignan repaid about $3,000 that auditors say he wrongly claimed for travel expenses, while Housakos's case involves a $6,000 dispute over media monitoring claims, The Globe and Mail reports.
"I think the auditor is being, in my particular case, nitpicky," Housakos told The Canadian Press.
"I've done nothing but be transparent. These were two errors discovered by the auditor general that had no malintent."
Cowan told reporters he has a "respectful disagreement" with the audit over $10,000 in travel claims from 2011 he says were related to his job.
All three high-profile senators are seeking arbitration to challenge the audit's findings.
A Senate official told the Globe the audit involves less than $1 million in questionable expenses, with the highest single case being $130,000.
Liberal sources told The Canadian Press the nine senators referred to the RCMP include Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu, one of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's key allies in his law-and-order agenda. Boisvenu resigned from the Conservative caucus after the report leaked Thursday night.
Boisvenu, appointed to the Senate in 2010, founded the Murdered or Missing Persons' Families' Association after the rape and murder of his daughter Julie in 2002.
While not well-known in English Canada, he has often appeared by Harper's side at press events in Quebec.
It's not his first taste of upper chamber controversy. In 2014, he apologized after news broke he twice renewed the contract of a much young staffer he was dating.
The other seven senators reportedly under investigation have retired or resigned, including Liberal-appointed Sharon Carstairs, Marie-Paule Charette-Poulin, Rose-Marie Losier-Cool, William Rompkey, and Rod Zimmer, as well as former deputy Speaker of the Senate Gerry St. Germain and Conservative-appointed Don Oliver.
Oliver said in a statement on his website Friday that he's "disappointed" in the auditor's report and the expenses he claimed were all legitimate.
"The conclusions drawn by the auditor are not based on all the facts," the retired Nova Scotia senator said.
He said he is unavailable for media interviews because his doctor advised him to restrict his activities following a diagnosis of a rare cardiac condition several months ago.
"The public has the right to know that my expenses were legitimate, lawful and according to the rules of the Senate regarding Senate business," Oliver said.
Liberal-appointed Sen. Colin Kenny was also named.
Kenny has been in the Senate for more than 30 years. Recently, seven women accused him of sexual harassment, according to a CBC News report.
In a statement issued Thursday night, Boisvenu said he plans to serve in the Senate as an independent.
Ferguson's report will be released publicly Tuesday.