‘Very, very pleased’: Senators applaud expense report that reduces amount owed to taxpayers
Several senators say they’re pleased by the report of former Supreme Court Justice Ian Binnie, which found that 10 of 14 senators audited will have to repay taxpayers less than previously ordered.
Overall, Binnie said 14 senators who had opted for arbitration owe roughly half of the amount originally flagged by the Auditor General: $177,898.14 in total.
“I’m very, very pleased,” said Sen. Joseph Day, whose amount owing was slashed from $16,783 to $3,051.
He had felt that the original determination was wrong, and turned to arbitration to correct that. He said the remaining amount was for one trip, and he will not be changing how he charges expenses in the future.
Sen. Claude Carignan, who already repaid the roughly $3,500 that the auditor general said he owed, said that Binnie’s report was “a very good ruling.”
He said Binnie helped to clarify some of the rules on which expenses were appropriate.
“The good news is now the situation is clear and we have to continue our work.”
He also pointed to a quote from Binnie in the report: “I think there is an important quote in part of his report saying that no senators were in bad faith,” he said. “I think that it was clear that every senator was in good faith and it’s a problem with the interpretation or clarification or their understanding. So that’s the most important thing that everybody was in good faith.”
Carignan is not the only one to note that part of the report. A press release from the Senate’s internal economy committee, sent alongside Binnie’s report on senate expenses, used that same passage as the headline: “I impute no bad motives to any of the senators.”
That statement appears in Binnie’s report, released Monday, which reads at length, “I impute no bad motives to any of the Senators. They acted in accordance with what they believed to be their entitlement. Our disagreement, where it exists, is as to the content of that entitlement.”
But he explained in a press conference that he didn’t impute any bad motives because he wasn’t asked to examine motive: just the expense reports.
“I think I have explained that the reason I put that in the report is that my job was not to look at motive. My job was to look at the facts,” he said. “Whether something was done for good reason or bad, I wasn’t asked to look at that. That’s for the police and that was kept quite separate. When I say I impute no bad motive, it’s simply a statement of fact.”
Global News asked Jacqui Delaney, communications adviser for Sen. Leo Housakos, why the news release highlighted Binnie’s quote about motives, and whether it was misleading to characterize his report in that way without including Binnie’s explanation that this was not part of his mandate.
“Are you seriously making this story about which quote we chose to highlight in a news release immediately after reading the report?” she replied. “The quote was in the report, was it not?”
In later emails, she said that the quote was used because it was in the report. Also, she said, the news release was issued at roughly the same time as the report, so Binnie’s explanation could not have been included.
“It was the news release that prompted the question about the quote which led to the explanation that you think should have been included in the news release that was already issued ….. Do you see the problem with the premise of your question?”
Binnie was asked specifically about the press release at the news conference, and he said he had not seen it.
Sen. Colin Kenny, who was specifically noted by Binnie as making travel claims with “an air of artificiality,” issued a press release saying that he will not be commenting at this time.
And one senator, Jean-Guy Dagenais, stated that he would be filing a complaint against the auditor general for having been negligent and breaching his professional duty. The auditor general had found that Dagenais owed $3,538, and Binnie found that he instead owed $2,267.
Auditor general Michael Ferguson said that he stands by the findings and recommendations made in his report last June.