February 13, 2013 11:42 am

Sen. Pamela Wallin under scrutiny for $300,000 in travel expenses

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OTTAWA – Another journalist-turned senator, Pamela Wallin, is in the spotlight over her $350,000 in travel expenses, the latest in a growing list of controversies plaguing Parliament’s Upper Chamber.

The Saskatchewan senator billed taxpayers $350,461.42 in travel costs – a price tag she defended on Wednesday, but did not explain.

“I travelled to my home whenever I possibly can, which last year was 168 days,” she told Global National’s Mike Le Couteur as she scurried onto a shuttle bus on Parliament Hill.

Wallin’s travel expenses are the third highest of all senators. According to Senate documents since September 2010, four other senators spent more than $300,000 in travel. In most cases, the majority of the money was spent to fly them back and forth to their home province, but expense records show Wallin only claimed $29,423 to travel to her home. The rest of the travel was simply classified as ‘other.’ 

Global News analyzed senators’ travel expenses from September 2010 to November 2012. Here’s a look at some of the top travelling senators. 

 

Senator Home Province        Travel (Home)         Travel (Other)          Total                      
NICK SIBBESTON             N.W.T.$235,849.24$138,413.84$374,263.08
TERRY MERCERN.S.$312,098.52$54,006.08$366,104.60
PAMELA WALLINSask.$29,423.84$321,037.58$350,461.42
BERT BROWNAtla.$298,518.03$17,499.62$316,017.65
VIVIENNE POYOnt.$133,830.39$171,586.90$305,417.29
GERRY ST.GERMAINEB.C.$277,390.16$72,758.22$350,148.38

 

The Senate has asked Wallin to explain her expenses to an independent auditor.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper defended Wallin in question period on Wednesday.

“I have looked at the numbers. Her travel costs are comparable to any parliamentarian travelling from that particular area of the country over that period of time,” Harper said.

Wallin defended the disproportionate spending by saying not all the flights could be direct from Saskatchewan because of her heavy schedule.

The big travel tabs surprised her colleague Sen. Romeo Dallaire.

“I think it might be a little on the high side. I wouldn’t know how you get to a figure like that,” he said.

The travel expenses are just one of the fires facing Wallin. Her residency claims are now under scrutiny along with those of her Senate colleagues Mike Duffy, Patrick Brazeau and Mac Harb.

The New Democrats released a land registry document on Wednesday showing Wallin owns a property in Saskatchewan, the province she represents.

But the mailing address on the document says she lives in Toronto.

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“Why are you claiming to be a senator of Saskatchewan, but then claiming to live on Palmerston Avenue. These are fair questions because it’s the Canadian taxpayers who’ll be paying Ms. Wallin to sit in the Senate until she’s 75,” said NDP MP Charlie Angus.

The ongoing housing audit is just one of a growing number of slip-ups dogging the Senate.

On Tuesday, Brazeau was placed on forced leave after he was charged with assault and sexual assault.

Attendance records have also been under the spotlight, but a review of the rules is no closer to getting done more than six months after the Harper government promised action on absenteeism on the Upper Chamber.

With a file from Postmedia News  

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