Sen. Mac Harb quits Liberal caucus after audit of housing allowance claims

OTTAWA – Sen. Mac Harb has resigned from the Liberal caucus after an independent audit found he’d improperly claimed $51,500 in Senate housing allowances.

He is vowing to fight the finding in court and has chosen to leave the caucus until the matter is settled.

Marc Roy, spokesman for Senate opposition leader James Cowan, said the Liberals received the resignation after the audit was released.

“I can confirm he has resigned from Liberal caucus,” he said. Roy said Harb will sit as an independent.

Cowan said it was the appropriate thing to do but he was “personally disappointed” that there were no recommendations from the committee or in the report about further investigations or disciplinary actions.

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Harb is one of three senators ordered to repay the improperly collected allowances.

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A senator whose primary residence is more than 100 km outside the national capital region is entitled to collect up to $22,000 a year to compensate for maintaining a secondary residence in Ottawa.

Harb, who represented an Ottawa riding as an MP and owns several properties in the city, had claimed a bungalow near Pembroke, Ont., as his primary residence.

The audit found Harb spent only 10 per cent of this time at the bungalow during the 549-day period reviewed by auditors.

In question period Thursday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the audit also concluded the rules were not clear.

“However the Senate itself has decided it expects better judgment from the Senators,” he said.

But NDP MP Charlie Angus was not impressed.

“I think it shows that the Senate really takes Canadians for fools,” he said.

“This is an old boys’ club who didn’t feel they actually needed to be very clear about rules because it was the honour system… They didn’t have to prove anything because they were a Senator. That’s not acceptable.”

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