Senator Mac Harb owes over $230,000 in improperly claimed expenses

·Politics Reporter

Thanks to fellow Senators Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau, Mac Harb has been able to stay under the public radar.

He might have trouble doing that now.

Outgoing Senate Internal Economy Committee Chair David Tkachuk told reporters, Wednesday, that Harb owes taxpayers $231,649.07 for improperly claiming living expenses for the past eight years.

The Senate internal economy committee, which requested the audits on Senators Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin, Patrick Brazeau and Harb, had initially ordered Harb to repay $51,000 for a two year period ending in 2013. Concerned about a pattern of impropriety, however, the committee asked for an internal investigation of Harb's "travel patterns and living expense claims" from 2005.

The final tally of $231,649.07 includes housing expenses, mileage and interest, according to the Globe and Mail.

Harb resigned from the Liberal caucus, last month, saying that he won't pay back the money. He has hired a lawyer and intends to fight the Senate order to repay in court.

[ Related: Auditor general returns to Senate amid scandal over expenses flagged last year ]

News of Harb's growing debt puts Liberal leader Justin Trudeau in an awkward position.

Last weekend, in an interview with Global News, Trudeau suggested that Harb's troubles were "an honest mistake or a misunderstanding of the rules."

"For me, there’s a real difference between what Mac Harb is going through and what Senators Duffy and Wallin seem to have on their plate," he said adding that Harb could be allowed back into the Liberal fold once the matter is cleared.

[ More Political Points: ‘Rock-star banker’ Mark Carney the toast of England as Canadians left with $30k bill ]

The Conservatives were quick to jump all over that comment.

"[Harb], the Liberal member of Parliament for Ottawa Centre, now a Liberal senator for Ottawa Centre, bills taxpayers for the cost of living in Ottawa Centre. He lives here. The actual institution of the Senate is physically in his district, yet he claims $50,000 in living allowances for coming to work in the Senate," Heritage Minister James Moore said in the House of Commons on Monday, according to the Canadian Press

"How can the Liberals actually, with a straight face, pretend to stand up for the middle class, when Liberal senators are stealing money from taxpayers?"

[ Related: Senate committee knew about Pamela Wallin’s irregular expenses 18 months ago ]

Both the Liberals and the Conservatives can expect some more bad PR over the coming weeks and months ahead because of the Senate scandals.

Senator Pamela Wallin's travel expense audit will be made public sometime this summer while Auditor General Michael Ferguson begins the process of a full audit of all Senator's expenses.

It's destined to be a wild and wacky summer.

(Photo courtesy of the Canadian Press)

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