Tories, NDP slam Justin Trudeau for $840 in inappropriate expense claims

Andy Radia
Canada PoliticsJanuary 16, 2014

Justin Trudeau released a statement, Thursday, explaining that he had mistakenly claimed expenses worth approximately $840.

The expenses, from 2009, 2010 and 2012, were related to Trudeau's speaking engagements. Last year, the Liberal leader came under fire when it was reported that he had earned $277,000 as a professional speaker since becoming a member of Parliament.

“On December 5th, the Clerk of the House of Commons, Ms. Audrey O’Brien, contacted the Liberal Whip’s office regarding a review – in response to the unanimous consent motion in the House of Commons – dealing with the disclosure of paid speaking engagements by Members of Parliament.

“At this time, my office was advised that a Parliamentary expense of $672.00 was claimed for an event two years ago on April 25, 2012, in Kingston, ON, that was unrelated to my Parliamentary duties.

“Shortly after being advised of this error, I wrote a personal cheque for the improper claim of $672.00 and asked that it be delivered to the Receiver General for Canada immediately. I also requested my office to communicate the situation and the reimbursement to Ms. O’Brien and to inquire as to what interest may be owed on the amount.

“Subsequently, and in addition to the scope of the Clerk’s review, I directed my office to undertake a more detailed review of the travel status expenses account during the period of my paid speaking engagements. From this review, we have identified two additional per diem claims from four years ago that should not have been claimed. One is from November 6, 2009, for $83.55, and the other is from May 7, 2010, for $84.50. While I was travelling on those days, the main activities that I undertook were related to contracts with Speaker’s Spotlight and my return home to Montreal. As such, I have reimbursed the Receiver General $168.05."

In a press conference on Thursday afternoon from Thornhill, Ontario, Trudeau said it was an honest mistake.

"One of the most important things about my approach in politics has been creating a level accountability, of transparency, of openness, of honesty that means admitting when mistakes were made, taking responsibility for them and fixing them in an open and in a manner that hopefully will continue to restore Canadians' trust in our political system," he said.

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The pseudo-apology has given new ammunition to the other parties who are using the error to highlight Trudeau's judgement, or — in their opinion — lack thereof.

"This is moonlighting from his job here in Parliament. Doing the type of thing he his paid to here which is to talk to people about politics," NDP leader Thomas Mulcair told reporters.

"I think he should concentrate on getting his job done here.

"He's stolen a page from Stephen Harper's playbook as well. You deny deny deny until you get caught."

The Tories have also weighed-in.

"Justin Trudeau misled Canadians," Conservative Party spokesperson Cory Hann told Yahoo Canada News in an email exchange.

"He was caught misusing taxpayers' money to pay for expenses he incurred while on a speaking tour funded by various charities. Actions like these show that the 2015 Election is a choice between the strong, stable leadership of Stephen Harper and the poor judgment of Justin Trudeau."

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Team-Trudeau was wise to get ahead of this story -- they're the ones who brought it to light before it was scooped by an intrepid journalist.

Moreover, $840 isn't a lot of money. In fact, it's a minuscule amount of the $123.6 million annual budget allocated for all the MPs expenses.

On the other hand, Bev Oda's $16 for an orange juice wasn't a lot of money either -- which incidentally she also repaid.

In the midst of the Senate expense scandal and ongoing questions about Trudeau's leadership abilities, this has the potential for some political damage.

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