Arbitrator’s report ruling on disputed senator expenses to be released

Arbitration began after auditor general questioned spending claims from 30 current and former senators

OTTAWA – Senators who went through an arbitration process after their expenses were red-flagged by the auditor general are about to find out whether they’ve been exonerated or must pay back money for questionable spending.

An independent arbitrator’s report into the expenses is set to be released today after being reviewed by a Senate committee that oversees the upper chamber’s finances.

The arbitration process was established after the auditor general raised questions about spending claims from 30 current and former senators totalling nearly $1 million.

The report will detail the conclusions of former Supreme Court Justice Ian Binnie, who was appointed as arbitrator last May to oversee disputes of the auditor’s findings.

Of the 30 senators identified in the audit and ordered to repay the questioned amounts, 14 chose to go through the arbitration process led by Binnie while seven opted out of it and the remaining nine paid back money, according to the Senate website.

Senators found to have spent inappropriately will have 30 days to reimburse the amounts owed.

Amounts outstanding range from $1,120 to $75,227, according to the latest publicly available repayment status report.

Binnie will also rule whether senators who went through arbitration should receive financial support of up to $25,000 each for legal fees associated with the process.

The Senate expense scandal was narrowed last week when it was revealed the RCMP informed 24 of the 30 named senators that the evidence against them didn’t warrant a full criminal investigation.

On Friday, the chamber of sober second thought had its dwindling numbers bolstered when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau named seven new senators – the first appointments in three years and the first to be based on the recommendations of a new arm’s-length advisory board, established by Trudeau in a bid to reduce partisanship in the Senate.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.