Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Whoa cowgirl whoa!

Dear Ms Glover:

Thank you very much for your reply which sounded like something that came straight out of the Prime Minister's Office for his trained seal Members of Parliament. BTW, for the edification of the PMO an article from the Huffington Post appears at the end of this posting. You might wish to advise that it too should be added to "the list."

Referencing CyberSmokeBlog's e-mail to you of May 16, 2013, which you have kindly included, you will notice there are three questions involving 'Senator' Mike Duffy's involvement in your 2011 re-election campaign to which a fourth and fifth are now added:

(4) In light of additional information that has subsequently come to light, did he or did he not also claim his involvement with your campaign as Senate-related business and invoice taxpayers as such?

(5) A couple years ago when then Auditor General of Canada Sheila Fraser attempted to acquire greater transparency for taxpayers by disclosure of MPs office expenses, were you or were you not one of many Conservative Members who opposed her efforts?

Your consideration of this matter is greatly appreciated.

Clare L. Pieuk


Dear Clare:

Thank you for your e-mail. Let me start by saying I am very concerned and disappointed about the recent reports on the Senate. Canadians understand that our Senate, as it stands today, must either change, or like the old Upper Houses of our provinces, vanish. People want change in the Senate, and our Government will continue to push forward in our effort to achieve fundamental reform. Please be assured that I personally and wholeheartedly support these initiatives to bring fundamental reform to our Upper Chamber and am as dismayed by the abuse of public funds as you are.

Until we accomplish our goals of fundamental reform, we’ve taken immediate action to fix the Senate’s rules governing travel and expenses. This past week, our Government highlighted the tough new rules governing Senate travel and expenses proposed by Conservative Senators and called on the Opposition to pass them. The proposed changes to Senate expense rules include:
  • Removing the principle from the Senate Administrative Rules that states a Senator is presumed to act honorably with respect to expenses
  • Clarifying and make consistent terminology surrounding residency for the purposes of expense claims
  • Requiring a Senator to provide a specific purpose for travel when claiming expenses
  • Requiring Senators to maintain mileage logs for the purpose of claiming mileage
  • Requiring taxi receipts be provided when claiming taxi expenses
  • Restricting per diems in the NCR to days the Senate sits, days the Senator attends committee meetings and up to 20 additional days while on approved Senate business
  • Amending the 64 point travel system to limit Senators to 12 trips not between the NCR and the Senator’s provincial residence
  • Restricting a Senator’s designated traveler to a spouse or partner
  • Requiring Administration to provide Internal Economy with monthly reports on travel patterns
  • Amending the categories of travel to Regular Senate Business Travel and Other Senate Business Travel
  • Eliminating the ability to use a travel point for international travel except for the currently authorized maximum of four trips in total to New York City (for UN-related business only) and Washington, D.C.
These new rules were introduced despite objections from Liberal senators who want to protect the current rules. Regardless, we will get these tough new accountability measures passed, to better protect the taxpayer. We are now calling on the Opposition to join us to improve the accountability of the Senate by passing them before the summer.

Finally, I’d like to share with you comments Prime Minister Stephen Harper made to the media in regards to this issue:

Source: The Canadian Press

May 22, 2013 16:05

LIMA, Peru _ A transcript of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's replies to questions about the Senate expenses scandal during a news conference Wednesday in Lima with Peruvian President Ollanta Humala Tasso:

Q: My question is about the resignation statement of your former chief of staff, which indicated that he merely did not tell you the means by which Sen. Mike Duffy got his money and, to date, neither he nor you have denied that you did know there was a deal. My question first is, what exactly did you know about the deal? Second, what were the terms of that deal? And third, what does it say about your leadership that your senior staff could even imagine this was ethical?

A: Just to correct that, I think we've been very clear that I did not know, but let me be very specific about this. I learned of this after stories appeared in the media last week speculating on the source of Mr. Duffy's repayments.

Immediately upon learning that the source was indeed my chief of staff, Nigel Wright, I immediately asked that that information be released publicly. That is what I knew.

I think what's more important about this is that, not simply that I did not know, but that I was not consulted. I was not asked to sign off on any such thing and had I obviously been consulted or known, I would not have agreed with it.

And it is obviously for those reasons that I accepted Mr. Wright's resignation.

My belief, I should mention, my belief, of course, prior to all this was that Mr. Duffy had repaid.

When I heard that Mr. Duffy had repaid, my assumption was that Mr. Duffy had repaid from his own resources and that's how it should have been, in my judgment.

Q: You're known for running a very tight ship in government. How do you expect Canadians to believe that you knew nothing about the cheque that was written to Sen. Duffy? And what in particular do you plan to do? What actions in particular do you plan to take to address this scandal? Could there be further resignations?

A: Look, I think my belief here was reasonable, what, I think, anybody would have expected, that when it was said that Mr. Duffy had repaid his expenses, that indeed he, and not someone else, had repaid his expenses. I know Mr. Wright assisted him or did this for him, because he wanted to see the taxpayers reimbursed. That's the right motive, but nevertheless it was obviously not correct for that decision to be made and executed without my knowledge or without public transparency.

That is why, as I say, I have accepted the resignation of my chief of staff. As you know we've had a couple of senators also leave our caucus. My point is on this that there is accountability when things like this happen. We've also put in place the various authorities and mechanisms that will further look into these matters to see if any additional action has to be taken on any particular individuals.

I can assure you that we will certainly look at our systems, see what we have to do to better manage or, better yet, prevent any of these kinds of things in the future. Obviously, I am very sorry that this has occurred. I am not only sorry, I've been through the range of emotions. I'm sorry, I'm frustrated, I'm extremely angry about it. But that is the reality and I think we've dealt with it promptly.

I'm frustrated and sorry and angry about all of this. I don't think there's any better way to put it. In terms of my own office, it was Mr. Wright's money, it was his personal money that he was repaying to the taxpayers on behalf of Mr. Duffy, it was his personal decision and he did this is his capacity as chief of staff, so he is solely responsible and that is why he has resigned.

I am pleased to know I will have your support as I continue to push for fundamental change in the Senate.
During the 2011 campaign, Senator Duffy took it upon himself to endorse my candidacy in Saint Boniface and I can assure you that he was not paid to do so.

Best regards,
MP Shelly Glover
---------------------------- Original Message ----------------------------
Subject: Now posted on CyberSmokeBlog
From: "CLARE PIEUK"; pieuk@shaw.ca
Date: Thu, May 16, 2013 11:31 am
To: shelly.glover@parl.gc.ca
Cc: shelly@shellyglover.ca
THURSDAY, MAY 16, 2013

Is your Member of Parliament tainted by the Duffy scandal?

Good Day Readers:

During the 2011 election campaign CyberSmokeBlog received an unsolicited voice mail from, yes, "The Honourable" Michael Dennis Duffy on behalf of its candidate in the St. Boniface, Manitoba Riding Shelly Glover. If it were, which it wasn't, suitably disposed to voting for Ms Glover that immediately disappeared upon hearing Mr. Duffy's voice.

The reason CSB will not endorse Shelly Glover is because she has been unable to shake her former police officer mindset as evidenced in the following photograph.

Shelly Glover seen here in a file photograph chasing and trying to apprehend and handcuff a poor, defenceless little frog. The frog got away - Yes! The "Old Girl" isn't as fast as she used to be!

That coupled with the established fact any elected Conservative who goes counter to Stephen Harper is relegated to the back benches in CSB's view made her an undesirable candidate.

Disclaimer: This site has never contributed to, nor will it, to any federal political party and has never been a card carrying member. It has a healthy disrespect for all politicians and parties until they can prove otherwise. To date none have.

Given the following article, CyberSmokeBlog in its capacity as a constituent formally requests from its Member of Parliament:

(1) Was Mike Duffy paid for the voice mail message CSB received, presumably also sent to all qualified St. Boniface voters?

(2) If yes, what was the total cost of this initiative?

(3) From where did the funding come?

All replies will be reproduced on this site.

CyberSmokeBlog encourages other constituents in other Ridings who received "a Duffy call" to do the same.

Clare L. Pieuk
Constituent, St. Boniface, Manitoba


Conservative senator Duffy claimed expenses while campaigning in 2011

By: Jennifer Ditchburn
Thursday, May 16, 2013

Senator Mike Duffy leaves a meeting of the Senate Internal Economy on Parliament Hill Thursday, May 9, 2013 in Ottawa. (The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick)

OTTAWA - Conservative Senator Mike Duffy submitted expense claims while Parliament was dissolved during the last federal election, reporting he was on Senate business on days he appeared to be campaigning for the party.

The full extent of Duffy's Senate expenses during the writ period remains a mystery — the Conservative government is refusing to reveal the full breakdown of the senator's claims and his repayment of $90,172.24.

But independent auditors at the firm Deloitte listed Duffy as being in Ottawa on Senate business and claiming a daily expense for seven days in April 2011, a month that was dominated by campaigning for the May 2 vote.

He was also listed as being on Senate business at an "other location" on another six days. Using cellphone records, Deloitte managed to catch one inappropriate "other location" claim from 2012 while Duffy was in Florida.

But the auditors said they remained in the dark about whether taxpayers paid his expenses on many other days, since Duffy failed to fully disclose his activities and records.

Social media and newspaper reports offer a glimpse of how Duffy's busy campaign schedule overlapped with the Senate business he reported to auditors:

— On April 5, Duffy spoke to the Kootenay-Columbia Conservative association in British Columbia. His travel claims indicated he was on Senate business.

— On April 8, candidate Sandy Lee tweeted that she was meeting Duffy in Norman Wells, NWT Lee's campaign paid Duffy $209.01 in expenses. His travel claims indicated he was on Senate business.

— On April 21, Duffy was reportedly campaigning with candidate Scott Armstrong in Nova Scotia. Armstrong's campaign paid Duffy $409.91 in expenses.

— On April 28, Duffy appeared to have a busy day in the Toronto area, campaigning with candidates Maureen Harquail, Wladyslaw Lizon and Gin Siow. Lizon's campaign paid Duffy $169.45, as did Siow. His travel claims indicated he was on Senate business.

— On April 29, former cabinet minister Lawrence Cannon tweeted a picture of Duffy at an event outside of Ottawa that same day. The Deloitte audit listed Duffy as being in Ottawa on Senate business and claiming a per diem.

If Duffy collected daily Senate expenses while on the Conservative campaign trail, taxpayer may have paid twice: Conservative candidates who paid for Duffy's hotel stays would have received federal rebate money for those expenses.

Duffy's campaign events did not end there. On at least five other occasions documented in media reports, Duffy campaigned with Conservative candidates. He did not tell Deloitte about his campaign calendar, forcing Deloitte to list his activities as "undocumented."

Meanwhile, the public Senate attendance register does not cover April or May 2011, the period that Parliament was dissolved.

"We are not on a leave of absence — Parliament was dissolved — we are still senators. However, all party work we are doing is paid for by the party," Duffy told Postmedia News during the campaign.

"MPs continue to be paid. So do we."

Duffy did not respond to a phone call or an email message requesting comment.

On Wednesday, the prime minister's office revealed that Stephen Harper's chief of staff Nigel Wright had given Duffy the $90,000 he needed for housing expense repayment as a gift.

But Duffy appeared to contradict that, according to a CTV News report Wednesday night. The network said it received an email from Duffy in which he claimed he repaid his expense claims with a loan from the Royal Bank and that "Nigel played no role.”

Once the repayment was made, Deloitte said Duffy ended his participation in the audit, stopping short of providing financial records, credit card statements and information about his calendar. He also did not meet with the auditors.

"Based on the information provided in the travel claims, it is not clear from the claims where Senator Duffy was located on days he claimed per diem amounts," Deloitte wrote.

Senator Mac Harb, formerly a Liberal who is now independent and contesting a Senate demand he repay $51,482 in housing-related expenses, is also listed as having been in Ottawa on Senate business on four days during the federal election period, but reported no Senate business outside of Ottawa.

Senator Patrick Brazeau, also now independent after being kicked out of the Conservative caucus, only listed one day of Senate business in Ottawa during the writ period. He is also fighting a demand for repayment of $48,744 in housing expenses.

Deloitte also highlighted six expense claims when Harb said he was in Ottawa on "Senate business" without being able to prove what he was doing, and two for Brazeau. In both cases, Harb and Brazeau provided Deloitte with more documents than Duffy, and met with the auditors in person.

Senate, MP expenses: Politicians can claim $90 a day for food without showing receipts
Althia Raj (Althia.Raj@huffingtonpost.com)
Monday, June 10, 2013
As MPs get ready to publicly disclose, several groups are questioning why Members of Parliament and Senators are allowed to claim per diems for food while in Ottawa without having to show any receipts. (CP/Alarny)

OTTAWA — As MPs get ready to publicly disclose more details of their expenses, several groups are questioning why members of Parliament and senators are allowed to claim per diems for food while in Ottawa without having to show any receipts.

MPs and senators are allowed to claim up to $89.95 per day for breakfast, lunch and dinner, without having to show how they spent the money, while working in the national capital region. Members of Parliament are also eligible for per diems while traveling across the country or abroad and may also charge taxpayers for meals while traveling in their own riding.

"The total comes to almost $90 a day. A day!" said former Liberal MP Michelle Simson, a champion for disclosure after being one of the first MPs to post all her expenses online. She says she was shunned by her colleagues for it and is currently working on a book about her experience in Ottawa.

"That is tax-free money and you don’t have to produce receipts at either place — the Senate or the House — to prove that you went out for dinner and maybe you treated yourself and dinner was $30. You just automatically apply for it and you get it."

"MPs and senators and frankly, members of the armed forces and anyone in government who gets a per diem, should have to produce receipts proving that they spent the money before they get reimbursed," she added. "Huge corporations have per diem amounts that cap what you can spend, but you certainly don’t get reimbursed without proving that you spent the money."

Nick Bergamini, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation research director, said he knows a lot of MPs are honest but anecdotally he’s heard stories of abuse, and wonders why taxpayers need to pick up the tab when MPs already get free food.

"Everyone else pays for their lunch and I don’t see why MPs can’t as well," he said.

A recent audit by Deloitte found that Sen. Mike Duffy had claimed 12 days of per diems while he was actually vacationing in Florida. The Senate told Duffy he owed them $1,050.60. In explaining the error, Duffy’s assistant, Diane Scharf (described in a Postmedia article as a veteran Parliament Hill staffer who had worked for both Liberal and Conservative MPs and senators) called the rules for expenses "convoluted."

According to Postmedia, she said it was "standard practice" in the Senate to file per diem claims based on the number of Senate sitting days in a month.

Bergamini called per diems a "salary top up" — worth up to $11,881.75 in tax-free money for MPs in 2013 according to HuffPost’s calculations — and said MPs have enough benefits as it is. He called for all MP and senators expenses to be posted online — with receipts.

"MPs get very, very generous benefits, (this) will make the system honest and then taxpayers can come to a conclusion about whether or not MPs actually deserve them," he said.

The National Citizens Coalition president Peter Coleman told HuffPost that per diems in the business world are meant to be used when an employee is traveling, not for day-to-day work.

"I don’t think they (MPs) should be getting per diems when they are in Ottawa," Coleman said. "I think they are wrong."

Simson said any committee she ever sat on that met during the lunch hour had meals brought in and warm food was served in the government and opposition lobbies on either side of the House.

"For me, it’s double dipping if you claim a whole day’s per diem but you had lunch in the House, you’ve double dipped for lunch…(but) I know that’s not the view that everyone takes," said Simson, noting that she never claimed any per diems during her three years in Ottawa.

It is just another example of the way MPs and senators are different than other Canadian taxpayers, Coleman said. "They have things and get benefits that you and I would never get as taxpayers working in the private sector. There has to be a reasonable level of where it makes sense and where it doesn’t make sense, and these per diems are just part of a symptom of a bigger problem."

Late last month, Marjory LeBreton, the Senate's government leader, told the upper chamber new spending rules would limit the number of per diems senators can claim while they are in Ottawa and the Senate isn’t sitting.

"The system was never intended to allow senators to stay in Ottawa over the summer months, pop into the office for an hour or so and claim a $90 per diem," she said. But since some senators do "legitimate" Senate work outside of chamber sittings, LeBreton said members of the red chamber who provided proof would be entitled to claim up to 20 additional days of per diems.

NDP House leader Nathan Cullen told HuffPost that because per diems come from the same budget allocation used for MP rent and hotel stays while in Ottawa — the Travel Status Expenses Account — and it maxes out at $26,238, many MPs don’t use their per diems or rarely claim them because there’s little budget left over.

"Most people don’t claim most of their per diems ‘cause you can’t, there is not enough budget. In my first three or four years here, I was donating money back to the federal government all the time because they don’t set up a budget that’s sufficient enough," he said. Cullen called the suggestion that MPs only get refunded on the presentation of receipts "interesting" and said "we’ll take a look at it."

Sunday on Global TV’s "The West Block," Cullen, who is also a spokesperson for the secretive Board of Internal Economy, a committee that administers the affairs of the House and only meets behind closed doors, said the Board was planning to send a letter to the Speaker Monday or Tuesday to explain new reporting guidelines that would provide more details on MPs’ expenses.

"We’re going to get more detail in the coming months on MPs’ salaries so that Canadians can go online and click a link and find out what we’re spending on travel, on hospitality, on hotels, on our staffing, that kind of thing," Cullen said. The Board had previously said it plans to release a more comprehensive breakdown of what MPs spend, but shied away from asking MPs to post receipts.

Conservative MP Brad Trost told HuffPost he’s not necessarily against the suggestion that MPs should have to fork over receipts for meals before being refunded. "I might actually come out ahead," he said.

Trost said he also doesn’t have the budget room to claim per diems every day but he has a policy with his staff that even if he is in Ottawa for more than four days, he claims no more than three. "It just averages out throughout the whole year," he said. "I use them as a way of covering expenses that are otherwise unexpensable."

Once a month, he says he hosts a different ambassador and other guests and he picks up the tab. "I don’t claim for that sort of stuff because I get ... per diems," he said. "Like a lot of MPs, the per diems pick up the expenses that we just can’t claim elsewhere."

He said it was easier to do this than use his hospitality budget, which ranges for all MPs between $8,541 to $10,734 based on the size and population of their riding.

Most people are "reasonable," Trost said but there "are always MPs who charge every stick of gum they possibly can."

According to the latest MPs’ expenditure report, MPs spent a total of $6,507,808.37 on housing and per diem expenses while in Ottawa during April 1, 2011 and March 31, 2012.


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