Arbitrator set to report on questionable Senate expenses within days

The special arbitrator in charge of assessing questionable expense claims by 14 senators will submit his final report within days, CBC News has learned.

Ian Binnie evaluated expense claims of 14 senators through dispute resolution process

Retired Supreme Court of Canada Justice Ian Binnie will submit his report on 14 senators who participated in an arbitration process to evaluate questionable expenses by the end of February. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

The special arbitrator in charge of assessing questionable expense claims by 14 senators will submit his final report within days, CBC News has learned.

Former Supreme Court justice Ian Binnie, who was appointed last May to carry out a dispute resolution process, said he will file his report by the end of February dealing with all of the senators who agreed to the arbitration process.

But it's not clear when it will be made public.

Binnie told CBC News the report will have to be translated and processed through the Senate internal economy committee, which will determine when it will be formally tabled.

SInce last fall, Binnie has been holding collective and individual sessions with the senators participating in the arbitration process, as well as with their lawyers.

The arbitration process was established to ensure a fair and fast resolution after a report from the auditor general flagged spending claims from 30 current and former senators totalling nearly $1 million. Outstanding amounts in question range from $1,120 to $75,227, according to a repayment status report.

Once tabled, the Senate Committee of Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration will consider Binnie's findings "final and binding," said Senate spokeswoman Jacqui Delaney.

Legal action possible

"In cases where it has been determined there is money owing, the Senate will immediately inform Senators of the amount owing as determined by Justice Binnie," she said.

If payment is not made within 30 days of this notification, sitting senators will have their salary garnisheed, and legal action could be taken to recoup outstanding cash from retired senators. 

One senator told CBC News he had not yet learned the findings of his case, but expected to have that information before the report is made public.

Four retired senators (Sharon Carstairs, Rose-Marie Losier-Cool, Bill Rompkey and Gerry St. Germain) opted out after signalling they would participate. Another senator (Elaine McCoy) paid the amount identified by the auditor general and her case became moot.

Wallin returns to Senate

Senator Pamela Wallin has resumed sitting in the upper chamber with all office resources restored. Senators Mike Duffy and Patrick Brazeau are both on a leave of absence until all legal proceedings they are involved in are completed.

Duffy's trial wrapped up Tuesday, with Justice Charles Vaillancourt scheduled to deliver his decision on 31 charges of fraud, bribery and breach of trust on April 21.

Both Duffy and Brazeau have no access to office resources and are not accruing time toward their pensions.

Brazeau is also having his pay garnisheed, less child support payments. After February's payment, he owed  $14,338.52, according to a Senate spokesperson.

With files from Rosemary Barton

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