Federal spending watchdog says Jason Kenney didn't break rules by claiming mom's basement as primary residence

A committee that oversees House of Commons expenses has cleared Alberta Premier Jason Kenney of any wrongdoing for claiming a room in his mother's basement as his primary residence while sitting as a Conservative MP.

New Alberta premier was accused of falsely claiming expenses while he was an MP in Ottawa

United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney speaks at a rally in the Edmonton suburb of Sherwood Park, Alta., before last month's election. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

A federal committee that oversees House of Commons expenses has cleared Alberta Premier Jason Kenney of any wrongdoing for claiming a room in his mother's basement as his primary residence while he sat as a Conservative MP. 

House of Commons expenditure reports show Kenney collected secondary-residence subsidies in Ottawa between 2012 and 2015 of about $10,000 each year as an MP for Calgary Midnapore, while his mother's retirement-community bungalow in Calgary was listed as his address with Elections Canada.

Daniel Paquette, the chief financial officer of the House of Commons, said Kenney, whose United Conservative Party won a majority in last month's provincial election, met all the requirements that were necessary at the time of his claims.

'Partisan considerations'

While conservative MPs on the Board of Internal Economy were satisfied with the ruling, they called the process a partisan attack and warned they could dig into historical expense claims, as well. 

The Board of Internal Economy is responsible for the financial and administrative affairs of the House of Commons, and sets budgets for MP office spending, hospitality, travel expenses and security.

"I think, quite frankly, this board should be very concerned that this process was engaged for what can only be determined to have been partisan considerations to affect the ability of Mr. Kenney to conduct his campaign to become premier of Alberta," said MP Mark Strahl. 

"So, quite frankly, I think this was a very disturbing case, because we can all play this game. We can go back to times when members of the Liberal Party were found to have been illegally claiming housing allowances," Strahl said.

Conservative MP Candice Bergen echoed her colleague's concerns.

"I think we have to think very, very seriously about what happened and how we were a part of it," she said.

The Board of Internal Economy is the governing body of the House of Commons and is responsible for expense policies. It is non-partisan.

Allegations raised before campaign

The allegations that Kenney was improperly claiming expenses was first raised by lawyer Kyle Morrow in January in the lead-up to the Alberta election campaign.

Morrow ran for the Alberta Liberals in the riding of Lacombe-Ponoka in the 2012 provincial election, which prompted the Kenney campaign to dismiss him as a "failed Liberal candidate."

The parliamentary investigation was initiated when Ontario Liberal MP Jennifer O'Connell formally requested it. 

At the board hearing on Thursday, government house whip Mark Holland said he believes the investigation was important, even though it found no fault. 

"I understand the concern. I would just simply state that the process of verifying, particularly when in a public forum and there are questions about expenses, there is an important need to verify the veracity of those expenses sometimes," he said. 

Holland said he is satisfied with the findings.