Auditor general's report into Senate expense claims released today
Senate Speaker, auditor general to address media separately after report goes public
The public will get its first full look at the findings of Auditor General Michael Ferguson's forensic audit of the Senate's expense claims when his report is released today shortly after 2 p.m. ET.
The damaging report is the culmination of more than two years of controversy over senators' expenses, a scandal that has brought down a number of senators, spurred RCMP investigations and court proceedings and now promises to bring more scrutiny to even the most powerful figures in the upper chamber.
- Senate leaders Housakos, Cowan repaying expenses, dropping arbitration
- Senate leaders caught up in AG expenses audit
- Auditor general calls for 'transformative change' in Senate
The Senate leadership has decided to hold off on acting on any of the recommendations outlined in the report, sources confirmed to CBC News.
Conservative senators were told on Monday night during an emergency meeting the caucus would not immediately act upon the recommendations, in what appears to be a bid to underline the Senate's independence.
The leader of the Senate Liberals, James Cowan, called for further study and consultation before accepting or rejecting anything. Any position, Cowan wrote in an email to his caucus and obtained by CBC News, would be "not only unwise but premature."
The Conservative and Senate Liberal caucuses are meeting today at 11 a.m.
The auditor general's office investigated the expense claims of current and former senators going back a number of years, and found 30 with inappropriate expenses totaling more than $975,000. The ineligible expenses ranged from a few thousand dollars to more than $175,000 for the highest spender, retired Manitoba Liberal Senator Rod Zimmer.
Nine of the cases, including those of sitting senators Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu and Colin Kenny, have already been sent to the RCMP for possible investigation.
The auditor general's report was delivered to the Senate on Thursday, giving staff several days to craft responses to the findings. The email from Cowan to members of the Senate Liberal caucus said "talking points" would be made available to senators during their meeting today, before the report's release to the public.
The auditor general is also expected to make several recommendations to change the Senate's expense rules. In anticipation, the Senate has already signalled it will end the practise of providing meals at committee meetings and will bring in changes to its travel policy to restrict business class flights after the end of the current sitting.
Speaker Leo Housakos is expected to address the media in the foyer of the Senate at 2:15 p.m. ET, shortly after the report is released.
At 3:45 p.m. ET, the auditor general will hold a news conference in Ottawa to discuss his findings. CBCnews.ca will carry both events live.
On Monday, Housakos and Cowan announced they are reimbursing the full amount of their contested expense claims, about $6,000 and $10,000 respectively, and won't dispute the auditor general's findings before the Senate's newly appointed arbiter.
The nine senators whose cases have been referred to the RCMP, according to The Canadian Press:
- Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu, sitting, recently removed from Conservative caucus (Quebec).
- Colin Kenny, sitting (Ontario).
- Rod Zimmer, retired (Manitoba).
- Rose-Marie Losier-Cool, retired (New Brunswick).
- Sharon Carstairs, retired (Manitoba).
- Marie-Paule Charette-Poulin, retired (Ontario).
- Bill Rompkey, retired (Newfoundland and Labrador).
- Donald Oliver, retired (Nova Scotia).
- Gerry St. Germain, retired (British Columbia).
The 21 senators whose expenses have been flagged by the auditor general:
- Senate Speaker Leo Housakos, sitting (Quebec)
- Government Leader Claude Carignan, sitting (Quebec)
- Senate Liberal Leader James Cowan, sitting (Nova Scotia)
- Don Plett, sitting (Manitoba)
- David Tkachuk, sitting (Saskatchewan)
- Sandra Lovelace Nicholas, sitting (New Brunswick)
- Nick Sibbeston, sitting (Northwest Territories)
- Terry Mercer, sitting (Nova Scotia)
- Dennis Patterson, sitting (Nunavut)
- Janis Johnson, sitting (Manitoba)
- Joseph Day, sitting (New Brunswick)
- Lowell Murray, retired (Ontario)
- Vivienne Poy, retired (Ontario)
- Robert Peterson, retired (Saskatchewan)
- Elaine McCoy, sitting (Alberta)
- Noel Kinsella, retired (New Brunswick)
- Pana Merchant, sitting (Saskatchewan)
- Terry Stratton, retired (Manitoba)
- Jean-Guy Dagenais, sitting (Quebec)
- Nicole Eaton, sitting (Ontario)
- Nancy Greene Raine, sitting (British Columbia)
With files from Hannah Thibedeau and Julie Van Dusen