Politics

Two more senior Liberal aides to repay $55,000 in moving expenses

Two more Liberal senior staffers are paying back almost $55,000 in moving expenses a day after two of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's most senior staff were compelled to repay $65,000 of their own moving expenses.

Innovation minister's chief of staff expensed almost $104,000 to move from Toronto to Rockcliffe

Senior aids for Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains, right, and Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion, will repay $55,000 in moving expenses. (Canadian Press)

Two more Liberal senior staffers are paying back almost $55,000 in moving expenses a day after two of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's most senior staff were compelled to repay $65,000 of their own moving expenses. 

Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains' chief of staff Elder Marques received $103,997 in moving expenses when he relocated to Ottawa. He has agreed to reimburse $22,467 worth of the land transfer taxes he paid when he moved to a $1.5 million home in Rockcliffe.

Joseph Pickerill, spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion, issued a statement late Friday to say Julian Ovens, Dion's chief of staff is also paying back $32,130, an amount "representing the personalized cash payout."

Ovens reimbursement also includes some of the land transfer tax he paid on his home in Ottawa.  

These latest repayments brings to four the number of top Liberal aides who have agreed to reimburse part of the $1.1 million in moving expenses paid to move 49 political staffers to Ottawa.

The federal government's National Joint Council Relocation Directive outlines what kinds of expenses can be reimbursed. However, in the case of political staff it is left to each cabinet minister's discretion whether staff will be reimbursed for any moving expenses.

Ten ministers did not pay a cent in relocation expenses.

Bains is one of a handful of ministers whose offices have been hit by controversy and come under a spotlight this week after it was revealed that the Liberal government had paid $1.1 million to move 49 political aides to Ottawa.

After first refusing to disclose which staffers were reimbursed for moving expenses, two top advisors to Trudeau —Principal Secretary Gerald Butts and Chief of Staff Katie Telford — issued a statement late Thursday saying that while their moving expense claims followed government rules, they would repay $65,0000 of the amount they received.

Elder Marques, chief of staff to Bains, received $103,997 for expenses related to his move from Toronto to Ottawa. (LinkedIn)

Butts had claimed $126,669 in expenses for selling his home in Toronto's High Park neighborhood for $1 million and buying a $1.3 home in Ottawa's trendy Westboro area. The prime minister's office has not responded to questions about whether Butts' expenses include insurance on his $1.16 million mortgage, usually required when a house is bought with a downpayment of only 12-per cent.

Telford, who sold her Toronto home and is renting a house in Westboro, charged $80,382.

While the pair's bills were among the highest tabs reimbursed by the government, they weren't the only ones to file five or six figure claims.

Documents tabled in the House of Commons say It cost the government $113,799 to move one of the two political staffers in Bains office, based on the estimates provided by a relocation service hired by the government. However, Proulx said that was just an estimate and the final tab was $103,997

Moving the second staffer cost an estimated $37,171.

According to land registry records, Marques, who worked as a lawyer with McCarthy Tétrault before coming to work for Bains, sold his home on Yarmouth Road in Toronto in May for $1,472,000 and bought a home on Buena Vista Road in Ottawa's toney Rockcliffe neighborhood for $1,493,355.

Julian Ovens, chief of staff to Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion, will also be paying back part of his moving costs. (LinkedIn)

In their statement Thursday, Butts and Telford said that land transfer taxes on the purchase of his Ottawa home were among the costs he plans to repay.

"In Gerry's case, he also decided it was unreasonable to be reimbursed for the land transfer tax associated with the cost of his new family home, over and above what would have been the cost of the tax on a home at the average house price in Ottawa for 2016."

Speaking to CBC on his way out of Question Period, Bains said he wanted to respect government guidelines when he approved the moving expenses.

"We followed the rules. We wanted to make sure that we respect the travel arrangements when individuals are moving their families over and as mentioned by the House Leader, they are reviewing the guidelines."

Friday marked the fourth day in a row that the issue dominated the Conservative attack in Question Period. However, the Conservatives ended up on the defensive after House Leader Bardish Chagger revealed that taxpayers picked up nearly $93,000 in moving expenses to relocate a Conservative political staffer to Ottawa.

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