Patrick Brazeau's Senate housing allowance questioned

The government's leader in the Senate says she's asked the committee in charge of spending rules to look at whether Patrick Brazeau is illegitimately collecting a housing allowance.

Conservatives ask committee to examine allowance after media report raises questions

Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau takes part in a weigh-in for his March boxing match against a Liberal MP. The government's leader in the Senate is asking colleagues to look into a report says Brazeau is collecting a $21,000 a year housing allowance for a house in Maniwaki, Que., in which he doesn't live. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

The government's leader in the Senate says she's asked the committee in charge of spending rules to look at whether Patrick Brazeau is illegitimately collecting a housing allowance.

According to a media report Tuesday night, Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau is collecting a $21,000 housing allowance for a house he rents in the Ottawa area and claiming his primary residence is in Maniwaki, Que., 135 km outside of Ottawa. The report said Brazeau's father lives at the Maniwaki address and cited several people from the town who said they rarely, if ever, see the senator there.

Senators who live more than 100 km outside of Ottawa can have a second residence in the capital region and receive up to $21,000 a year to cover that expense.

Senate Government Leader Marjory LeBreton says she's asked the Senate's board of internal economy what the rules are and whether Brazeau's expenditures are inappropriate. LeBreton is from Ottawa and said she doesn't know precisely the rules for the housing allowance.

"I'm looking into it, but inappropriate spending and inappropriate behaviour will not be tolerated by me as government house leader," LeBreton said Wednesday.

"I have to find out first how it was handled administratively and after I've determined that I will then decide what to do. But as I've indicated ... anyone that knows me knows well that inappropriate spending by any parliamentarian I do not condone nor will I tolerate it."

Brazeau is in Saskatoon in the middle of a study with the Senate human rights committee and wasn't available for an interview, a spokeswoman said.

"Senator Brazeau is in full and complete compliance with the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration’s travel policy," she wrote in an email.

NDP calls for Senate abolition

Senators on the board of internal economy, which conducts discussions of personnel matters behind closed doors, will take a preliminary look at Brazeau's spending to see if he may be breaking the rules. If it looks like he is, the case will be referred to the committee. 

The committee meets Thursday but Brazeau isn't on the agenda for that meeting.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said Wednesday he wouldn't comment on an individual case, but called for the Senate to be abolished.

"It simply shows once again that we have a Senate that's not accountable to the public," Mulcair said.

"A lot of institutions have been put in place over the years that you have the ability to account for public money and to find out how it’s being spent. There’s no similar oversight with regard to the Senate. There's no way to control that."

"To simply get rid of the Senate is, of course, the NDP's approach," he added.

'Remove him from caucus'

Liberal MP Scott Andrews says mispending reflects badly on all politicians and that he's written to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who appointed Brazeau, to ask him to take responsibility.

"We're asking the prime minister to look into this. These are very serious allegations against the senator," Andrews said.

"I think the prime minister needs to take action against this senator, and remove him from his caucus, remove him from the Senate."

New Democrat MP Charlie Angus, the party's ethics critic, says Harper should explain why he chose Brazeau as a senator above other contenders.

"I think right off, this is a test for the Senate. This is basically a secretive old boys club that have shown no accountability. Mr. Brazeau is just one in a long line of less-than-illustrious characters," he said.

Brazeau has the worst attendance record in the Senate, which he has said are the result of dealing with "personal issues."