Politics

Jane Philpott apologizes for car costs, defends statement to Parliament

Speaking to reporters in Sudbury, where the federal cabinet has gathered for two days of meetings, Health Minister Jane Philpott apologized on Sunday for car service expenses charged by her office and defended her statement to Parliament that she was not travelling in a limousine.

Health minister apologizes in person after controversy over expensive travel

Speaking to reporters in Sudbury, where the federal cabinet has gathered for two days of meetings, Health Minister Jane Philpott apologized on Sunday for car service expenses charged by her office and defended her statement to Parliament that she was not travelling in a limousine.

"I'm happy now to say in person, in front of all of you, that I apologized for what took place. There was the use of a car service in the conducting of my ministerial duties and the costs were too high," Philpott said. "Those costs were inappropriate. I apologize for that."

The minister's travel charges became an issue last week when it was discovered that she had charged $1,700 for a day of travel around Toronto and Hamilton, Ont. 

In statements issued on Wednesday and Thursday, Philpott acknowledged that the costs were too high for that travel and at least one other trip, apologized and said she would reimburse the government for any charges above a fair market rate.

"In recognition of the fact those costs were too high I made the decision to personally pay those costs myself," she said on Sunday. "And we have recognized that we need to have better policies in place in our office, and have certainly taken steps already to ensure that this will not happen again..

"I think it brings up the fact that in the conducting of our business and our busy days, that we need to have absolutely rigid, rock solid, procedures, checklists that we go through and that all of government needs to go through."

Did Philpott mislead Parliament?

In response to an opposition question submitted through the House of Commons, Philpott had previously said that her office had not made use of "rented limousines." In light of last week's revelations, the accuracy of that statement was questioned, though it is now known that the car she travelled in was a Lexus sedan.

"As in all order paper questions, I take the advice of my department on those responses. There is a procedure that's done to determine the appropriate answer. The answer that was given was the answer that was given on the advice of my department," Philpott said on Sunday.

"You know, I don't want to get into the semantics of definitions of types of vehicles. In retrospect, we could have obviously been much more specific and clarified exactly what car service I used in some of my work. Again, lessons learned."

Asked specifically then whether she felt had misled Parliament, Philpott said "no."

The matter is the subject of a complaint to the ethics commissioner from Conservative MP Colin Carrie, who is concerned that the owner of the car service was a volunteer on Philpott's election campaign.

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