Statement by Senator Tkachuk on 19th Report of Internal Economy
(The following statement was made in the Senate Chamber by Senator Tkachuk today,
February 28, 2013)
The Internal Economy Committee is responsible for the payment of expenses incurred by senators while they are doing their job. It is neither in our mandate nor our jurisdiction to make any findings on the constitutional question of residency. There has been some confusion on this matter. In the history of the Senate, the declaration of primary residence is a rather recent administrative form and applies only to the question of submitting expenses.
On June 18, 1998, the Senate adopted a policy that provides that senators who come to Ottawa to carry out their parliamentary functions, and who are more than 100 kilometers from their registered primary residence, are on travel status in Ottawa and may be reimbursed for eligible living expenses in the National Capital Region. This policy followed the recommendation of the 1998 Blais Commission to Review Allowances of Members of Parliament. It was patterned after a similar policy adopted by the House of Commons. The budget set for this purpose for 2012-13 is $22,000.
In December 2012, it was determined that there were three senators whose use of residency expenses needed further review. With the approval of the Internal Economy Committee, the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure (Steering Committee), referred the claims of one senator to Deloitte. A Special Subcommittee of the Internal Economy Committee chaired by Senator Beth Marshall referred the claims of two other senators to Deloitte as well.
Subsequently, to establish primary residency all senators were asked to submit copies of three documents: a driver’s license; a provincial health card; and relevant information on their income tax return, together with a signed statement of where they vote. Senators’ travel patterns to their primary residences were also reviewed. It was felt that these five criteria would provide the Internal Economy Committee with the information necessary to establish a senator’s primary residence. Providing a senator has to travel more than 100 km from the NCR to their primary residence, he or she is eligible to claim a secondary residence. The results of the review of the documentation that was submitted are as follows:
• All 98 senators responded to the request for information. There were five vacancies and two pending retirements when the requests were sent.
• The Steering Committee of the Internal Economy Committee agreed that if a senator met all four indicators supported by travel documentation they were deemed to have been interviewed.
• The committee interviewed two senators to obtain additional information. Following these interviews, media reports suggested, incorrectly, that the residency status of Senator Patterson was in question. Senator Patterson satisfied the committee that his primary residence is in Nunavut. The other senator, Senator Zimmer, also met the requirements.
• As a result of this process no other senators were referred to external auditors.
In order to improve stewardship of Senate operations with respect to primary and secondary declarations, your committee makes the following recommendations:
1. That accompanying their primary residence declaration, each senator furnish a driver’s licence, a health card and the relevant page of their income tax form each and every time the declaration is signed. This declaration is signed annually for the purpose of claiming living expenses in the NCR.
2. that the Internal Economy Committee instruct management to standardize terminology in the Senate’s policy instruments;
3. that the Senators’ Travel Policy be reviewed to comply with primary residence declarations.
There will be no further comment to avoid any question of interference with the external audit process.
Link to report: NINETEENTH REPORT
c.c.: Hon. George J. Furey
Hon. Carolyn Stewart-Olsen
Gary W. O’Brien