STATEMENT BY THE HONOURABLE SENATOR DENNIS PATTERSON
ON THE RECENT AUDITOR GENERAL’S REPORT ON SENATORS’ EXPENSES
The Auditor General recently released his report on Senators’ Expenses covering the period from April, 2011 to March, 2013. After fully cooperating in this long and involved process, I feel that it has been an essential step as the Senate moves toward improved efficiency, accountability, and transparency.
Certain errors found were made in good faith and were fully repaid. Those errors had to do with:
- Expenses to travel to a fundraising event sponsored by a non-profit charity, which Senate rules now clarify does not qualify as parliamentary business ($5,205.00)
- Expenses related to a visit to Pangnirtung, Nunavut, which the Auditor General concluded was not parliamentary business ($995.00)
- Expenses for a news monitoring service provided by an employee in my office from his own home on his own time over two years. This service was deemed to be part of that employee’s duties as Policy Advisor, so it was determined by the Auditor General to be an expense made in error ($3,023.00)
- The largest expense ruled in error by the Auditor General relates to payments made over two fiscal years for legal services provided by a constitutional lawyer and relating to the unique situation of a Senator from Nunavut, considering the property owning requirements in the Constitution Act of 1867 and the community property provisions of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement. The expenses for those legal services were paid over two fiscal years.
I will be exercising my right to independent arbitration with regard to the error relating to legal expenses.
In my 500 word response to the AG’s final report, I believe that I fully explained the circumstances surrounding the expense incurred:
- I was advised by the Law Clerk of the Senate to ask about the unique situation of a Senator representing the territory of Nunavut under the Constitution of Canada. He suggested an expert in constitutional law, who was also licensed to practice law in Nunavut.
- I thought, initially, that all the work could be done within the FY 2011-12, and within my limited office research budget.
- However, I soon was advised that the work required would be greater than originally anticipated, due to the complexity of the question.
- I asked Senate Administration officials (including the Clerk of the Senate and the Director of Finance) for advice on how to proceed to cover the amount that would be over budget.
- Unfortunately, no one in Senate Administration, including the Clerk of the Senate, informed me that I could have applied to the Board of Internal Economy to cover those legal fees under the Senate Legal Assistance and Indemnification Policy. That policy provides indemnification for outside legal advice for a Senator “…where the matter relates to the parliamentary functions of the Senator [and] the particulars of the case are such that it is otherwise appropriate for the Senate to assist,” which were clearly at stake in this constitutional matter.
- The additional work requested of the law firm was to be included with the second invoice issued in FY 2012-13. The law firm had amended the invoice to remove “for professional services rendered to arch 30, 2012” because I was still waiting for a legal opinion in the new fiscal year. Unfortunately, this final deliverable was not received due to the lead lawyer on the file leaving the firm to set up his own law firm.
- It only became clear during the audit that I should not have had to use my research budget to pay for legal advice on a major constitutional issue. From the first time I sought advice from the Law Clerk of the Senate on this Constitutional matter and from the first time I realized that the legal work would be much more than anticipated, I informed and relied on the Senate Administration for their advice on how to proceed.
I look forward to presenting my case to the Arbitrator, that I acted in good faith and that this expense was related to parliamentary business.
Throughout my years of public service, whether as an MLA, as Premier, and now as Senator, I have always been mindful of the need to be a steward of public funds. This is a principle upon, which, I govern my actions, and it is one that I will carry forward as my colleagues and I strive to modernize the Senate of Canada, so that it can be a source of pride for all Canadians.