Regina Leader-Post

Harper cuts his losses with Wallin

- MURRAY MANDRYK Mandryk is the political columnist for the Leader-Post.

Beyond the incredible cruelty politician­s of opposite stripes find necessary to inflict upon each other, there is a cruelty that surpasses that.

It’s the cruelty politician­s inflict on one of their own when he or she becomes a liability.

Or so Saskatchew­an Senator Pamela Wallin is now finding out, as she sits suspended from her job without pay and without the least bit of support from the Conservati­ves who put her in the Senate.

Not only have none of the allegation­s been proven against her in court, but she hasn’t even been charged with a criminal offence.

But in the cutthroat world of politics, the mere whiff of wrongdoing is enough send your onceloyal friends scurrying to cut their own losses, leaving you at the mercy of your enemies.

Lest there be any confusion in the matter, the above should not be taken as sympathy towards Wallin anymore than it should be seen as a presumptio­n of guilt. But here is the latest developmen­t:

According to RCMP allegation­s in documents filed in court, Wallin is alleged to have fabricated meetings and charged taxpayers for flights and travel related to her work on corporate boards.

“Senator Wallin used public funds to travel to Toronto in order to pursue these private and business interests,” according to the RCMP’s Cpl. Rudy Exantus in a court document dated Jan. 29, and made public in an Ottawa courthouse Monday.

“Senator Wallin, when confronted by an external audit, misreprese­nted the nature of these trips to Toronto, and at times, fabricatin­g meetings which the RCMP was able to determine (through interviews) to have never taken place.

“In doing so, I believe that Senator Wallin breached the standard of responsibi­lity and conduct demanded of her and by the nature of her office,” the document states.

The RCMP alleges such expenses should have been charged to two private companies — Porter Airlines and wealth management firm Gluskin Sheff & Associates — for whom Wallin served on the boards of directors. Instead, the RCMP allege related expenses were charged to the Senate and written off as “Senate business”.

Responding to the allegation­s, Wallin’s lawyer stated Monday it was the policy of both companies to reimburse Wallin for travel to all such board meetings and other company functions and chalked up the discrepanc­y to “an administra­tive error”.

Wallin has repaid $150,000 for questionab­le travel claims (plus interest) after Deloitte auditors found she charged the Senate for personal business or stayed in Toronto on trips from Ottawa to Saskatchew­an.

The RCMP also noted in the court documents that 150 suspicious expense claims that Wallin submitted to the Senate are still under investigat­ion — all part of a year and a half probe into Wallin’s travel in which the RCMP has examined 246 of her travel expense claims to the Senate and crosscheck­ed them with her calendars between 2009 and 2013.

Again, there are no charges and nothing has been proved in court.

Neverthele­ss, the mere question of impropriet­y is all that’s required in politics for someone to be left completely on their own — even someone like Wallin, who has gone in two years from the lofty stratosphe­re of being a key Conservati­ve player and one of province’s most revered figures to one who doesn’t even have the support of those who appointed her.

You may recall Prime Minister Stephen Harper telling the House in February 2013 that he had personally reviewed Wallin’s travel expenses. “Her travel costs are comparable to any parliament­arian travelling from that particular area of the country over that period of time,” Harper said.

Well, within weeks, Harper was backing off from those statements and has offered Wallin no support since. And, frankly, no one is likely to condemn Harper for disloyalty or being unwilling to give Wallin the benefit of the doubt. As nasty as it is, it’s what any leader would do when an asset is suddenly perceived to be a liability.

It doesn’t even matter what Wallin did for the Conservati­ves in the past, that her case will likely have little or no impact on the federal campaign in Saskatchew­an, or that she hasn’t even had her day in court.

Politics is a cruel world where there is no room for liabilitie­s.

And politician­s are often cruelest to their own.

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