Harper distances Tories from Wallin
OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper distanced his party from Sen. Pamela Wallin — who was once a top Conservative fundraiser — after the RCMP alleged in court documents that she defrauded taxpayers for at least one partisan fundraiser.
Court documents made public Monday showed one of the 150 expense claims that caught the RCMP’s attention included a trip to Burlington, Ont., on Sept. 16, 2010, for an event for Conservative MP Mike Wallace.
When asked by Deloitte auditors whether it was a fundraiser, Wallin allegedly replied that “she assumed ‘people paid for dinner,’ ” RCMP Cpl. Rudy Exantus wrote in the court documents, adding that the event was a fundraiser to “amass funds for the next election.”
The RCMP allege this claim, along with 24 others, are evidence of fraud and breach of trust.
None of the allegations has been tested in court, and Wallin has not been charged with any crime.
Under questioning in the House of Commons on Tuesday, Harper said there was no evidence the Conservative party received funds from Wallin’s expense claims at the centre of the RCMP criminal probe.
“Upon discovering that (Wallin’s expenses) were not proper and correct, this party has taken the appropriate action,” Harper said. “Ms. Wallin has not been a member of this caucus for two years and she is going to face full accountability for her actions.”
Wallin remains suspended without pay from the Senate, and was booted from the Conservative caucus in May 2013, one day after Sen. Mike Duffy left the Tory fold. Wallin has denied any wrongdoing, and has said her former Tory colleagues held a vendetta against her because of her high-profile work for the party and the attention she received from the prime minister.
The RCMP investigation into Wallin’s spending is now more than a year and a half old and has seen investigators reconcile more than a dozen different digital and print versions of Wallin’s schedule, along with interviews with anyone named in the calendars.
All but three of the 25 expense claims the RCMP allege were fraudulent caught the attention of outside auditors from Deloitte, who reviewed Wallin’s travel spending on the Senate’s orders. The RCMP allege Wallin defrauded taxpayers of about $27,500 for the 25 expense claims.
The RCMP alleged Wallin charged the Senate for travel related to her work on the board of directors for Porter Airlines and wealth management firm Gluskin Sheff & Associates. The Mounties also allege that on some trips to Toronto, Wallin took care of her personal affairs, pointing to notes in her calendar for medical and dental appointments, birthday parties, a book launch, hair appointments, dry cleaning and “picking up candle holders.”
The RCMP also alleged that Wallin “misrepresented” some of her events to Deloitte auditors. In once case, Wallin told auditors she met with Barrick Gold founder Peter Munk in March 2010. Munk told the RCMP he was in Switzerland at the time.
Wallin has denied any wrongdoing. Her lawyer said Monday the Senate expenses were “an administrative error,” and repaid once the errors were identified. Lawyer Terrence O’Sullivan said: “There was no possibility of personal gain for Sen. Wallin, because the expenses would have been paid for by the companies in any event.”
Investigators have received expense details on 13 events related to her work for Gluskin Sheff & Associates to determine whether the company covered her costs at the same time she charged the Senate. Porter Airlines, however, told investigators the company was “not in possession of any of the items sought,” according to an RCMP court document filed Monday.