Senator Sandra M. Lovelace Nicholas
Appendix B—Files recommended for review by the Standing Senate Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration Senator Sandra M. Lovelace Nicholas
Province: New Brunswick
Appointment date: 21 September 2005
For the period from 1 April 2011 to 31 March 2013
|Total amount of items referred to the Internal Economy Committee
(including applicable taxes)
We found several instances of travel expenses claimed by the Senator that were not for parliamentary business.
1. The Senator’s declared primary residence was in the Tobique First Nation in New Brunswick, and her declared secondary residence was in Ottawa, throughout the audit period. The primary residence is approximately 200 kilometres from the nearest major airport, in Fredericton. Given this distance, we considered a one-night stay in Fredericton to be a reasonable practice.
2. Over the audit period, we found 40 instances when the length of the stay in Fredericton was greater than one night, including stays of up to 9 consecutive nights. The Senator stated that this generally occurred because she held meetings with members of First Nations in Fredericton on issues related to parliamentary business, or because weather delayed driving to her primary residence. The Senate Administrative Rules state that every person who uses Senate resources is responsible to account for that use. We received no additional documentation for the purpose of these stays or the events that took place during them. On the basis of the information available, we determined that these expenses had not been incurred for parliamentary business. The incremental travel cost associated with stays in excess of one night, including accommodations, mileage, and per diems, was $21,644.
3. We found that, on five occasions, the Senator travelled to Halifax. The Senator stated that the purpose of one of these trips was to discuss an education study with First Nations women. We also found that the Senator and her designated traveller took trips to western Canada. On the basis of the information available, we determined that these expenses had not been incurred for parliamentary business. The cost claimed for the trips, including airfare, accommodations, and per diems for the Senator and her designated traveller, was $53,583.
The Senator’s comments
I have a representative role in the Senate with an obligation to support my region and its minorities. As the only Aboriginal Senator in New Brunswick, I have many meetings in Fredericton and travel to communities throughout the province as well as the Atlantic region to discuss issues that pertain to my work in the Senate.
I am permitted by Senate Finance to stay overnight at a hotel in Fredericton when travelling to and from Ottawa because of the long distance to the Tobique First Nation, a two-and-a-half hour drive from Fredericton. Often inclement weather does not permit safe travel home and at times, because of fatigue, it is safer to overnight in Fredericton.
I am well known in my community and surrounding communities in New Brunswick, and individuals feel free to approach me directly when I am in Fredericton. Many meetings occur on such an informal basis in the provincial capital. Obviously a great many individuals find it easier to meet with me in Fredericton than to travel to the Tobique First Nation. Consequently, at times I will extend my stay in Fredericton in order to accommodate them. This would include meetings with members of Band Councils, Elders, Aboriginal women concerning issues of violence, individuals with housing issues, and with Aboriginal students.
If I remained exclusively at the Tobique First Nation as the Auditor General apparently wishes, I would miss important opportunities to represent my community effectively.
My trips to Halifax were also to discuss Aboriginal issues with various Aboriginal leaders in my region of the country. Provincial and national borders are not viewed in the same way in traditional Aboriginal culture as they are in Ottawa. My people and their ties with one another and with me, are not defined or limited by borders.
With respect to Vancouver, I traveled there to attend the three-day 2013 Indigenous Women in Leadership Gathering. In fact, I was given specific approval by Senate Finance to attend this gathering. I also travelled to Vancouver to attend the 19th Annual National Aboriginal Achievements Awards. In both cases, these high profile gatherings were important for me to attend as an Aboriginal Senator in order to better represent my people.
As one of only two Aboriginal women serving in the Senate, and the only one from Eastern Canada, I believe I have an important representative role to play for my people throughout the country, and I have tried to carry out that responsibility effectively and conscientiously.