Senator Sharon Carstairs (resigned)
Appendix A—Files recommended for referral to other authorities Senator Sharon Carstairs (resigned)
Appointment date: 15 September 1994
Resignation date: 17 October 2011
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 expenses claimed by the Senator that were ineligible because of an incorrect declaration of her primary residence.
1. The Senator’s declared primary residence was in Winnipeg and her declared secondary residence was in Ottawa. The Senator stated that she sold her home in Manitoba on 1 June 2011, she paid income taxes to that province, and held a driver’s licence, vehicle registration, and health card from that same province. Given these declarations, a normal travel pattern would involve regular travel from Winnipeg to Ottawa and back, with much of the Senator’s time being spent in Winnipeg.
2. Of the 61 days during the audit period before the Senator sold her residence in Winnipeg, the Senator stayed 8 days in Winnipeg and 22 days in Ottawa. To better assess the Senator’s travel pattern, we reviewed the Senator’s expense claims for the 2010–11 fiscal year, before the audit period, and found that the Senator spent only 32 days in Winnipeg during that period, and at least 153 days in Ottawa. We based our analysis on available travel and telecommunications records.
3. We found that the Senator spent extended periods of time in Ottawa. Accordingly, we determined that the Senator’s primary residence was in Ottawa. We also found that, when the Senator travelled to Winnipeg, she regularly rented a vehicle at her own expense.
4. From 1 April to 31 May 2011, the Senator claimed for living expenses that would not have been allowed if she had declared Ottawa as her primary residence. Those living expenses, including 61 days for accommodations and 8 days for per diems, totalled $2,399.
5. After her resignation in October 2011, the Senator claimed $5,129 to travel from Ottawa to Winnipeg and back. Senate rules permitted travel between the Senator’s residence and Ottawa after resignation, to complete parliamentary business. However, given that the Senator’s primary residence was in Ottawa at the time of her resignation, we determined that this claim was not eligible.
The former Senator’s comments
The audit states that my primary residence was not Winnipeg. All my documentation would indicate otherwise. I owned a home until June 1, 2011 and farmland property until 2012. I voted provincially and federally in Manitoba. I paid taxes provincially and federally in Manitoba. My health care card, my driver’s licence, vehicle registration and my bank accounts were all in Manitoba. This complied with the recommendations of the Law Clerk of the Senate. There are no rules with respect to the number of days which must be spent in the primary residence. Had such rules existed I would have fulfilled them as I did all other rules in the Senate. The first mention of days spent as a factor in primary residence was in the Deloitte Audit of May 2013 and I had been retired for 18 months. No change to the rules has been made to the number of days spent since that time. However if such a rule had existed it would have significantly reduced the number of speeches that I gave throughout the country on the topics of Palliative Care and Aging based on reports tabled and unanimously approved in the Senate in 2000, 2005, 2008 and 2010. Senators were limited in the number of travel points and had I needed to use the majority of these points to go to Manitoba I would have been unable to promote the work of the Senate in these critical areas.
Senate Administrative Rules (SARS), and the Senate Travel Guidelines state that upon retirement a Senator is entitled for the purpose of closing the Senator’s office and otherwise winding up Senator’s parliamentary affairs to 4 travel points allotted during the one year period from the day the person ceased to be a Senator. These are found in Section 21 of the Travel Guidelines and Section 7 of the SARS. I took a trip to Manitoba on October 31, 2011 following retirement on October 17, 2011, in order to wind up my affairs. I did media work, spoke to a school, did a debriefing of former staff and met with the Executive Director of the Canadian Virtual Hospice a program whose original funding had been granted when I was Government Leader in the Senate and Minister with Special Responsibility for Palliative Care. I used only 1 of the 4 travel points and charged only my Airfare and Airport Parking. I believed that to be well within the rules of the Senate of Canada. This claim was paid by Senate Finance without question although it clearly stated the travel was from Ottawa-Winnipeg-Ottawa.
Should The Internal Economy Committee of the Senate upon receipt of the audit decide that I have in some way misinterpreted the rules of the Senate then I will abide by their decision. However I do not believe that at any time that I was in the Senate did I fail to respect either the letter or the spirit of the rules of the Senate.