Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Harper's ally implicated in Senate expenses scandal

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OTTAWA -- One of the accusers has become an accused in the Senate expenses scandal.

But Sen. Carolyn Stewart Olsen insists she's been falsely accused of improperly claiming living expenses.

The Conservative senator -- who is closely allied with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and who was instrumental in calling on the RCMP to investigate the allegedly invalid expense claims of four other senators -- denies she wrongly claimed more than $4,000 in accommodation and meals when she was not involved in Senate business.

"I have reviewed these claims with the Senate finance administration and they have found nothing improper," Stewart Olsen said in a terse statement Tuesday. "I welcome the auditor general's review of all senators' expenses."

The statement followed a report in The Huffington Post Canada, which alleged Stewart Olsen wrongly claimed daily living expenses from December 2010 to February 2011 -- even though the Senate was not sitting for most of that time and her calendar showed no public business in Ottawa during that period.

The Huffington Post quotes Stewart Olsen as saying she shouldn't have claimed per diems for days when the Senate wasn't sitting and promising to repay the money if a mistake was made. However, her subsequent statement made no mention of repayment or having erred. Stewart Olsen did not respond to a request for clarification.

Stewart Olsen was a key member of the Senate's internal economy committee, which sat in judgment on the dubious expense claims of four other senators -- Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin, Patrick Brazeau and Mac Harb.

She was one of three members of the committee that oversaw external audits into the quartet's expense claims and ultimately demanded repayment while recommending the RCMP investigate.

She and fellow Conservative Sen. David Tkachuk have also been accused of initially whitewashing a report on Duffy to essentially clear him of any deliberate wrongdoing. They've denied those accusations.

 

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 2, 2013 A9

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