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Philpott will repay $520 for Air Canada lounge access

Health minister says she has directed her department to review all of her expenses and will reimburse any found to be inappropriate


 
Health Minister Jane Philpott answers a question during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, June 16, 2016. The limo company that provided thousands of dollars in high-end car service to Health Minister Philpott says it is willing to reimburse taxpayers.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Health Minister Jane Philpott answers a question during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, June 16, 2016. The limo company that provided thousands of dollars in high-end car service to Health Minister Philpott says it is willing to reimburse taxpayers.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

OTTAWA – The controversy surrounding Jane Philpott’s travel expenses grew Monday as evidence surfaced that the federal Liberal health minister billed taxpayers $520 for access to Air Canada’s executive airport lounges in North America and Europe.

Late Monday, the minister promised to repay the money after the Opposition Conservatives used the Access to Information Act to obtain the receipt for the one-year “Maple Leaf Club North America Plus” membership.

A copy of the document was provided to The Canadian Press.

Tory MP Colin Carrie, who is health critic in the Conservative shadow cabinet, said the Air Canada expense reflects a broader trend of “excess and entitlement” on the part of the minister and the Liberal government.

“It is another example of the minister’s lack of judgment and disrespect for the Canadian taxpayer,” he said.

Aaron Wudrick, the federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, echoed Carrie’s sentiments earlier in the day.

“The things that are reasonable expenses are things that are directly related to their job,” Wudrick said. “I cannot see what the possible connection would be between her needing lounge access and ability to do her job.”

Spokesman Andrew MacKendrick told The Canadian Press on Monday that Philpott intends to repay the $520.

In a statement, Philpott said she has already directed her department to review all of her expenses, vowing to fully reimburse any other filings found to be inappropriate.

“I apologize and we will take steps to ensure this does not happen again,” she said.

Last week, Philpott said she would repay $3,700 in high-end car service costs after it was revealed she billed for $1,700 on one day and more than $1,900 on another day.

The minister’s department is also reviewing 20 trips to Toronto Pearson International Airport that cost a total of $3,815 to see if taxpayers were charged fair-market value.

The car service – used to take the minister between work events – was provided by a limo company owned by a volunteer who canvassed for Philpott in the last election.

NDP MP Charlie Angus said he is concerned about what could be a pattern of entitlement.

“It is still early days, so we have to see whether these patterns are going to form into something,” Angus said.

“What concerns me is this sense of entitlement right off the bat. She doesn’t have access to the executive lounge so taxpayers should pay the $500 so she can go sit and have a free drink and get … taco chips. I think that attitude is of concern and it raises red flags.”

Angus said he is also concerned about the overall handling of the issue by the prime minister.

“He said they were going to do government differently,” he said.

“We are not asking ministers to bring bag lunches but these kinds of expenses, they’re really not necessary.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made his first public remarks about the spending controversy in Sudbury, Ont. on Monday.

“This situation was a reminder for all of us to be extremely careful about our expenses and about the public trust that we wield,” Trudeau said standing in front of his cabinet including Philpott.

Wudrick said his watchdog group welcomes the prime minister’s statement, but he said “talk is cheap” and words need to be followed by action.


 
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Philpott will repay $520 for Air Canada lounge access

  1. There must be a difference between a Minister of the Crown and Ordinary Members, I do not expect a Minister to hail a taxi, sit in the Tim Horton’s section, or fly Economy to official functions. I do not expect a Canadian Minister to become the laughing stock of the world’s diplomatic corps.

    • And, yet, that would appear to be what the PM expects. Otherwise, Philpott would not be repaying the expenses.

      So, assuming all that’s happening is Philpott is being put on the same footing as the other Cabinet ministers, points to Trudeau for doing the needful.

  2. Is one supposed to believe that previous cabinet ministers always flew economy and ate their sandwiches in the main departure area? I think not. Cabinet ministers travel on government business and need the secirity and privacy of the business lounge to be able to work while travelling. get over it. I guess the conservatives know what to look for as they were guilty of some of the most pork consumption ever. Military helicopters on fishing trips anyone?

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