Third Conservative senator refunds expenses but Senate says no rules broken

OTTAWA – Another Conservative senator is refunding expenses following an examination of residency claims.

The Senate’s internal economy committee issued a terse notice Thursday saying Sen. Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu has repaid an undisclosed amount of funds he “stated were mistakenly claimed.”

Boisvenu is the third Conservative senator to have reportedly paid back improper expense claims in recent weeks, following the lead of Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin.

The Senate committee statement says “no rules were broken” by Boisvenu and that his residency and expense claims are in order.

Boisvenu was appointed to the Senate by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in January 2010 as an advocate for victims’ rights.

He was recently outed in news reports for having a romantic relationship with his executive assistant, an apparent violation of parliamentary staffing rules. The woman is no longer listed as Boisvenu’s office contact.

The relationship was newsworthy because Boisvenu continued to claim expenses on his home in Sherbrooke, Que., despite having left his wife last February and moved full-time to the national capital region.

Senators whose principal residence is more than 100 kilometres from Ottawa can claim $22,000 a year to maintain a secondary home in the capital.

Duffy, who represents P.E.I. in the Senate but has lived in Ottawa since the 1970s, volunteered to repay an undisclosed amount after questions were raised about his claims that a Cavendish cottage was his principal residence.

Saskatchewan representative Wallin, meanwhile, is reported to have repaid an unknown amount relating to her “other” travel expense claims, which totalled more than $300,000 since September 2010.

The expenses of Duffy, Wallin and two other senators, Liberal Mac Harb and excommunicated Conservative Patrick Brazeau, are being examined by external auditors.