The territory’s lone senator still owes thousands of dollars in ineligible Senate expenses, according to a new report.
Last June, the federal auditor general flagged 30 senators for questionable spending claims totaling over $975,000.
NWT senator and former premier Nick Sibbeston’s name appeared on that list, after Michael Ferguson found that he had accumulated $50,102 in improper expenses – one of the highest amounts among sitting senators.
On Monday, former Supreme Court Justice Ian Binnie unveiled a new report detailing his decisions on 14 senators who sought to resolve their disputed expenses by arbitration.
Binnie found that Sibbeston should pay back $26,924, which is slightly more than half what the auditor general had originally calculated.
According to last year’s report, most of Sibbeston’s expenses were related to travel and accommodation costs in western and northern Canada. It also found that his wife traveled for “personal activities” at a cost $13,133.
But Sibbeston defended his expenses, saying he’s the only senator representing the NWT and therefore needs to travel more.
He also maintained that his claimed travel expenses were for business reasons and that the auditor general’s concerns mostly came down to book-keeping.
While the special arbitrator noted some of the difficulties of travelling in the North, he rejected some of Sibbeston’s larger claims – including trips to Yellowknife – for being more personal in nature rather than professional.
Of the 14 senators who sought arbitration through Binnie, 10 saw their amounts owing reduced.
Nunavut Senator Dennis Patterson is among the remaining four who will have to repay the exact amount originally flagged by the auditor general.
Sibbeston was appointed to the Senate in 1999 as a Liberal by former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien. He now sits as an Independent after Liberal senators were removed from the party’s caucus in January 2014.
Senators will have 30 days to repay any outstanding payments.