Attacks on retired general over moving expenses are purely partisan: Trudeau
Published Tuesday, February 18, 2014 7:52PM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, February 18, 2014 10:24PM EST
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau defended retired general Andrew Leslie on Tuesday, saying the former military leader is the target of a “pure partisan” attack because of his moving expenses.
Trudeau and other Liberals are saying that Leslie’s connection to their party is behind a smear campaign over $72,000 in expenses the former general claimed for a move from his Ottawa home to another residence in the city shortly after he retired.
“I find this deplorable,” Trudeau told reporters in Quebec.
He said he has spoken to Leslie and reassured him that many Canadians are proud of his service to the country.
“I’m very happy to have him on my team,” Trudeau said of Leslie, who is one of his policy advisors. Leslie has also said that he will run for the Liberal Party in 2015.
Documents obtained by CTV News on Saturday revealed that Leslie, who once led Canada’s mission in Afghanistan, claimed $72,225.86 in moving expenses, including real estate fees, for a move within Ottawa in 2012.
Leslie retired from the military in 2011. He has defended his moving costs, saying that members of the Canadian Forces who have served for more than 20 years are entitled to expense one last move after they retire.
He also said that real estate fees made up the majority of the total cost.
However, Minister of National Defence Rob Nicholson said that Leslie’s moving expenses appear to be “grossly excessive.” He told CTV News on the weekend that his department, which picked up the bill for Leslie’s move, will investigate “how an in-city move could possibly total over $72,000.”
Other Conservatives and critics have accused Leslie of abusing the moving policy and taxpayer funds.
Conservative MP James Bezan, the parliamentary secretary for the defence minister, told CTV’s Power Play Tuesday that Leslie showed “a pure lack of judgement.”
Liberal MP Marc Garneau, however, said the Conservative government has never sounded any alarms about the DND relocation policy until an opportunity arose to “smear” Leslie.
More moving costs revealed
CTV News has learned that Jacques Fauteux, a formal naval officer who is now the chief of staff to Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino, claimed just under $25,000 to move within Ottawa in 2008.
General Serge Labbe, who was implicated in the 1993 Somalia scandal, charged $10,000 to move within the city of Kingston, Ont.
Labbe was the commander in charge when Canadian peacekeepers beat a 16-year-old boy in Somalia to death. An inquiry found that Labbe was not personally involved in the teen’s death, but said he had failed to enforce the rules of engagement.
Taxpayers also paid to move three generals back to Canada from Afghanistan. The highest moving cost was for Brigadier-General Steve Bowes, who billed almost $38,000 to move from Kabul to Halifax.
Recently obtained documents also reveal that the Department of National Defence paid nearly $40,000 to move disgraced former brigadier-general Daniel Menard from the Montreal area to the United Arab Emirates.
Menard was demoted and later pleaded guilty to having improper relations with a subordinate. He later took a job with private security firm GardaWorld as head of its Afghanistan operations.
In all, the defence department has covered nearly $600,000 to move dozens of generals and admirals over the past five years either within the same city or just outside the city limits, the documents show.
The defence department was unable to explain why some generals living alone on Afghan bases were able to claim hefty moving expenses.
With a report from CTV’s Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife