Brazeau 'never lived' in Maniwaki; expense claims constitute breach of trust: RCMP docs
Robert Fife and Philip Ling, CTV News Staff
Published Thursday, August 1, 2013 2:24PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, August 1, 2013 5:13PM EDT
OTTAWA – Senator Patrick Brazeau “does not live” in Maniwaki, Que., and “inappropriately” claimed his father’s home there as his primary residence in order to claim an annual $22,000 taxpayer-subsidized housing allowance, an RCMP investigator alleges.
“The investigation has shown that Brazeau does not live in Maniwaki, nor does he own a home there,” RCMP Corporal Greg Horton wrote in the affidavit. “Brazeau’s father resides in Maniwaki, but the Senator, since being appointed to the Senate, has not.”
The sworn RCMP affidavit, filed in Ottawa court on Thursday, reveals the Mounties are investigating the former Conservative senator for alleged breach of trust over living expense claims he had been submitting since 2011.
Senators can claim an annual allowance of up to $22,000 if their primary residence is more than 100 kilometres away from Parliament Hill, to help cover the cost of staying in Ottawa for work.
CTV News first reported last November that Brazeau claimed his father's home in Maniwaki -- about 135 kilometres north of Ottawa -- as his primary residence, even though he shared a home with his then-girlfriend in Gatineau, Que., just across the river from the nation’s capital.
“I rent a house in Gatineau, but my principal residence is in Maniwaki,” Brazeau told CTV News at the time.
But the RCMP disputes that claim in the new court documents.
“I do not believe that Brazeau’s primary residence is in Maniwaki,” Horton wrote in the affidavit. “I believe that declaring that his father’s residence as a primary residence, while filing expense claims for a rental home where he actually resided, constitutes an offence of Breach of Trust.”
Brazeau was appointed to the Senate by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in December 2008. He was living in Gatineau, Que., with his wife and their three children from the time of his appointment until the break-up of their marriage after Christmas 2010.
Within three months of his failed marriage, Brazeau moved into a Gatineau rental home, where he lived for the next 27 months.
It was at that time that Brazeau started claiming the $22,000-a-year housing allowance, after he listed the rental property as his secondary residence and his father’s Maniwaki address as his primary home, RCMP noted.
This was “possibly in an effort to alleviate some of the financial burden as a result of his marriage breakup,” Horton alleges.
‘Never lived in Maniwaki’
According to the court affidavits, investigators have already spoken extensively with people who lived in Maniwaki and Gatineau, as well as to staff in Brazeau’s Senate office and a former girlfriend, none of whom said he spent a significant amount of time in Maniwaki.
The documents say Lorraine Rochon, Brazeau’s executive assistant, told an RCMP investigator that Brazeau’s father, Marcel, lived in Maniwaki alone and the Senator only “visited Maniwaki once or twice a month.”
And Brazeau’s former girlfriend told investigators he “has few personal items at his father’s house, other than some decorations or items he had as a child.”
The affidavits quote the woman as saying “he has never lived in Maniwaki” during the 20-month period that she lived with Brazeau.
“He has gone there on day-trips, and for overnight visits with family, but he does not have a residence there.”
Moreover, the documents allege the former girlfriend said Brazeau would stay with their children in a hotel whenever he visited his father in Maniwaki, “so that he would was not disturbed.”
Sebastien McNeil, a music teacher who has resided in an apartment on the top floor of Marcel Brazeau’s home for the last 16 years, told the Mounties he only recalls seeing Brazeau in the community one occasion, during a charity hockey event.
“He has no knowledge of Patrick Brazeau ever living at the house during the past 16 years, and cannot recall ever seeing Patrick Brazeau at the residence,” Horton wrote.
An employee at a grocery store across the street from the Maniwaki home said he has only seen Brazeau “visit a few times” in the five years he’s worked there, the documents say.
By contrast, the court affidavits say Brazeau’s neighbours in Gatineau told RCMP investigators they believed the senator lived there full time.
The Gatineau home was “fully furnished and lived in,” one neighbour noted, who added she had cared for Brazeau’s children at the rental property. Another said the senator threw social functions and barbeques at the Gatineau home, so “she believed he live there permanently” and “was of the opinion that he spent a lot of time at home.”
Thursday’s details were contained in a production order -- or a court order – that sought to turn over information, records and billing statements from the Senate related to Brazeau’s expense claims. As part of its investigation, the Mounties have requested all of Brazeau’s cellphone and corporate credit card records dating back to March 2011, when he is alleged to have started making the improper housing claims.
Brazeau has not been charged, and the RCMP’s allegations have not been proven in court.
Debby Simms, Brazeau’s policy advisor, said in a statement the Senator has “no official comment until we have thoroughly reviewed the RCMP documents.”
An external audit released by Deloitte in May found that Brazeau spent only 10 per cent of his time in Maniwaki over a two-year period; the Senate then ordered him to repay taxpayers almost $49,000 for the inappropriate housing and travel claims. He failed to meet a June 30 deadline to repay the expenses, and the Senate has begun docking his salary until it is fully paid off.
Brazeau, who was kicked out of the Conservative caucus after being charged with assault and sexual assault in February, continues to maintain the expenses were legitimate.
RCMP also investigating income tax exemption
The RCMP is also launching a separate investigation on Brazeau’s personal income tax claims between 2004 and 2008, the court affidavits show.
CTV News reported in February that Brazeau used his former father-in-law’s address on a First Nations reserve to claim an aboriginal income tax exemption, despite never having lived in the community. He listed the residence on the Kitigan Zibi First Nation in Quebec as his mailing address for four years, unbeknownst to his ex-wife’s father.
“Further investigation pertaining to those income tax claims and Brazeau’s use of his former father-in-law’s address will be conducted,” Horton wrote.
Brazeau is one of three senators being investigated by the RCMP.
The RCMP laid out its criminal case in June against Sen. Mike Duffy , who is being investigated for allegations of breach of trust and fraud against the government for accepting a $90,000 cheque from Nigel Wright, Harper's former chief of staff, to cover ineligible expense claims.
Sen. Mac Harb is being investigated for allegations of breach of trust for listing his primary residence as a rural Ontario house that was “largely uninhabitable” for three years due to renovations, and later was only 0.01 per cent owned by him.