Senator Harb rarely seen in area he calls home: neighbours
Published Friday, March 15, 2013 10:18PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, March 15, 2013 11:00PM EDT
A Liberal senator whose living expenses are being audited is rarely seen at an Ottawa Valley home he claims is his primary residence, neighbours say.
Mac Harb has told the Senate that his primary home is a bungalow in the tiny village of Westmeath, located more than 100 kilometres northwest of Ottawa. But those who live in the area say no one seems to live in the house year-round.
“Yeah, he’s hardly ever there,” said Neal Beam, who lives next door. “You only see him the odd time and that’s it.”
Beam said he’s seen Harb in the summer, but never during the winter months. His wife, Linda Beam, said it appears the home is being used as a summer residence.
“It’s a cottage as far as I’m concerned,” she said.
Linda Crosby, another next-door neighbour, told CTV News she’s never met Harb.
“I wouldn’t even know him if he came to the door, actually.”
Employees of the only grocery store in town also say they’ve never seen the senator.
“If you live here, there is a pretty good chance at some point you come in here,” said Lori Habraken.
Harb could not be reached for comment.
The former MP has kept a residence in Ottawa for years and he owns four condos in the city.
But he has claimed an annual housing allowance of up to $22,000 by listing the Westmeath home as his primary residence. Sources say Harb also claims substantial mileage for his commute.
Senators who live more than 100 kilometres from the capital are entitled to the taxpayer-funded housing and meal allowance.
After questions were raised about some senators’ residency claims, the upper chamber asked all of its members to prove where they live by providing copies of their driver’s licences, health cards and tax returns.
The Senate called in accounting firm Deloitte to audit Harb’s housing expenses, as well as the expenses of Conservative Sen. Mike Duffy and Independent Sen. Patrick Brazeau.
Duffy later announced that he would repay his housing allowance, saying he may have been mistaken when he filled out the expense forms. He blamed confusing paperwork and “unclear” Senate rules.
Conservative Sen. Pamela Wallin was also being audited for her travel expenses. CTV News learned that she had repaid a substantial amount of money before auditors were called in.
With a report from CTV’s Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife