Wilson-Raybould charged expenses to Justice Department on day of Liberal fundraiser
Federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould addresses a gathering of First Nations leaders and British Columbia cabinet ministers, in Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday September 7, 2016. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)
Published Tuesday, September 13, 2016 6:26PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, September 13, 2016 6:36PM EDT
OTTAWA -- Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould charged meals and other expenses to the Department of Justice on the day she travelled to Toronto for a Liberal Party fundraiser held in the offices of a Bay Street law firm.
Records obtained by CTV News show she made per diem claims to Justice for breakfast, lunch and dinner and “incidentals” on April 7, even though she said she was attending the event at Torys LLP in her capacity as an MP and not in her role as Attorney General.
The opposition Conservatives alleged at the time that her participation in the event improperly mixed her ministerial role with party fundraising. The event brought in $9,577 for the Liberal Party.
Wilson-Raybould’s press secretary, Valérie Gervais, said that while the per diems for breakfast and lunch were legitimately claimed for ministerial work Wilson-Raybould did during the day in Ottawa, the dinner should not have been claimed.
“The dinner was claimed in error and as soon as this was discovered it was reimbursed by the Minister,” Gervais wrote in an email.
Wilson-Raybould also charged Justice for the costs of staying at the Sheraton hotel in Ottawa, including for the night she attended the fundraiser. She returned to Ottawa after the event, at the Liberal Party’s expense.
The documents show she repeatedly booked hotels in Ottawa at her department’s expense during her first four months on the job, rather than pay for accommodations out of her parliamentary office budget, as most MPs do.
She spent 59 nights staying in hotels in Ottawa between November and March, at a cost to Justice of $13,322. Many of her hotel stays at the Sheraton were on days the House of Commons was in session.
Gervais said these costs also should not have been paid by Justice.
“An administrative error was made by the department and upon realizing this error we conducted a thorough review. However, the House of Commons informed us after we had completed this review that the deadline and dates for transfers had passed”
The hotel stays ended after Wilson-Raybould and her husband, lobbyist Tim Raybould, bought a downtown Ottawa condominium, a deal that closed on the date of the fundraiser at Torys.
Under MP expense rules, she is now entitled to charge the House of Commons about $900 per month towards the cost of maintaining the residence.
The records released through the Access to Information Act also show that Justice Canada paid $2,440 to the Ottawa Airport Authority to register her ministerial vehicle with the airport. The airport issued a “Limo License - Gov’t” to the department in March.
The licence gives her ministerial vehicle access to the Passenger Terminal Building at Ottawa’s Macdonald-Cartier International Airport.
Gervais said that previous Conservative justice minister Peter MacKay had also obtained the same kind of licence from the airport.
“Given the amount of domestic and international travel the Minister does, the airport vehicle licence helps with the efficiency of travel,” she wrote.
Wilson-Raybould’s cabinet colleague, Health Minister Jane Philpott, last month drew sharp criticism over her use of a limousine service to take her to the Toronto airport and other destinations. Philpott admitted the costs were too high and promised to personally repay the money.
The Ottawa Airport Authority cited client confidentiality and declined to say why the special licence was required to pick up the justice minister.