CBC boss Hubert Lacroix faces Senate grilling over his expense claims, broadcaster’s future by Jordan Press

Feb 25, 2014

Source: Vancouver Sun

OTTAWA – The head of the CBC will face tough questions about the future of the public broadcaster Wednesday, but Hubert Lacroix should also brace for a grilling about his own expense claims.

Lacroix recently repaid, and apologized for, about $30,000 in expense claims that violated CBC spending rules.

The CBC president is to meet with senators on the transport and communications committee Wednesday evening to discuss challenges facing the public broadcaster, which recently warned its staff of deep cuts because of  a cash crunch. It’s the first time Lacroix will face senators, who recently launched the study of the future of the CBC given the digital evolution in broadcasting and communications.

A Tory senator on the committee said Lacroix’s expense claims are fair game, as it also probes the CBC’s work on transparency and governance. Considering the bipartisan study of the CBC just launched, it’s likely that the committee will want to hear from Lacroix again in the coming months — including updates on expense claims.

Lacroix repaid almost $30,000 in September after an internal audit flagged the living and meal expenses dating back to 2008, which would have been proper under CBC rules had Lacroix been travelling from his home in Montreal to any other CBC property except its headquarters in Ottawa.

Lacroix made the claims despite having negotiated a $1,500 per month living allowance to pay for hotel stays in Ottawa. The allowance runs the length of his six-year term.

He apologized for the claims during a Friday evening interview on the CBC political talk show Power and Politics.

“I find there’s a double standard in this case,” said Conservative Sen. Leo Housakos, who sits on the committee.

“An apology and returning the funds on behalf of some of my colleagues a few months ago wasn’t sufficient,” he said in a reference to three senators who were suspended last fall over questionable expense claims.

The Senate suspended the three without pay in November for making claims that auditors questioned. Senators Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin were suspended despite reimbursing the Senate for improper expenses: Wallin using her own money to repay about $150,000 in claims, including interest; Duffy using money from Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s former chief of staff, Nigel Wright, to cover about $90,000 in questionable housing claims.

The third suspended senator, Patrick Brazeau, has refused to repay the $49,000 that a committee of his peers says he owes. The Senate decided to claw back his salary to recoup the money, a move that is on hold while he is suspended without pay.

© Vancouver Sun