Former justice named to arbitrate Senate expense claims

OTTAWA — The Senate has appointed former Supreme Court justice Ian Binnie as a special arbitrator to look at questionable expense claims flagged by the auditor general.

The upper chamber’s committee on internal economy, budgets and administration can order senators to pay back unwarranted expenses and Binnie will be called in if senators challenge the findings or the amount of repayment.

“The appointment of an independent arbitrator ensures that questions of reimbursement will be dealt with in a timely and fair fashion,” Senate Speaker Leo Housakos said.

Auditor general Michael Ferguson has been looking at all Senate expense claims and is expected to refer some cases to police.

His report is to be delivered to the Senate in the first week of June.

Housakos said all of Binnie’s decisions will be made public.

Binnie served on the Supreme Court of Canada from 1998 to 2011.

The Speaker said Binnie will work at arm’s length from the Senate to hear and evaluate claims on a case-by-case basis.

When expense problems tripped up three former Conservative senators and led to their suspension in 2013, the trio — Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau —complained that they were treated unfairly.

Binnie said the new process will be independent, fair and impartial.

“Every citizen has the right to due process,” he said. “The Senate arbitration process ensures this.”

The Canadian Press

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