Ontario fairness commissioner Jean Augustine claims limousine rides were necessary
8:29 pm, November 4th, 2014
- 1:23 pm, November 4th, 2014
ANTONELLA ARTUSO | QMI AGENCY
TORONTO ─ Ontario fairness commissioner Jean Augustine billed taxpayers for thousands of dollars in limousine rides and even the small fee charged for airplane earphones, Progressive Conservative MPP Monte McNaughton says.
Augustine was appointed the province’s first Fairness Commissioner in 2007, after she resigned as Liberal MP for Etobicoke-Lakeshore in 2006 to allow then-federal Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff to run.
According to the Freedom of Information documents supplied by the Ontario Progressive Conservatives, the $566-a-day fairness commissioner expensed a $3.41 pair of Air Canada earphones, a $43.35 sightseeing tour in Tampere, Finland and a $2.71 snack at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago in her work-related travels.
Records for 2013-14 also show Augustine submitted expenses for $3,456 in limousine rides, McNaughton said.
“Of course, we know last September she took a $6,300 trip to Finland, billed a sightseeing tour,” he said.
“We need to have true transparency and openness and all expenses should be posted online … Taxpayers deserve better.”
Citizenship, Immigration and International Trade Minister Michael Chan told reporters Tuesday that Augustine has since paid back expenses that fall outside the government’s directive.
Chan insisted Augustine repaid the funds prior to the FOI request by the Ontario PCs, but could not provide the date or explain why the FOI documents still referred to the expenses.
The Tories later said that Augustine repaid only $18.92 in meal expenses that went over the limit.
A spokesperson for Augustine could not be reached for comment.
Ontario Fairness Commissioner Jean Augustine is under fire for billing taxpayers for thousands of dollars in limousine rides.
A former Liberal MP, Augustine’s job is to ensure that foreign-trained professionals such as doctors and teachers are able to get licensed to work in Ontario.
Progressive Conservative MPP Monte McNaughton wants to know why Augustine billed taxpayers for a city sightseeing tour in Tampere, Finland and expensed $3.40 for a pair of headphones on a flight to Halifax.
“It’s an abuse of tax dollars,” he said. “I think taxpayers deserve better than this.”
Citizenship and Immigration Minister Michael Chan says the expenses were not legitimate and Augustine refunded the money to taxpayers.
“When people submit claims that are outside the directive we provide oversight of ‘You know what? That’s not right. We want that money back.'”
A spokesman told CBC News the ministry is currently reviewing the expenses.
In question period Tuesday, Chan also pointed out that the Fairness Commissioner operates as an arm’s length agency from the government and is not subject to the same oversight as other government agencies.
In an interview from Ottawa, Augustine said the limousine expenses were necessary for her to travel to do her job.
And she criticizes the Conservatives for trying to tarnish her reputation unfairly.
Augustine does not receive a salary for her job. Instead she collects a per diem rate of $566.