Alberta Election Fact Check: Jason Kenney’s residences and living expenses while he was an MP

Alberta Election Fact Check: Jason Kenney’s residences and living expenses while he was an MP
An Ottawa lawyer says he’s been under a barrage of threats since he suggested Jason Kenney misused his living allowance while serving as a Conservative member of parliament in Ottawa.

House of Commons rules allow MPs to claim living expenses for a second home in the nation’s capital while maintaining a home back in their riding.

Kenney claimed his primary residence was his mother’s bungalow in a Calgary retirement community while he was MP from 2012 to 2016.

But in a series of Twitter posts over the weekend,  Kyle Morrow  argued Kenney’s primary residence was actually in Ottawa.

He asked why Kenney was “entitled to a taxpayer-funded residence subsidy of $900/month when he only visited his riding four times?”

Morrow suggested the UCP leader may have been involved in a “scheme similar to the one employed by Senator Mike Duffy.”

Kenney’s deputy chief of staff says the allegations are disappointing and a non-issue.

“Taxpayers were not covering the cost of his Calgary accommodation in any way,” Matt Wolf said in an interview with Danielle Smith on Monday.

“It’s kind of disappointing that this is being dredged up and debated at all. I think Alberta has some very serious big issues to talk about: oil crisis, jobs, economy. Instead we’re talking about where Jason Kenney lived in Calgary a number of years ago.”

Kenney says he bought the bungalow with his mother after his father passed away, and lived in the finished basement suite so that he could spend time with her when he was in town.

“I have been a proud resident of Alberta for nearly three decades,” Kenney said in a statement.

“During that time, I have always owned, co-owned, or rented my principal residence in Alberta, first in Edmonton in the early 1990s, then Calgary. I paid my taxes in Alberta. My driver’s licence and health card were from Alberta. My doctor and dentist were in Alberta. My parish and volunteer activities were and are in Calgary. This, of course, all remains true to this day.”

Morrow said he has referred the matter to the House of Commons board of internal economy and won’t comment further about it.

I did not attack his mother. I merely asked *why* he was claiming $900/month in (taxpayer-funded) residence subsidies, while simultaneously listing a senior’s retirement village as his residence. (7/8) #yeg #ableg #cdnpoli

According to the , MPs must consider the following criteria to determine which residence they should declare as their primary residence. One or more criteria may be sufficient:

Wolf says Kenney’s Calgary home meets the final two criteria.

“In the mid-’90s, he moved to Calgary. He’s either owned, co-owned or rented his accommodations in Calgary since that time. He files his taxes in Alberta, he votes in Alberta, his driver’s licence and health card were always from Alberta. His doctor and dentist are in Alberta. His own address has always been Alberta, in Calgary.”

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Kenney’s camp says he received a housing allowance for his accommodation while in Ottawa like all MPs and that no rules were broken.

“It’s kind of disturbing. This is really no one’s business on where specifically in Calgary he lived,” Wolf said.

“This is just a sleazy partisan smear to try and tar Jason Kenney as we head into the election.”

Whether or not rules were officially broken, the NDP has questions.

“Just like there wasn’t a rule saying Mr. Fildebrandt couldn’t rent out his condo on Airbnb,” Deputy Premier Sarah Hoffman said Monday. “If the taxpayers are paying for your residence, it’s because you don’t live there. If that’s your primary residence in Ontario, taxpayers shouldn’t be paying for you to live there.”

Hoffman said she’d like to see a full investigation and plans to refer the case to the ethics commissioner or a federal body. Her two main questions are: where did Kenney live and did he follow the proper expense protocols?

“You have to be an Ontario resident to donate to an Ontario political party,” she said. “Mr. Kenney donated to the Ontario Conservatives in 2016 so he himself saw himself as an Ontario resident but he’s claiming his primary residence is in Calgary.

“Those two pieces don’t fit together for me.”

In a news release Monday, the NDP said this shows Kenney either didn’t tell the truth about his residency status or a he made a fraudulent donation to an Ontario political party.

The UCP said the amount in question was a registration fee, not a donation. Kenney attended the 2016 Ontario PC General Meeting in Ottawa but was “not a voting delegate” and “has never been a member of the PC Party of Ontario.”

Given past expense claim scandals, Alberta Party MLA Greg Clark isn’t against asking questions and looking closely at expense policy.

“In my experience… the vast majority of elected officials — federal, provincial, municipal — are there for the right reasons… not to get the next incremental dollar from some excessive expense claim,” Clark said in an interview with Smith.

“But in light of what we saw from the Derek Fildebrandt and the Airbnb thing, the provincial $1,900 allowance thing we had in Alberta until I fixed it, we always have to ask those questions.”

He added Wolf’s explanation about Kenney’s residency sounded “reasonable.”

“I do think it would be better if we were able to focus on the real issues that matter to Albertans: getting pipelines built, getting people back to work, making sure we have strong, sustainable health and education systems,” Clark said.
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