Retired B.C. senator and former longtime South Surrey resident Gerry St. Germain says he is prepared to defend himself against allegations he expensed more than $67,000 inappropriately while still in office.
A report on senators’ expenses tabled this week by auditor general Michael Ferguson included St. Germain, 77, in a list of cases referred to “other authorities such as the RCMP.”
But in a statement released to media prior to the report being tabled, St Germain said he was exploring his options for dealing with what he claimed are “adverse, baseless and unsubstantiated accusations.”
“My efforts now will focus on defending my hard-earned reputation and challenging a process that has been unfair and unjust,” he states.
Ferguson’s audit – which cost taxpayers $23.5 million – turned up some $1 million in allegedly questionable expenses claimed by 30 current and former senators.
Now a Langley resident, St. Germain – a former cabinet minister, Conservative party organizer, police officer, air force pilot, poultry farmer and land developer – sold his Indian Springs Land and Cattle Co. Ranch on 8 Avenue – the scene of many charity and political events, following his retirement in 2012.
He is one of nine singled out in the report and referred for further investigation, either for allegedly misrepresenting their principal residence or, as in St. Germain’s case, for claiming expenses for which “there was such a pervasive lack of evidence, or significant contradictory evidence, that we were prevented from reaching an audit opinion about whether the expenses had been incurred for parliamentary business.”
The audit – for the period between April 1, 2011 and March 31, 2013 – found St. Germain had claimed expenses totalling $55,588 that “were not primarily for parliamentary business.”
There were further expenses of “at least $12,000,” Ferguson’s department found, “for which we had conflicting or insufficient information to determine that they had been incurred for parliamentary business.”
Among expenses under the magnifying glass were travel costs for St. Germain’s staff to attend political, charity and private events, including his 50th wedding anniversary, held at Hazelmere Golf and Tennis Club in 2011 – which Prime Minister Stephen Harper also attended.
Fellow high-profile B.C. senator and former Olympic gold-medal skier Nancy Greene Raine was also among those alleged to have filed inappropriate expenses – which included her attendance at St. Germain’s anniversary party.
St. Germain and Raine, along with many of the other senators identified in the audit, have said they were claiming expenses in compliance with Senate rules and policies in place during the audit period and believed that the expenses represented parliamentary business.
But in a news conference following the release of his findings, Ferguson noted an “overall lack of transparency and accountability” on the part of senators, which, he said, seemed to be “a strongly-held part of the culture.”
In formal comments on the allegations published as part of the auditor general’s report, St. Germain said he had asked Ferguson’s staff for a definition of the term “parliamentary business” as it applied to the audit, but had received no reply.
He said he had shredded documents in anticipation of a move to a smaller residence, without knowing an audit would be conducted, and that in the absence of documentation, he had supplied numerous contacts, including staff, who could have vouched for the expenses as being for “the public benefit.”
“During my nearly 30 years of public service in Parliament I always complied with all of the rules that governed the legislative bodies with which I sat,” he states in his release to media.