Internal audit of Scheer’s expenses turns up money on school, clothes, minivan

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OTTAWA -- An internal audit of outgoing Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer's expenses has found he spent $18,000 a year of party money on private parochial school for four of his children.

The special examination also determined Scheer spent party funds on hiring an extra housekeeper for the Opposition leader's residence of Stornoway, clothes for his family, their minivan and private security, a senior Conservative source told The Canadian Press.

The audit concluded the spending was properly documented by the party, though not shared in an itemized way with the small but powerful group that oversees the Conservatives' finances, known as the Conservative Fund.

Party spokesman Cory Hann confirmed the audit was finished, and had been presented to the party.

"The party's audit found no red flags in the party's accounting system and noted that all the expenses that were paid out were documented fully," he said in an email. 

The Conservative Fund, which until recently included former prime minister Stephen Harper on its board, allocates a budget to the leader meant to cover off politically partisan expenses that wouldn't be paid by the House of Commons.

Hann said the clothing the Scheer family expensed was used for campaign appearances and other party events.

The money for schooling paid the difference between the cost of private parochial school in the Scheers' Regina home and that in Ottawa.

The source who disclosed details of some of the expenses, granted anonymity by The Canadian Press because they were not authorized to discuss them publicly, said that amounted to $18,000 in total a year for the four school-age kids.

Word Scheer had been using his leader's budget to cover his children's education emerged as frustration was mounting mount last fall over Scheer's failure to knock the governing Liberals out of office in the 2019 election and how he handled the aftermath.

Scheer had already made the decision to resign when news of his private school bill leaked out, and he announced in mid-December he'd step aside as soon as a new leader was chosen.

The race is currently on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the planned June 27 election now delayed indefinitely.

Even as Scheer declared he would go, the furor did not die down. The Conservative Fund remained furious about the spending. The party's executive director, who had approved it, was pushed out and an audit was ordered.

The party has also struggled to raise money in the wake of the scandal, with grassroots members pushing back at making donations that could be used to pay Scheer's explicitly personal costs.

Hann was unable to immediately answer questions about whether Scheer was being asked to pay back any of the money.

A spokesperson for Scheer said they had nothing to add.

Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press

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