Alberta Politics
Jason Kenney campaigning in Calgary for re-election to Parliament in the 2015 federal election (Photo: Facebook).

Duffy 2.0? Ottawa lawyer’s allegations about then-MP Jason Kenney’s expenses sets off Internet tempest

Posted on January 21, 2019, 1:59 am
7 mins

Allegations about United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney’s Calgary domestic and travel arrangements during the years he was the Conservative MP for Calgary Midnapore circulating on social media over the weekend had turned into a full-blown Internet tempest by last night.

Parliamentary expenditure reports and flight records as well as Calgary land titles unearthed by rural-Alberta-born Ottawa lawyer Kyle Morrow indicate that while Mr. Kenney lived in the nation’s capital he listed his parents’ Calgary address as his principal residence and did so in a 2013 Elections Canada disclosure document even after his father had died and the house had been sold.

Alberta-born Ottawa lawyer Kyle Morrow (Photo: Fasken LLP).

This prompted Mr. Morrow to suggest in a Tweet Mr. Kenney was lying to Elections Canada and Parliament’s Board of Internal Economy, the quaintly named office that oversees expenditures by Members of Parliament. “This is sounding a lot like Mike Duffy 2.0,” Mr. Morrow asserted.

Mr. Kenney denied this forcefully. His Chief of Staff, Matt Wolf, told the CBC the Elections Canada filing was simply an error by an election volunteer.

Obviously concerned by the attention this was getting on social media, the Alberta Opposition leader issued a statement of his own insisting that for 30 years he has “always owned, co-owned, or rented my principal residence in Alberta. … I paid my taxes in Alberta. My driver’s license 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.”

According to the documents circulated by Mr. Morrow, Mr. Kenney received about $10,000 a year from Parliament for his secondary residence in Ottawa. In 2010, media reported that Mr. Kenney had purchased an Ottawa condo for more than half a million dollars – which, as far as anyone knows, he still owns.

In a Tweet, referencing travel documents he had accessed, Mr. Morrow asked: “Why was Jason Kenney … entitled to a (taxpayer-funded) residence subsidy of $900/month when he only visited his riding four times?”

This is a reference to Parliamentary flight records found by Mr. Morrow that indicate between April 1, 2014, and March 31, 2015, Mr. Kenney, then a senior minister in prime minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative cabinet, only flew to Calgary four times. Several other Conservative MPs from Calgary flew back and forth 20 or more times in the same period, he said.

Mr. Kenney said in his statement, “I was afforded the same living allowance that all MPs get for accommodation in Ottawa. All was in line with House of Commons policy, and my principal residence remained in Calgary throughout.”

Now, living in one’s parents’ basement may seem a mildly eccentric for a grown man with a well-paying, responsible job, but it’s not unheard of, and could even be described as admirable frugality for a single person with no dependents. “While some might mock,” Mr. Kenney protested, “I make no apologies for helping my parents. I am not embarrassed to say that my home was in the same dwelling, even if in a separate suite.”

After the Kenney family home was sold, Mr. Morrow’s documents indicate the former MP used his mother’s address in a Calgary retirement community as his principal address for Parliamentary documentation.

According to Mr. Kenney’s Facebook statement, “not wanting to leave my widowed mother entirely alone, I also rented the finished basement of the bungalow so that I could assist her and provide company while in Calgary. Eventually, I purchased the Calgary condo that I continue to live in today.”

At this point, the CBC stirred the pot a bit by calling up the retirement community, where a staff member told a reporter the bungalows don’t have bedrooms in their basements. It’s not clear if sublets in retirement communities are allowed. So this point will need some clarification by Mr. Kenney.

Mr. Morrow, described as an anti-bribery and corruption lawyer with a practice focused on political law on the website of the international Fasken law firm, clearly infuriated the UCP leadership and their intemperate army of social media supporters with the documents he posted on Twitter.

Mr. Kenney called Mr. Morrow “a failed Liberal candidate” – which is true, after a fashion, although I imagine that as a candidate for the Alberta Liberals in in the Lacombe-Ponoka riding in 2012, Mr. Morrow was neither surprised nor particularly upset about losing.

Nevertheless, this seems to have been picked up as an official talking point in UCP communications, as has Mr. Kenney’s suggestion Mr. Morrow was attacking his mother, not his record-keeping practices as an MP.

But if the UCP leadership was furious, the Online Conservative Rage Machine seems to have gone over the top, with no shortage of abuse being heaped on Mr. Morrow, including a call for him to be hanged.

Mr. Morrow signed off last night with a series of Tweets in which he condemned Mr. Kenney of “falsely accusing me of attacking his mother” and noting that he has now “referred this matter to the House of Commons Board of Internal Economy.” He concluded: “I will not be commenting any further.”

It will be interesting to see how the BOIE responds.

6 Comments to: Duffy 2.0? Ottawa lawyer’s allegations about then-MP Jason Kenney’s expenses sets off Internet tempest

  1. tom in ontario

    January 21st, 2019

    “Now, living in one’s parents’ basement may seem mildly eccentric for a grown man with a well paying responsible job…”
    Jason: “I also rented the finished basement of the bungalow so that I could assist her and provide company…”
    Jason was a good son who only wanted to be near his mother. Some cynics question whether the domicile he rented was actually in the basement.
    Do such places exist? Indeed they do. I checked with a local establishment, “Sunset Home for Devoted Sons and Their Mothers” and was told that offspring can live in the basement of a parent’s bungalow at reasonable rates, lo-fat meals included. Special discounts for sitting Conservative MPs.

    Reply
    • Lars

      January 21st, 2019

      Indeed, these places have special bungalows with basements, something that, as I recall, most bungalows don’t have.
      Sort of like a generations-reversed granny suite.

      Reply
  2. Simon Renouf

    January 21st, 2019

    Great story, David! On the Alberta journalism front, as of Monday at 2:50 pm this story has now been reported by you, the CBC, City TV, Danielle Smith and a bunch of radio stations. And from the Postmedia four-headed news gathering monster? Crickets.

    Reply
  3. David

    January 21st, 2019

    I am so looking forward to seeing a picture of Kenney on the cover of a certain local tabloid paper, with the headline “Just Visiting?” However, I suspect that will not happen and the mainstream Alberta post media, which is somewhat sympathetic to the UCP, will probably treat Kenney with kid gloves on this one.

    I am not surprised the Kenney rage machine is is full damage control mode here – attacking the motives and reputations of the person who raised the allegation and anyone else who dares bring it up. Of course his flunkies are doing all the attacking, so Kenney can hide for now – partly to avoid answering embarrassing questions and partly to seem above the fray. However, given the intensity of their attacks, they must be a bit worried about this one. Duffy and his troublesome housing allowance and questionable residency nearly did him in and more importantly the whole thing certainly played a big role in bringing the Harper Conservative era an end.

    At the least, this has some appearance of double dipping, or a least not being as prudent with taxpayer dollars as Kenney likes to portray himself as. More troubling, it highlights how little time Kenney actually spent in Alberta and perhaps this uncovers a clever scheme to get a housing allowance he would not otherwise be entitled to, as he did not otherwise own or rent a residence in Calgary at the time. Even worse, I suspect he made his mother the unwitting accomplice to his clever scheme. First, it is a stretch to claim a residence in a retirement community, when you definitely don’t meet the criteria to live there and second, it’s even worse to claim to be living in a bedroom in the basement when those units don’t have a bedroom in the basement. Third, the “caring son” argument put forward by Kenney’s flunkies kind of falls apart, because of the fact he only made four visits to Calgary in 2015.

    Kenney, much like Duffy was really an Ottawa resident. I suppose its debatable when this actually happened, but I suspect it was after he bought a property and Ottawa and sold his Calgary residence. Perhaps sometime after his Calgary property was sold, someone (perhaps it was Kenney himself) realized he would lose the housing allowance if he did not actually find some place he could claim as a residence in Calgary. I suppose a person with more integrity would just accept that and forget it, but I am thinking Kenney felt he was “entitled to his entitlements” and hence this scheme involving his parents was concocted.

    I have a feeling this revelation will be damaging to Kenney even if his flunkies manage to soon quash most media coverage and public discussion. Conservative supporters in particular really do not like politicians living high on the hog off of taxpayer money and this looks exactly like a clever scheme to get as much taxpayer money as possible into his own pockets.

    Reply

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