Mark Rendell
Mark Rendell

Two Ex-NWT-Premiers on Senate Expenses List: Sibbeston and Patterson

$21 million audit caught nearly $1 million in abuses. Neither of the senators are under review by the RCMP
Bad neighbourhood: inside the Canadian Senate

Two former premiers of the Northwest Territories, Nick Sibbeston and Dennis Patterson, both now Canadian senators, are among 30 members of that institution who have allegedly claimed nearly $1 million in inappropriate expenses.

Based on information leaked ahead of the auditor general’s report on Senate spending, expected tomorrow, a CTV report claims Sibbeston owes $50,102 and Patterson owes $22,985. It’s unclear at this point which expenses the two northern senators have been claiming inappropriately.

Sibbeston, who was NWT premier from 1985 to 1987 and appointed to the Senate in 1999 by Jean Chretien, owes the seventh largest amount of the 30 senators under review. (By comparison, retired Liberal senator Rod Zimmer owes the most at $176,014).

Patterson is slightly down the list, at number 11. He sat in the NWT legislature for 16 years, served as premier from 1987 to 1991 and was named to the Senate in 2009 by Stephen Harper.

Even before these most recent revelations, neither politician could be said to have a squeaky clean record.

Patterson was accused in 2013 of playing a Mike Duffy-esque game regarding his place of residence. According to a CTV report from 2013, he’d been living in Vancouver rather than Nunavut for three years, and had racked up $205,369 in travel expenses since September 2010.

Patterson, however, flatly denied living in Vancouver, according to Nunatsiaq News: “I have a place in Iqaluit. I have identified it. I have my personal belongings there. I have hunting equipment and a personal cabin I go to when I am in Iqaluit.” He also claimed his travel expenses were justified: “The truth is it’s costly to travel in the North. That’s no secret to any of your readers. The numbers are high because I have been busy and active.”

Sibbeston gained notoriety last year when, according to CBC, the NDP released a report showing that he had the worst Senate voting record by a significant margin, missing 51 out of 70 votes during the previous sitting of parliament.

His explanation for this terrible record: “Ottawa is all about political parties, political stances and so forth, based on political ideologies and so forth, and my point is that coming from the North, I’m not steeped with that and I don’t necessarily buy into that.”

We can expect to learn more when the audit, which cost taxpayers $21 million, is released tomorrow. Neither of the former premiers are among the nine senators whose cases have been forwarded to the RCMP.