MPs Denounce Motion To Study When Life Begins

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STEPHENWOODWORTH
Stephen Woodworth rises to start the debate on Section 223 of Canada's Criminal Code, which states that human life begins when a child emerges from its mother's body. in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, ON Thursday April 26, 2012. | CP

International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda is now reimbursing taxpayers for the car and driver she hired during a trip abroad after saying earlier in the week that she had paid back all of the "inappropriate costs."

Her office did not confirm the exact amount that Oda is paying back for the car rental in London, England, last summer, but CBC has confirmed that it is known to be in the neighbourhood of $3,000.

One of the documents obtained through access to information legislation that revealed expenses for Oda's travel last June show the bill for the car rental was $2,850.

Oda's office said Thursday that she has repaid for the car service and "all incremental costs" that should never have been charged to taxpayers but did not specify what those costs include.

Oda offered an apology Tuesday for billing taxpayers for staying at London's swanky Savoy hotel instead of the five-star hotel she was originally supposed to stay at, where the conference she was attending was being held. Staying at the Savoy cost about $665 per night, more than double the cost of staying at the Grange St. Paul's hotel.

Oda also billed taxpayers for hiring a luxury car and driver, at a cost of about $1,000 per day, to transport her the two kilometres from the Savoy to the conference.

When the story broke on Monday Oda said she had nothing to be embarrassed about and that all Treasury Board guidelines were followed when she filed the expenses for last June's three-day stay in London. On Tuesday, however, she said the costs were unacceptable and never should have been charged to taxpayers.

She repaid taxpayers for the difference in cost between the two hotels, the cancellation fee that was incurred, and an orange juice that cost $16. In total, she repaid $1,353.81.

But opposition MPs called on Oda to also repay the amount for the car, since it would not have been necessary if she stayed at the original hotel where the conference was taking place. They argued the car was a cost associated with switching hotels, but Conservative House leader Peter Van Loan indicated Wednesday that no further payments would be coming from Oda.

"The minister has repaid the inappropriate costs. I think that is what the public would expect, that is what the opposition would expect, and I do not think she would be asked to repay costs that were appropriate," he said during question period.

Opposition MPs kept up their questioning on Thursday and interim Liberal leader Bob Rae asked Oda when she decided to also pay taxpayers back for the car service.

Van Loan took the question instead but didn't answer it. He said the government expects ministers to conduct government business at reasonable costs and that's why Oda has repaid the inappropriate expenses. He then brought up the sponsorship scandal and said Liberals should be paying taxpayers back for money still owed to them.

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