ALBERTA

Sask. Senator's Hometown Divided On Expense Controversy

06/03/2013 12:11 EDT | Updated 08/03/2013 05:12 EDT
CP
The Senate expense scandal appears to be dividing loyalties in Pamela Wallin's hometown of Wadena, Sask.

Until now, local residents have been reluctant to publicly criticize the popular Saskatchewan Senator, whose name is on a sign welcoming visitors to the town of 1,500.

But news that Wallin has paid back at least $40,000 in travel expenses that were claimed incorrectly seems to have shaken some of that loyalty.

Results of a new audit that is focusing on a longer period when travel took place are expected within days.

A CBC reporter who visited Wadena on the weekend found there are still many Wallin supporters, but others who are asking questions.

"Enough's enough. That's my money," said Dan Earley.

Ed Hunt is another resident who said he'd like answers.

"Did you know it was wrong, or is that just the way everybody does it? To me, if they're giving back money, they maybe thought it was wrong in the first place," Hunt said.

Nearby, Edith Lappi was somewhat hesitate to talk, but agreed to go on the record.

"She shouldn't have done it in the first place. She should have known better, I think," Lappi said.

On the other side of the divide, Wallin's niece Meaghan Bilokraly published a letter in the local newspaper, the Wadena News, criticizing people who aren't supporting her aunt.

She says people have made death threats and called the senator names.

"How pathetic of a life you must have," she said in the letter.

Bilokraly declined a CBC request for an interview, but other supporters were keen to go on the record in support of Wallin.

"Just hang in there, even if there is a discrepancy," Lynn Bucknum said. "Anybody who knows you, knows it wasn't intentional. You paid it back. Everybody makes mistakes."

Bucknum hopes the audit of Wallin's expenses will exonerate the senator and silence any criticism of the town's most celebrated daughter.

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