Reza Shirani, owner of Executive Sedan Livery Service Inc., said he is "confirming without hesitation" he will refund the total amount charged to the federal government for services provided for Philpott.
Health Minister Jane Philpott answers a question during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on June 16, 2016. (Photo: Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)
"In taking this step, I fully expect to be accused by the 'defenders of Canadian taxpayers' of making a donation of services to the Liberal party of Canada that exceeds authorized individual donation limits, even if I promise not to seek any political tax credit," Shirani said in a statement on Thursday.
"It never occurred to me that providing a service to a minister of the Crown at my company's normal and standard rates — rates that are competitive for the service we provide — would end up damaging the reputation of the MP I respect and the political party I love."
'She was able to work full-time'
Shirani also said he drove the minister on July 12 — the day Philpott spoke at the Assembly of First Nations annual meeting in Niagara Falls, Ont.
"The entire day that minister Philpott was with me, I was driving," he said. "She was able to work full-time on what I can only assume was important business for our national government."
Philpott's office told The Canadian Press on Wednesday it charged $1,994 for service on that day, though Shirani disputed that figure in his statement.
"It never occurred to me that charging $1,535 plus HST ... for multi-stop, multi-passenger, all-day car service on July 12 would be regarded as extravagant or excessive given the cost of the alternatives to Canadian taxpayers," he said.
'Petty political posturing'
Philpott's office also said Wednesday it billed $3,814 for 20 trips to Toronto's Pearson airport for flights to Ottawa on ministerial business.
The disclosure came after the Conservatives learned through Access to Information that Philpott paid $1,700 on a single day in March for transportation between work events.
Shirani said his only purpose for responding to criticism — which he characterizes as "petty political posturing" — is to restore Philpott's "fine reputation and relieve her of being required to answer for such patent nonsense."
"More importantly, I hope to encourage those who feed so voraciously on this petty sort of thing to focus on issues that really matter to the people of Canada," he said.
'Minister Philpott and I both deserve better'
Shirani canvassed for the minister in the last federal election — a connection Philpott knew about while using the service.
However, Shirani said he resents the suggestion he's somehow "playing the system" or that he is an "insider" in any way.
"I know that minister Philpott and I both deserve better," he said. "I will have no further comment."
Philpott's office has stopped short of saying she would repay the money, prompting Tory health critic Colin Carrie and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation to call for a full refund.
Tories call for full refund
It is absolutely not appropriate for Shirani to reimburse taxpayers, Carrie said Thursday, stressing the minister needs to be the one held accountable.
"Putting taxpayers on the hook for these kinds of outlandish amounts just to get around the Toronto area is totally unacceptable," Carrie said in an interview.
"The interesting thing is, the minister has acknowledged this herself. She is the one who needs to pay the money back."
In a Wednesday statement, Philpott said the price tag associated with the car service was "too high" and not appropriate. Her office added it will no longer use the company.
"I have already taken steps to prevent this from occurring in the future," Philpott said.
The minister's has not responded to media requests on Thursday.
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