03/24/2014 21:46 EDT | Updated 05/24/2014 05:59 EDT

Don Meredith, Tory senator, faces questions over expense claims

A Conservative senator from Ontario is facing questions about his expense claims after attending a national prayer breakfast in Washington, D.C., last month despite being told by his own party's Senate leadership not to go.

Don Meredith, who is also a Toronto pastor, was among thousands of politicians and others who attended the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington.

Meredith flew to Washington using travel points he earned on his Senate flights to and from his Toronto home, and submitted close to $1,300 in expenses for hotel and other expenses.

But in an email obtained by CBC News, the Conservative Senate whip's office initially told Meredith not to go, writing “you were not approved to be absent that week and the decision remains unchanged."

The Senate administration would neither confirm nor deny that every one of Meredith's expenses going back to his appointment in 2010 is now under review.  He has been removed from the Senate committee on human rights.

In a written statement, Meredith said that being a pastor was “an important part of why I was asked to serve" and that sometimes he must find “efficient ways to reconcile my spiritual vocation as part of my public duties."

The NDP attempted to ask about Meredith’s trip today but because it wasn’t considered House of Commons business, the question was ruled out of order by the Speaker.

Has defended expenses

Last month, CBC News revealed that Meredith was one of the top spending Conservative senators.

But he defended his expenses when asked about why he regularly flew business class, often with his wife, on the short flight from Toronto to Ottawa — charging taxpayers more than $11,000 over one three-month period last fall.  

"We travel according to the plan that is given to us," he said then. "It is up to us to be able to travel. Sometimes I do take the train up to Ottawa when it is necessary to do so. But I do travel from Toronto just like the rest of my colleagues travel, through Air Canada, and I am happy to do that and they are in line with our regular expenditures."

An audit released by accounting firm KPMG today found that there is a "significant deficiency" in the control of all senators expenses and said the administration should audit a sample of senators' offices every year.

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