Former governor general Adrienne Clarkson still bills more than $100,000 a year in expenses

Clarkson has billed taxpayers more than $1.1 million in expenses since she left Rideau Hall in 2005. She has received another $1.6M to date as a government pension

Adrienne Clarkson presided at a change of command ceremony at CFB Edmonton on Wednesday June 13, 2018.LARRY WONG/POSTMEDIA

OTTAWA — Former governor general Adrienne Clarkson is still billing Canadian taxpayers more than $100,000 a year in office expenses, and has now claimed more than $1.1 million in such expenses since she left Rideau Hall in 2005.

The expenses, paid through an unusual program that allows former governors general to bill for office expenses for the rest of their life, is used by other former governors general as well. But only Clarkson is regularly billing more than $100,000 annually, which means her expenses show up as a separate line item in the federal government’s public accounts.

The expenses are on top of the $1.6 million that Clarkson has collected to date as a government pension. It also does not include the $3 million in a start-up grant (plus up to $7 million over 10 years to match donations from the private sector) that was paid to establish Clarkson’s charitable organization, the Institute for Canadian Citizenship. Both the pension and the start-up grant are standard for outgoing governors general.

The expense program for governors general was created in 1979 and appears to be unique among federal government positions. There is little public transparency in how the money is spent; Rideau Hall says it requires receipts and invoices, but it would not disclose what exactly is being expensed or how much other governors general are spending. Canada’s access-to-information law does not cover Rideau Hall.

Clarkson’s office refused to answer questions about what the money is being spent on or how Clarkson determines what expenses are appropriate to claim. Her executive assistant described the expense claims as a “private matter” between the office and Rideau Hall. The assistant said Clarkson is currently on a weeks-long trip in Europe.

In 2011, Clarkson’s then-assistant Michael Henry justified the expenses to the Star by saying Clarkson received up to 200 letters and 20 to 30 requests to speak per month.

“As Canada’s most active and involved Governor General, she created a profile which means that there are still many worthwhile calls on her personal participation, which she takes seriously and requires time and research to assess their value for active involvement,” he said at the time

Former governor general Adrienne Clarkson still bills more than $100,000 a year in expenses