New Taxpayer Expense Furor Hits Canadian Media

CBC president Hubert Lacroix is embroiled in an ongoing Ottawa expenses scandal implicating public officials after he wrongly submitted claims for living and meal costs.

TORONTO -- The dodgy expense-allowance claims of Canada's top media personalities on the public payroll is back in the news.

The latest scandal over what Canadian broadcasters spend and claim from the taxpayer has come with news that CBC president Hubert Lacroix voluntarily repaid nearly $30,000 in living and meal expenses to the taxpayer.

The repayment was quietly made last fall as Ottawa was convulsed by a expenses scandal that had former CTV broadcasters-turned-federal Senators Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin in its crosshairs.

Lacroix came clean for wrongly claiming $29,192.41 in living expenses over six years while receiving a $1,500 per-month allowance after deciding not to move to Ottawa.

The CBC auditors put the double-dipping down to an executive compensation rule that went unnoticed by the public broadcaster until Lacroix's expenses were reviewed.

In a memo published on the website, the CBC president warned the fresh expense claim furor was likely to get caught up in Ottawa's ongoing senate scandal, which the public broadcaster has widely reported on.

"There has been a lot in the news recently, including on our own news, about the expenses of public officials and there are some who may use my disclosure of this information to attack me or this corporation," Lacroix wrote in the memo.

That's an allusion to a senate scandal that has seen Duffy and Wallin, both former broadcasters, suspended by the Upper House after bombshell expense claim revelations that implicate the office of prime minister Stephen Harper.

Lacroix's taxpayer expense woes follow another internal memo earlier this month in which the CBC topper pointed to "dark clouds on the horizon" that threaten deep cost-cutting at the public broadcaster.

A weak advertising market for the CBC has been compounded by the loss of revenues from televising NHL games for next season after Rogers Communications signed a new contract with the pro hockey league.

"We are working hard to confirm the bottom line," Lacroix said in the memo.

"However, it's clear that tough and more fundamental decisions will have to be made to establish a longer-term, sustainable financial model for our corporation," he added.