Heated housing allowance debate at Queens Park

00:00:00 | 00:00:00::Projekktor V1.3.09 The calls for plugging living allowance loopholes grew louder at Queen’s Park Friday. They come after reports that Thornhill MPP Peter Shurman was billing taxpayers thousands to live in Toronto while claiming to live in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Lauran Sabourin reports.Thornhill MPP Peter Shurman was nowhere to be found at Queen’s Park. But fellow Conservatives were in full damage control.Monte McNaughton was first to the podium: “He was assured the rules were being followed, they were. But it’s wrong and we want this to be fixed.”McNaughton is referring to the rules that allowed Peter Shurman to claim this house on Orchard Drive in Niagara-on-the Lake as his primary residence even though he represents Thornhill 150 kilometres away.The rules allowed him to bill taxpayers nearly $21,000 for another place closer to Queen’s Park. Shurman says he bought the Orchard Drive house as a retirement home.NDP leader Andrea Horwath went on the offensive: “It seems to me Mr. Shurmans’ pretty much the only person who’s found a way to fund a retirement home on the taxpayers dime.”The house was purchased in 2008 for about 660 thousand dollars. It has a pool, four bedrooms and it’s now worth about three quarters of a million dollars.Neighbours we talked to say they only saw the Shurmans in the summer.Peter Shurman hasn’t commented. It’s Roshashona and he can’t use electronic devices. But he’s been quoted as saying he wanted to get out of the city because his wife is legally blind and can’t drive. But anyone familiar with Niagara on the Lake and the Niagara Region knows the only way to get around here is by car.Critics are accusing the self proclaimed watchdog of taxpayer dollars of being hypocritical. He flies his own airplane to his winter home in Florida but claims he needs taxpayers help to pay for two homes.Niagara Falls MPP Kim Craitor said: “It doesn’t make sense to me. It’s not appropriate.”Government house leader John Milloy says what Shurman did violates the spirit of the rules.In a statement, P.C.leader Tim Hudak is promising Peter Shurman will stop claiming the allowance and pay for any future living expenses out of his own pocket.“I have asked and Mr. Shurman has agreed to discontinue any receipt of the accommodation allowance and going forward to pay for the expenses in question out of his own pocket.”On a Toronto radio program Friday evening, Peter Shurman admitted about being cavalier with taxpayers money. But he also justified what he did by saying the Niagara on the Lake house is the only house he owns. And if people do not like the rules, the rules should be changed.