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Senators Spent a Collective Total of $500,000 for Office Art Rentals Since 2016: Taxpayers’ Group

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Senators have a $240,000 annual budget that includes art rental from approved suppliers

Canada’s senators spent a collective $500,000 on art for their offices since 2016, according to the Canadian Taxpayer’s Federation (CTF).

“Some say art is priceless, but in the Canadian Senate, it’s more like a blank cheque,” stated a June 16 news release from the non-profit advocacy group.

“Senators have racked up more than half-a-million dollars in art rentals and related expenses since 2016, while forcing Canadian taxpayers to pick up the tab.”

The CTF said it had reviewed all disclosed Senate expenses since July 2016, when stricter spending rules were implemented, and concluded that 52 senators had filed art-related expenses for a total cost of $514,616.

“That means taxpayers are being forced to shell out $6,600 per month so senators can hang art on the walls of their offices. The base salary for a Canadian senator is $169,600,” states the CTF.

Senate expense rules allow public servants to rent art from approved suppliers, with the annual cost of rental, delivery, installation, removal, and insurance covered by their office budget. Most senators rented from the Canadian Council for the Arts, which the CTF said also received $510 million in federal funding, which constitutes roughly 90 percent of its revenue.

Mary Coyle, an independent senator from Nova Scotia, billed the Senate for $28,535 in art expenses between 2018 and 2022, it said.

Coyle told The Epoch Times on June 20 that she is “honoured to be able to display art by talented Canadian artists in my Senate office.”

The senator said she has a combination of art she owns and some she rents from the Art Bank. “Visitors to my Parliament Hill office appreciate seeing this beautiful art and I am proud to share it with them. Art is an important expression of our Canadian culture and identity,” she said.

Epoch Times Photo
The Senate of Canada building and Senate Chamber are pictured in Ottawa on Feb. 18, 2019. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Independent New Brunswick Sen. David Adams Richards had seven art expenses from 2017 to 2021, with the third highest spending on the list at $25,230, according to the CTF.

Richards, an award-winning novelist and screenwriter, told The Epoch Times on June 20 that he used art in his office that was “warehoused and unseen by artists who were no longer in the public eye or at least those particular paintings weren’t.”

“I chose to display them in tribute to artists who deserved more than a space in a warehouse box or sitting hidden along some aisle,” he said.

The senator said, however, that he had decided to remove the art and return the pieces to the warehouse, replacing them “with the art of friends.”

“It will be no difficulty and I have known many painters who I will be honoured to display. So I hope will they,” he added.

Of all the senators, CTF said Denise Batters had the highest art expense since 2016, with annual bills of approximately $5,000 per year.

On three separate occasions, she billed taxpayers $10,320 for two-year art rentals, said the CTF. In total, Batters has filed four art expenses since 2017, for a cost of $32,047.

Batters did not respond to The Epoch Times by press time, but in a written statement to the CTF, she said she had the “highest regard for taxpayer’s dollars.”

“I believe promoting Saskatchewan’s art and culture publicly is important; thus, I spend a small amount of my budget to rent these regional artworks for display in my office in lieu of other office expenditures,” Batters said.

According to data obtained by the CTF, since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been in power, the expenses of the Canadian Senate have jumped by 70 percent.

In 2015–16, Senate expenditures were $74.5 million. By 2023–24, the Senate’s budget had jumped to $126.7 million, said CTF. Staff numbers had also increased 30 percent, from 372 full-time staff in 2017, to 493 full-time staff in 2022.

“This year, each Senator will receive a budget of approximately $240,000 for office-related expenses, which includes art,” states the CTF.

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