OTTAWA — Kevin Vuong, the Independent MP dropped as a candidate by the Liberals days before the election, says he will pay back campaign expenses he submitted to the party.
Vuong submitted over $600 in travel and food expenses to the Liberals in the Toronto riding of Spadina-Fort York where he was elected as an Independent.
The Liberals ditched Vuong as their candidate during the campaign after it emerged he had not told them he had previously been charged with sexual assault. The charge was dropped but the Liberals said he should have disclosed it when he was vetted as a potential candidate.
After the party disavowed him, it was too late to remove Vuong's name from ballot papers where he was listed as the Liberal candidate.
Vuong, a naval reservist, was elected and chose to sit in Parliament as an independent MP, despite calls from Liberals to step down.
He has not yet said whether he has been sworn in as an MP or if he plans to vote in support of the Liberal caucus. He has been retweeting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Vuong confirmed a member of his campaign team had submitted election expenses he incurred while the Liberal candidate, but said he plans to return the money.
"I have already discussed personally returning the amount once the campaign filing is completed," he said in a statement.
"Like all candidates, I had incurred expenses during the election campaign. All of the expenses were authorized and approved according to the checks and balances that are in place with any Liberal campaign.
"On my behalf, a member of my campaign team had filed $612.12 of food and travel expenses that I incurred during the 34 days of the campaign when I was the official candidate."
Adam Vaughan, a former Liberal MP and Vuong’s predecessor in Spadina-Fort York, questioned his decision to submit expenses as a Liberal candidate.
He said the Liberal association in the riding is consulting party lawyers to see if they are obliged to cover Vuong's election costs.
Vaughan, who didn't run for re-election, said he personally urged Vuong to resign as an MP. He said sensitive ongoing case files are now being dealt with by neighbouring MPs and other files have been shredded.
He said a meeting would take place shortly with party lawyers to discuss how to deal with Vuong's campaign expenses.
"We are not sure where we stand. What is the start and stop date? It's uncharted territory. They (the riding) are in the process of trying to understand the legal foundation," Vaughan said.
Vuong is expected to sit as an Independent on the end of the opposition benches and have an independent office in the riding.
He has set up a website for constituents to contact him which features a photo of him in uniform shaking hands with the Queen.
The Liberal Party said the filings for the party and the riding "will fully comply with the rules, regulations, and timelines set out by Elections Canada."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 25, 2021.
Marie Woolf, The Canadian Press