TORONTO — Did he jump or was he pushed?
Thornhill MPP Peter Shurman tendered a letter of resignation Dec. 10 to Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak, saying he’ll leave his seat effective the end of this month. In an interview with The CJN, Shurman said he had been planning the move since last June and that he wanted to “leave when you’re at the top of your game.”
However, the move came around the same time Hudak criticized the two-term MPP for claiming mileage expenses to and from his home in Niagara-on-the-Lake to Queen’s Park. And that critique followed a housing allowance controversy in September, in which it was reported that Shurman received $21,000 in government funds to maintain a second home in Toronto – an allowance that did not violate any technical rules.
Citing the high standard expected of elected officials – and no doubt conscious of the current Senate scandal – Hudak removed Shurman as Tory finance critic when Shurman refused to pay back the money.
Hudak released a letter dated Dec. 3 in which he stated: “In my mind and that of taxpayers, there is no distinction between the mileage claims and the housing issue you dealt with in September. Taxpayers expect parliamentarians to hold themselves to a higher standard when it comes to expenses. They expect us to respect their tax dollars.”
But Shurman told The CJN he is being discredited for doing what any legislator is entitled to do. “My brand is inherent in my integrity, and there are hundreds of thousands who will attest to that,” he said.
The mileage expenses, which ranged from $500 to $1,000 a month, were cleared with “legislative finance” officials to make sure they fell within accepted rules, Shurman said.
“They vet every expense, every dime that an MPP claims for anything,” he said.
Shurman said Hudak has known since 2011 that he intended to live in Niagara-on-th-Lake, but the leader had asked him to run in Thornhill. “I was quite open with where I lived,” he said.
Shurman said that when he met with Hudak to tender his resignation, “He reached out to hug me.”
The next day, he was surprised to see the letter from Hudak, dated Dec. 3 and made public, which criticized Shurman for claiming mileage expenses.
“It’s invented crap, and I take exception to it,” he said. It is designed “to make them look better.”
Adding to the intrigue, a statement released by Hudak following Shurman’s resignation noted his accomplishments in office and called him “one of the finer communicators in the legislature.”
Shurman said he leaves Queen’s Park satisfied he has done some good, particularly in working “under the radar” to help constituents
He takes pride in pushing the legislature to convene in January 2009 to pass legislation that “saved the year for those kids” who were locked out due to the York University work stoppage.
He advanced a motion, passed unanimously, that condemned Israeli Apartheid Week, and he co-sponsored motions establishing Jewish Heritage Month and Italian Heritage Month.
As for his future plans, Shurman, 66, said he plans to fire up his Beechcraft airplane and pilot it down to Florida so he and his wife can spend time visiting family in the Boca Raton area.
He doesn’t have anything specific lined up when he returns in February.
“There are a couple of things that look promising,” said the former radio talk show host, including using his negotiating skills to help companies in business development. And, he suggested, “I might get involved in the radio side.”