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Kwan admits to luxury trip

A New Democrat who represents a Vancouver riding has admitted she and her family took two trips cited in scathing government audits that revealed lavish spending by a non-profit group funded to look after some of Canada's poorest people.

Jenny Kwan said Thursday that she was concerned when she heard previous directors of the Portland Hotel Society claimed for trips.

In a statement, issued hours after the audits were released, Kwan said she and her two children joined her husband on two vacations in 2012.

"I was assured at the time by my former partner that he paid out of his pocket for the family portion of the travel expenses," said Kwan, who has championed herself as an anti-poverty advocate.

"I would never have gone had I known that the family portion of the travel would appear to have been paid for by PHS," she said.

Her ex-husband, Robert Dan Small, is among the executives of the society and is listed in the independent audit as the director of policy, research and fund development for the society since 1998.

A $2,600 trip for two adults and two children to the Disney resort in Anaheim, Calif., was singled out in the audit, along with several other trips to destinations including Paris and Vienna.

Kwan did not return calls requesting an interview but New Democrat caucus chairman Shane Simpson confirmed she went to Disneyland and Europe in 2012.

"I believe the European one was her ex-husband was going to participate in a conference around drug policy and the family accompanied him," he said, adding he didn't think Kwan would resign over the scandal.

The audits detailed more than $8,600 spent on limousine rides last year, a stay in a United Kingdom hotel that cost almost $900 a night.

It also found that society credit-card expenses for 764 restaurant meals amounted to $69,000. One bill came to $1,636 for a staff appreciation event. Travel costs expensed for trips to Vienna, Paris, Istanbul, New York City, Banff and Jasper and Ottawa amounted to $300,000.

The Portland Hotel Society provides social housing and other services, including North America's only safe-injection site where addicts shoot up their own drugs to prevent overdoses and infectious diseases such as HIV.

Health Minister Terry Lake said Thursday that four society executives had been fired and an interim board has taken over operations of the largest social service provider in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside to ensure people who need services will continue getting them.

The audits spearheaded by BC Housing and Vancouver Coastal Health also showed the non-profit society is in weak financial shape, is more than $113,000 into its bank overdraft and drew $1.2 million from lines of credit and a business loan.

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