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‘Make Canadian MP Expenses Public’

That’s the title of this blogpost, and also the title of the Facebook group I’ve joined that just formed up in response/anger to the fact MP’s of all stripes rejected the auditor-general’s request to “audit Parliament”; in otherwards, audit MP’s and Senator’s expenses, which is a fair sum of money, as the Facebook group’s information tab explains (as well as the raison d’etre behind the group’s formation):

Our politicians in Ottawa won’t let the Auditor General examine their $500 million in annual expenses. How appalling is that? Clearly, that is not acceptable. Every other penny of government spending is subject to audit; so should the expenses racked up by our MPs and senators. While they claim they have “guidelines” in place to ensure the funds aren’t misused, “guidelines” didn’t stop politicians in Nova Scotia from expensing a video game or a UK politician from expensing a porn rental. We need your help to get these books opened!

I realize this group is being spearheaded by the Canadian Taxpayer’s Federation, which is a group many of us on the progressive side of the ledger have bones to pick with over their stances on certain issues, but in this case, I do agree with them; at this time, I see no reason why those expenses shouldn’t be audited.

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13 comments to ‘Make Canadian MP Expenses Public’

  • Kristos

    In 2010, a regular MP will earn $157,731, a cabinet minister $233,247 and Prime Minister Stephen Harper will gross $315,462. The cost of the recent prorogue was $4.5 million in MP salaries alone, and that doesn’t include what they receive for sitting on committees that didn’t sit until Parliament resumes.

    Canadian MPs spent $126.6 million last year on such office expenses as staff, rent, phones and travel. But the details behind the numbers are never made public, released only on a consolidated basis each year.

    Then there’s the perks. The spending included $25.7 million for the 64 free return airline tickets each MP has available annually for travel between their riding and Ottawa or anywhere else in the country. Spouses and dependants also have access to flights.

    MPs have a $25,500 annual expense allowance on top of their $157,738 salary, and are allowed to assign a portion of their per diems to home costs if they have a secondary residence in the capital, including a house or condominium.

    MPs haven’t had to vote on their salaries since 2001, when they passed then-prime minister Jean Chretien’s remuneration legislation by a 211-52 vote. The raises are recommended by an independent commission.

    And get this: They are also allowed to apply their meal allowance towards their mortgage payments.

  • Cathie from Canada

    I disagree somewhat with Scotian — I DO find Fraser to be too political in her judgements — she seems a little too eager for the press attention she gets when she rakes public servants over the coals, sometimes for doing very little that was actually wrong, and even if they have a good reason for doing it. I get the distinct impression she was licking her chops at the idea of targetting politicians — which is exactly why the MPs won’t let her anywhere near them. Governments fall over this kind of thing, as happened in Britain.

  • I’m not so sure I can agree with you on this one Scott. There is one aspect I think needs to be considered that I am not sure is, that being what the AG does is determine value for money. Ok, doesn’t that place the AG in a position where they are judging what an MP’s job services are and what is and is not of value? If so, then that could be undercutting the same principles of Parliamentary supremacy that we just had upheld by the Speaker a couple of weeks ago. I do think that proper oversight in terms that money was not spent in in proper categories/ways is fine, but a full value for money type audit seems to me could place an Officer of Parliament in a position where they can dictate to Parliament (MPs) what their jobs are. That btw is the only reason why I am not so sure this would be a good thing. If it weren’t for that then I would have no objection.

    You see, I would trust Sheila Fraser not to abuse her authority but what about the next AG? Fraser’s trust has been earned from her job performance, after all. I think therefore maybe it is better so long as an outside auditor is satisfied that there is no blatant abuse this is the one area where we should not have the AG involved in.

    Understand, I am not wedded to this, just that I think it is a consideration that needs thinking about, because one can with the best of intentions create bad precedents, and that is my concern/fear here. It is up to each MP to decide what is the best way to do their job under broad guidelines after all, this is part of how we have our system of government set up, and placing anyone over them with the authority to not only report abuses but decide what is proper/valuable for them to do and what is not does seem to me to risk undercutting the basic powers we invest in MPs under our current system. I am always a little nervous about making changes to our system of government in a piecemeal fashion because it can without intention end up making matters worse, and I am concerned this could be one of them

    If nothing else I thought there should be on record the one argument against the AG’s involvement I know of for balance’s sake if no other.

  • Rob

    Stop voting. If election turnout gets remarkably low, which it is consistently declining, politicians will start having to make POSITIVE changes to reverse that. The last election was my final vote.

    • @Rob, That does nothing to solve the problem.

      Quite frankly, as a progressive, I find that advice appalling.. because it’s felt part of the Conservatives strategy is to make ordinary people cynical and not want to come out to vote, but to keep putting out hot-button issues so their “base” of voters comes out and elects them in a reduced turnout scenario.

      What needs to be done is increased voter attention, and make sure the politicians know you’re paying attention. That’s why Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament drew so many people to their online FB group, a lot of people out onto the streets in protest, and why the Conservatives dropped 15 points in the polls in about a month and a half.

      Bottom line; the politicians will do nothing to resolve this unless there is enough voters letting them know that they are paying attention and that they don’t like it.

  • Leafer

    Dan F: “only serve to reinforce the cynicism that Canadians of all political stripes are feeling about politics in this country.”

    Too late. This situation is already reinforcing our cynicism.

  • Anon

    Who do those people think they are…GOD!! It is the tax payer of this country that keeps MPs supplied with money. Canadians have a right to know what kind of expenses they claim.

  • Dan F

    I agree in principle that it would be a good thing for transparency to have all MP expenses out in the open. In reality, however, there are probably MPs in every party that have something embarrassing within their expense reports, and the fallout would only serve to reinforce the cynicism that Canadians of all political stripes are feeling about politics in this country.

    A possible solution would be for the Liberal Party to include in the next election platform a promise to make all expenses public in the future, and to open up the past expenses of each MP 5 years after they retire. That way, MPs would start spending responsibly from this point forward, knowing that their expenses will eventually come under scrutiny, and still avoid the embarrassment and damage to the political world that a sudden opening of the books would cause.

    (When I say they should be opened up in the future, I mean of course that in the future, current expenses will always be published immediately on a website. They just need some reasonable time to adjust to this reality before it happens.)

  • wilson

    Well apparently ”MPs want expenses sealed to keep lawsuits quiet: Szabo”
    http://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=2580873

    • Red Forever

      What conservative politicians are concerned about lawsuts Wilson.

      Are the cons breaking the law again?

      • wilson

        How would I know. What libs are breaking the law again Red Forever?
        I’m curious what Dippers could possibly have been sued for…?

        • Red Forever

          Now come on Wilson, that was a lame reply.

          You are all over the Internet day and night 24/7 spewing the CPC, party line.

          You are very plugged in to the CPC, apparatchik.

          What do you know?

          The Cons are the government.

          What Con MP’s are worried about being sued?

          What Con MP’s are breaking the law again?

        • Marie

          when one fights so hard to hide the facts, that merely tells us that they do have something to hide that would make them look really bad. If they do not have anything to hide, what’s the harm of having the audits done?

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