POLITICS

MPs Give Their Travel Budgets, Salaries A Boost

06/14/2013 01:00 EDT | Updated 08/14/2013 05:12 EDT
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House of Commons, Canadian Parliament, Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Canada
Members of Parliament gave themselves a six per cent increase to their travel budgets and a slight salary increase this spring, according to minutes of a closed committee meeting that were made public this week.

The board of internal economy is the governing body that oversees financial and administration matters of the House of Commons and its meetings are not open to the public. But on Thursday, the minutes of past meetings were posted online, revealing some details about the kinds of issues the board deals with. The minutes have always been available publicly upon request but now they can be accessed with a few clicks online.

Minutes from the March 25 meeting indicate the board approved an increase to the travel status expenses accounts for MPs worth $1,762 as of April 1. That brings the amount up to $28,000 for accommodation, meals and other incidentals.

The board also approved an increase of 1.6 per cent to MPs' sessional allowances and salaries.

The base salary for an MP was $157,731 and had been frozen with no increases since 2010-11. Now the base salary is $160,200.

Green MP Elizabeth May said Friday that the optics of a salary and travel budget increase right now are not very good. The Senate expenses scandal continues to dominate Parliament Hill and MPs have been under pressure to be more transparent about their books along with their Senate colleagues.

May noted that the overall budgets for MPs' offices have gone down but travel and MP salaries have gone up.

Gregory Thomas, federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, questioned whether MPs deserve a raise. "For what? For a job well done? For eliminating corruption? Balancing the budget? Getting unemployment below seven per cent? It sure isn't pay for performance," he said in an email.

Thomas said the fact that politicians are getting increases in salaries and travel budgets "in the middle of biggest expense scandal in at least a generation" shows that parliamentarians are "tone deaf."

The meeting minutes give a glimpse into some other matters happening on Parliament Hill. At the most recent meeting on May 27, for example, the board members discussed a pilot project with a limited number of staff using the new BlackBerry 10s. The board also considered a request for filming in the House of Commons for the film adaptation of the novel Best Laid Plans, a six-part miniseries that will air on CBC.

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