OTTAWA — New Democrat Leader Thomas Mulcair is denying reports that the House of Commons plans to collect funds on July 1 from NDP MPs who billed taxpayers for improper staffing of satellite offices. A defiant Mulcair said the Tories and the Liberals are ganging up on the NDP and that his party broke no rules.
“That’s not true. It’s not the truth. No one’s said that,” Mulcair told reporters Wednesday.
But Board of Internal Economy spokesman John Duncan had confirmed that the Commons plans to recoup the $2.75 million it believes the NDP owes for breaking bylaws by setting up parliamentary staff in partisan offices outside Ottawa.
“This is just a political game being played,” Mulcair told reporters. There has never been a “scintilla” of evidence the NDP didn’t respect all the rules, he said.
“It’s just our Liberal and Conservative adversaries using their majority to try to frustrate the party that’s coming up in the polls and doing well compared to the two old-line parties.”
The NDP has been rising in the polls and the parties are in a three-way race, but the Board of Internal Economy’s initial ruling was made last August when the NDP was a distant third in the polls.
In a statement Wednesday, Duncan said the dissolution of Parliament did not erase the requirement for MPs to repay improper expenses.
On July 1, Duncan said, 68 current and former NDP MPs will see their hospitality claims, per diems and travel expenses denied, with the expected reimbursements directed to the Commons coffers. MPs who are not re-elected or won’t be running on Oct. 19 will see part of their separation and pension payments clawed back.
NDP members who either lost their nomination races or decided not to run again — such as Quebec MPs Tyrone Benskin ($31,888), Alexandrine Latendresse ($31,888), Marie-Claude Morin ($30,023), Marc-André Morin ($25,690), José Nunez-Melo ($31,700) and Francine Raynault ($27,952) — could be personally on the hook for financial decisions the NDP made.
HuffPost learned the NDP offered to repay 10 per cent of what its MPs owed. The party offered to have its parliamentary budget reduced by $270,000 next year to make up for the shortfall, but the board rejected the offer. The NDP now plans to continue with its legal challenge in federal court.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau told reporters the NDP had been misusing public funds for party purposes “for an awfully long time” and it wasn’t a recent issue that had come forward.
“[The] House of Commons administration found that the New Democratic party misused parliamentary funds and needs to repay them, is a very serious and independent finding,” Trudeau said.
“What people expect from their leaders is that when you make a mistake you own up to it, you apologize for it, and you make it right. You fix it. Instead, we see Mr. Mulcair trying to deny that anything actually happen and blame others and that’s just not the leadership that people need to see.”
Treasury Board President Tony Clement said Mulcair’s argument that the Liberals and Conservatives were just trying to bring the NDP down was unfounded.
“That’s the argument of a group of caucus people, the NDP, who don’t want to pay back the money they owe the taxpayers,” he said.
“I would just say to Mr. Mulcair and his caucus colleagues pay back the money you owe. It’s money that is owed to the taxpayer. You broke the rules. You were found to break the rules. That wasn’t just Liberals or Conservatives. That was the Speaker of the House of Commons and his research that came to the same conclusion.”
With files from Ryan Maloney
UPDATE - Aug. 16, 2016: José Nunez-Melo says that the NDP barred him from running again for his seat. He has announced that he will run for the Green party in the new riding of Vimy.
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