OTTAWA – Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown says an NDP complaint about his parliamentary spending shows the party is nervous about the inroads he has made in traditional New Democrat strongholds. But the former MP for Barrie, Ont., doesn’t deny he may have used House of Commons resources to help his leadership campaign.
Thursday, the NDP asked the Board of Internal Economy — a committee that administers the House of Commons — to investigate Brown’s use of parliamentary resources, including his travel claims and cell phone usage.
NDP MP Malcolm Allen said Brown had spent most of the past eight months criss-crossing the province, dedicating his time and energy on the Progressive Conservative race.
“He took part in debates, interviews, partisan events and fundraisers,” Allen wrote in a letter to the Board. “None of these activities have anything to do with his work as member for the riding of Barrie and/or as a member of the federal Conservative caucus.”
In a statement, Brown said the NDP’s complaint was “unfortunate and demonstrates that the NDP are clearly nervous about the inroads I have made with the people of Northern Ontario since I became Leader of the Ontario PC Party.”
He did not address the nature of Allen’s complaint but wondered whether the NDP would also ask the Board to investigate several of their own MPs who campaigned for the party leadership in 2012 while remaining in their seats, such as current leader Thomas Mulcair, Toronto MP Peggy Nash, Ottawa MP Paul Dewar, B.C. MP Nathan Cullen and Manitoba MP Niki Ashton.
Allen said he wants Brown’s activities between Sept. 28, 2014, and May 14, 2015, reviewed to determine if he was improperly using parliamentary resources for his provincial leadership campaign.
According to the NDP’s calculation, Brown missed 70 per cent of the votes while he was on the provincial campaign trail. Brown did not resign from his seat while he campaigned for the Progressive Conservative leadership.
He continued to received his six-figure House of Commons salary, telling the Barrie Examiner last September that there is no precedent that says an MP must give up his or her seat when pursuing the leadership of a provincial political party. He vowed at the time to balance his work in Ottawa with his campaign.
"I take my job seriously as a member of Parliament," he told the newspaper. "We've certainly been able to continue our level of activity in Barrie."
The Board of Internal Economy is made up of representatives from all three major parties. The Conservatives have four members, including the Speaker of the House of Commons acting as chair, the NDP two and the Liberals one.
The NDP has recently called the Board a “kangaroo court” that meets behind closed doors where the Tories and Liberals gang up on New Democrats.
During the past year, the Board has ruled that the NDP broke several House of Commons bylaws by setting up staff improperly in partisan offices outside Ottawa and by sending out mailings that were too partisan.
Basing its information on research and the recommendation of non-partisan employees, the Board ruled that the NDP owed more than $2.785 million to taxpayers and announced this week that it would start to collect the money from 68 current and former MPs on July 1.
Brown could not be reached immediately for comment.
With files from Ryan Maloney
Read Malcolm Allen's full letter below:
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