OTTAWA — Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said Wednesday he’d support an auditor general review of all MPs’ expenses. The Conservatives responded that they would support it too, and the NDP insisted they would also back a call for a comprehensive audit of spending claims.
But none of the parties pledged to bring forward a motion inviting the AG to audit the Commons.
Trudeau told reporters that the House of Commons’ leadership needs to sit down with auditor general Michael Ferguson to see whether a comprehensive audit of expense claims — such as the one in the Senate Tuesday where 30 senators were fingered for inappropriate expense claims — was needed or whether procedures simply needed to be changed.
“It’s high time the auditor general came into the House of Commons,” he said. “We are looking at different options, but the bottom line is we have to have leadership of the House sit down with the auditor general and figure out a way forward.”
“Maybe it is just a question of adapting our procedures; maybe it’s a question of going to look at the 308 MPs and reviewing all their expenses in past years. We have to be open to what’s necessary.”
Soon after Trudeau’s comments, a spokeswoman for Conservative whip John Duncan told HuffPost the Tories would also support a comprehensive audit of MPs expenses.
“We support having the auditor general sit down with the Board of Internal Economy and determining a way for him to engage on this,” wrote Christine Maydossian in an email.
Last year, when Green Party Leader Elizabeth May proposed the AG come look at MPs’ books, Tory MPs vetoed her request.
Quebec party Forces et Démocratie and Independent MP Brent Rathgeber also told HuffPost they support an AG audit of the House of Commons.
NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair danced around the topic when asked about it Wednesday, although his staff insisted that the NDP leader would support it.
“We’ve not only supported it, we’ve proposed it,” Mulcair told HuffPost referring to a statement buried in a 2013 minority committee report.
So would he now call for the AG to look at MPs’ books? Mulcair didn’t answer.
NDP House leader Peter Julian also refused to promise to call the AG in. He said the NDP had supported the move in the past.
The NDP’s current position on openness and transparency does not call for the AG to review all MPs’ expense claims but rather for the AG to help MPs set up an independent oversight body to replace the controversial Board of Internal Economy — the secretive committee run by MPs that administers the House of Commons.
Some NDP MPs, such as Raymond Côté, Ryan Cleary and Charlie Angus refused to call for the AG to audit the House of Commons, but others such as Rosane Doré Lefebvre and Pierre Dionne Labelle told HuffPost that MPs should be audited as well.
“We have nothing to hide,” Dionne Labelle said.
Conservative MP Mike Lake told HuffPost he didn’t think an audit was needed.
“Our expenses are more transparent than they have ever been.”
Paul Calandra, the parliamentary secretary to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, said he “wouldn’t support” a motion for an audit.
His constituents can look at his expenses on his website, he added, and that’s sufficient.
“The auditor general said yesterday that he didn’t think an audit of MPs’ expenses was required, and I am very confident of the work of the auditor general, and I respect that,” Calandra said.
Ferguson told reporters he is not pushing to do an audit of the Commons, and that it is up to MPs — as the senators did — to invite him.
Several of the recommendations the AG made in his Senate audit could be applied to the House of Commons. The auditor general noted that the upper house needed independent oversight rather than the current system where politicians make the rules and decide whether or not the rules should apply in any given case.
Ferguson also highlighted areas where politicians could save taxpayers money, such as being more honest in their per diem claims for meals when they attend committee hearings where lunch is provided, or ordering fancy Christmas cards rather than plain ones.
The Auditor General report on Senate expense claims is expected to cost $23.6 million dollars. Over a two year period, 116 senators’ expenses were reviewed. There are 308 MPs.
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