The NDP took a journey into nowhere Thursday with a motion that invited the auditor general to look at MPs’ expenses. But because of its timing, the motion has no chance of being debated, much less passed — and that’s led one critic to suggest the NDP is only posturing.
The party’s House leader Peter Julian added a motion to the notice paper that urged an overhaul of MPs’ expenses. The NDP called for the establishment of an independent oversight body for expenses; the auditor general to audit the spending of the Commons, including members’ expense claims and the House to become subject to the Access to Information Act.
These suggestions were first made by the NDP in 2013 but were opposed by the other parties.
Julian’s motion comes too late in the spring session for MPs to have a chance to debate and vote on it — the party has no opposition days left that would allowed them to force a vote on the matter.
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation’s Aaron Wudrick said he welcomed the NDP’s motion, “but the fact it will never see the light of day makes it seem a lot more like posturing than a genuine effort.
“Nothing was stopping any party from putting forward a motion well before now, and yet they didn't.”
Wudrick told HuffPost that the NDP, Liberals and Conservatives don’t really want to force a vote, because “everyone’s afraid about that they might find.”
Government House leader Peter Van Loan told HuffPost said the NDP’s last allotted day was June 8. “They chose to debate a motion on employment insurance,” he wrote in an email. “This motion was put on the notice paper after that," he said of the call for an AG audit.
Shawn Dearn, the NDP’s director of communications, acknowledged that the party had no more allotted days but said the NDP wanted to get it on the notice paper to show their support for an audit of MPs’ expense claims.
“We felt it was important to reinforce our position on the need to overhaul the approach to MP expenses and House administration,” Dearn said. “We've been clear on this, have raised it for some time, and both Conservatives and Liberals chose to reject better oversight.”
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau told reporters Wednesday that he supports an audit of MPs’ expenses. His party, however, has so far chosen not to introduce any motions calling for such a review.
The Liberals are expected to make an announcement on government transparency early next week.
The Prime Minister’s Office also said this week that it would support having auditor general Michael Ferguson sit down with the Board of Internal Economy — a committee run by MPs that administers the Commons — to determine a way to do a comprehensive audit of MPs’ spending.
The Tories, however, have not moved any motions to that effect. Several Conservatives MPs told HuffPost that they oppose an audit. Last year, several Tories refused to give unanimous consent to a Green Party Leader Elizabeth May’s motion asking for one.
An audit of senators’ expenses, released this week, found almost $1 million in inappropriate claims by 30 senators. Several members of the upper chamber accepted taxpayer reimbursement for trips to charitable fundraisers, corporate and not-for-profit board meetings, personal spousal travel and overnight stays in cities in which they did not live. One senator, Don Oliver, expensed a fishing trip, a golf outing and his expenses to attend a convocation ceremony for a family member. Former speaker of the Senate Noel Kinsella argued that he should be allowed to expense travel to his brother-in-law’s funeral.
Ferguson’s audit of the upper chamber is expected to reach $23.6 million. It covered a two-year period and 116 senators. There are 308 MPs.
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