Justin Trudeau wants MPs and senators to post expenses online


OTTAWA – Justin Trudeau ventured out of doors Wednesday to announce a four-point plan to expose the expenses of MPs and senators to the bright light of day.

The venue — beside the centennial flame on Parliament Hill — was meant to be symbolic of the transparency and openness the Liberal leader hopes to bring to the way in which parliamentarians spend taxpayers’ money.

But with clouds obscuring the sun, it seemed more emblematic of the current, opaque accounting of parliamentarian spending that Trudeau wants to fix.

“Sunshine is the best disinfectant,” said Trudeau, who was nearly drowned out by the racket from nearby construction, a massive, noontime yoga class on the Hill lawn and a handful of Conservative protesters.

“And even though (the sun) didn’t quite co-operate today, throughout my career, throughout the years going forward, a big piece of the Liberal party and of my own personal brand is openness and accessibility.”

The Liberal leader said his “transformative” plan would make the expenses of parliamentarians more transparent than ever before — and make them more accountable for how they spend taxpayer dollars.

Trudeau acknowledged nothing in his plan would prevent “tremendous ethical lapses” such as improper housing allowance and expense claims by at least four senators, or the prime minister’s chief of staff, Nigel Wright, personally giving $90,000 to Sen. Mike Duffy to reimburse his invalid expense claims.

There are already rules against those sorts of activities, he said.

But he contended the plan is a necessary step to restore Canadians’ faith in public office holders, which has been badly shaken by the Senate expenses scandal.

His plan would require all MPs, and senators to post online quarterly details of travel and hospitality expenses incurred by them and their staff, as cabinet ministers are already required to do.

Liberals will voluntarily begin posting their expenses in the fall, regardless of what other parties choose to do, he said.

But Trudeau’s other proposals would require the support of other parties to implement:

  • Opening up meetings of the secretive board of internal economy, which oversees House of Commons spending. This would require an amendment to the Parliament of Canada Act, which Trudeau said one of his MPs will propose in a private member’s bill.
  • Requiring detailed, easily accessible, online quarterly expense reports by all MPs and senators on how they spend their office budgets;
  • Requiring performance audits of both houses of Parliament every three years by the auditor general and developing guidelines for when more in-depth, value-for-money audits should be conducted.

Treasury Board President Tony Clement welcomed Trudeau’s proposals on behalf of the Conservative government.

“We are absolutely in favour of any measure that would have the same kind of expenses accountability that currently exists for ministers to be expanded to all MPs,” Clement said.

“And we also have no difficulty opening up the board of internal economy.”

Trudeau laid the blame for the Senate expenses scandal squarely on Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his “poor choices” for filling vacancies in the chamber. He said a Liberal government would implement a more independent process for advising the prime minister on Senate appointments — much as is done for judicial appointments.

Trudeau’s initiative came shortly before the House of Commons began debating an NDP motion aimed at financially starving the Senate to death. The Liberal leader dismissed the motion, which would cut off funding to the Senate as of July 1, as a “political game.”

But NDP Leader Tom Mulcair argued that abolition of the Senate is the only real way to resolve the expenses scandal, which he said derives from the fact that the chamber is unelected, unaccountable and stacked with Liberal and Conservative party “hacks, bagmen and fundraisers.”

“We’re not about to start talking about reforming something that can’t be reformed,” Mulcair said.

He resisted suggestions that MPs’ expenses should be scrutinized by the auditor general, as the government wants to do for senators’ expenses.

Auditor general Michael Ferguson last year reported on both houses of Parliament, Mulcair noted. While Ferguson found numerous problems with the lack of controls to ward against improper expense claims in the Senate, Mulcair said he gave the House of Commons a “clean bill of health.”

However, the auditor general has never conducted a detailed, comprehensive audit of individual parliamentarians’ expenses.

A motion by government Senate leader Marjory LeBreton, calling on Ferguson to conduct a comprehensive audit of Senate expenses, got bogged down Wednesday amid concerns from LeBreton’s own Conservative colleagues.

Debate on the motion was adjourned until Thursday.

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Justin Trudeau wants MPs and senators to post expenses online

  1. That’s a good start. But at the end, it should be every single person who is expensing things to taxpayers. Should be no different than the Sunshine list. It also should include all the subcontractors who are working on public contracts. I’d love to see the expenses submitted by eHealth and Presto contractors. I bet it would be a good place to start figuring out why those things are so badly over budget.

  2. Can’t hurt and I hope the parties do so as well. I urge the public to refrain from jumping to conclusions when they hear about an ‘exorbitant” or “unconscionable” amount. Remember David Dingwall? The guy famous for saying “I’m entitled to my entitlements” actually turned out to have been completely justified in his spending – in fact, Canadians had every reason to be impressed with his performance at the mint.

  3. Nothing this man says or does matters. He is a twit and the only reason he is even in the news is because of a desperate party’s attempt to bring back the ‘glory’ of his father.

    JT has no ability or experience relevant to what the left in Canada have planned for him, but it doesn’t matter. The name trudeau is apparently more than enough to vote for.

    • What do you want to bet that half his caucus refuses to publish their expenses?

  4. Lots of Lib MP’s and Senator’s not too happy with Turdeau 2.

  5. The problem with Trudeau is that he has said nothing against patronage appointments. His idea of senate reform is to have greater accountability for senator expenses. Of course, senators are not accountable to voters because they are the result of partisan crony appointments — a corrupt tradition Trudeau has every intention of keeping.

    So under Trudeau the Liberals have learned nothing over the last decade. They still believe they are entitled to their entitlements.

  6. “Conservative” protestors? Do you have any evidence of this?

  7. Don’t be fooled by the weak measures proposed by the Trudeau Liberals — all the federal parties are trying to keep the Auditor General away!

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