We cannot be trusted with this information - Macleans.ca

We cannot be trusted with this information


Conservative Gerald Keddy explains why details of MP expenses shouldn’t be made public.

South Shore-St. Margarets MP Gerald Keddy, a Conservative, points out that federal MPs need to follow much tougher rules than MLAs did, with strict oversight by officials who review their spending, so he sees no reason to make it public. “No,” he said. “No way. No way. All we’re doing is opening it up, giving the media an opportunity to find fault. What we have is an overall budget. We are absolutely 100 per cent responsible for that budget. If we go over that budget, we pay out of our own pocket, and we have very, very good scrutiny.”

On the one hand, he’s absolutely correct. The full publication of MP expenses would inevitably result in various outlets and individuals placing unreasonable significance on the expensing of, say, a pack of gum, or some cabinet minister’s decision to dine at some establishment more rarefied than Kelsey’s.

On the other hand, the potential for embarrassment and the frequent tawdriness of the Parliamentary press gallery are likely not legally recognized excuses for public officials to avoid accountability and transparency.


We cannot be trusted with this information

  1. If an MP is wastng their budget the public interest is served by the fact that they are no doubt underperforming as a minister or MP.

    As such they'll be replaced in due time.

  2. One iconic Hull restaurant, Cafe Henry Burger, closed its doors, blaming the new rules.

    I didn't know it had closed. That's too funny.

    I've had to live with value-for-money expensing and auditing my entire career (thanks to the profligate spending of the boomer generation). So should MP's. It's not that difficult, in any case, so long as the rules are clear.

  3. "We are absolutely 100 per cent responsible for that budget."

    No. No you're not. Ultimately, it's the citizens' responsibility, and it's our money. And we'd like the chance to know what you're doing with it.

    If you don't like accountability and scrutiny, get the hell out of public office. If you think the voters will stupidly demonize reasonable expenditures, why on earth would you want to work for them?

    • fully with Sean on this one (welcome back Sean). it is not up those who are accountable to determine how, or what grounds, they will satisfy accountability to whom their account is due. the expectation that we can now go back in time is, well, incredulous.

      also I seem to remember some of Gerald's colleagues feeling differently when they occupied the opposition benches. between Gerald, Helena and Jean-Pierre, are the CPC starting to feel to entitled to their entitlements, as the saying goes?

      • It took nearly a generation in power for the Liberal party to get there.
        It's taken less than one full term for the Harpers.

      • Howdy, and thanks!

        I risk abusing the term 'contempt' in describing the worldview of many Conservative MPs, but they never seem to stop providing fresh evidence to confirm its appropriateness.

      • "it is not up those who are accountable to determine how, or what grounds, they will satisfy accountability to whom "

        Unless it relates to detainees, I suppose?

        • i am not sure exactly what you are getting at here Ted.

          if you are suggesting that the the Tories feel that they get to set the terms of their accountability to parliament for the detainees, I concur; but, I also see this, to a certain degree, as a major failing off the opposition. by hedging on their demands for the documents, until very recently, including considering acceptable 'outs' (ie., a public inquiry) and failing to 'show up' (in Iggy's case literally) to push their demand, they have not squelched the Tories brazen attempts to set the terms.

  4. It's public money. Therefore MP and MLA expenses should be made public for all to see. End of story.

  5. also, as Aaron's title somewhat alludes too, it seems to be a running theme these days that the CPC feels that those charged with scrutinizing their work, either formally (e.g., the opposition scrutinizing the procedures and practices pertaining to the handling of Afghan detainee) or informally (e.g., the media and citizens examining what MPs expense), are not to be trusted with the information necessary to enable that scrutiny. as scrutiny is paramount to accountability, are the CPC suggesting they should not be subject to accountability (except for where they sanction it)?

    • To be fair, everybody hates them and nobody gives them a fair shake and the Liberals did much worse things and the media is a complete proganda tool of the left and…

    • Do you think this attitude will extend to the Auditor General checking the books on the Economic Action Plan?

      • hey Danby.

        I think that one is a bit a harder to say. The AG, esp the incumbent, is the most trusted institution in Canadian politics. attempting to rub her face in the mud for doing her job, as they have with their smears of the opposition (i.e., they hate our troops!) and the journos (i.e., they are incompetent/untrustworthy), would put them on the wrong side of public opinion by a country mile.

        that being said that they found a much more quiet way to try to obstruct the PBO (i.e., to flood Kevin Page with streams of paper) and their recent beahviour on a number of fronts have shown little consideration of the potential public opinion implications.

        what about you?

        • I think the CPC will do anything in it's power to delay the report as long as possible – and I honestly think that if cornered, Mr Harper would have the gall to blame the "Liberal" civil service of conspiring to skew the results (he may even argue that his goal to decrease their numbers instigated a conspiracy to smear the PMO. It doesn't have to be true, it just has to be plausible.
          Stephen Harper has taken political "gamesmanship" to new highs (or lows, depending on your point of view) and nothing he does should surprise anyone.

          • recent activities provide no evidence that our concerns are not likely to materialize, unfortunately, Danby. and, I agree fully, with your point on "gamesmanship".

  6. I don't think gum or any food is a justifiable expense. Governments don't eat. Food is for the MP's. They wouldn't starve themselves if they couldn't expense their meals would they?

    That goes double for allowing businesses to tax deduct these things.

    • No, but we ask them to travel, we ask them to host, etc. They don't get to expense every lunch or dinner or cup of coffee just like not every lunch or dinner or coffee is tax deductible. But in some circumstances we do allow it because it is an expense that needed to be incurred to do their work. The cereal and milk I had for breakfast this morning by choice is a lot less out of my pocket than the hotel breakfast I ate last week when I travelled out of town to meet clients.

    • I usually don't expense food when I'm traveling, based on this same logic (and because I make enough already, and I don't feel the need to nickel and dime my employer, even though surely my employer would nickel and dime me!), but I know for a fact that I'm entitled to expense meals while on business, and that this is common practice in the business world, so I don't begrudge our MPs using their expense accounts for the type of thing that any business person in the country would be allowed to do.

      If you want to fight to have this type of expense reimbursement stopped for everyone in the country then fine (and good luck with that), but as this is standard practice in both the private and the public sectors, I won't complain about our MPs doing it.

      • Right. That's why I included the line about tax deduction. What the private sector does isn't much concern to me, just as long as we all don't have to help pay for shmoozing during a Leafs game in a private box at the ACC.

        And if the public sector must follow a private company's expensing methods, why can't be Wal-Mart?

  7. Expensing a pack of gum is small potatoes. It's the $600 liquor bills that I'm concerned about.

    • Why do you hate our distillers so much?

      • I don't; one could surely get drunk on good Canadian beer or wine long before one hits a $600 bar tab.

        (And yes, I get your meme-point, I'm just replying anyhow).

    • Don't worry, it was seied when he tried to take it on the airplane :)

  8. And so the fable runs its course full circle.

    All pigs are equal but some are more equal than others, and tomorrow Parliament shall be re-named Manor Farm.

  9. Here is the TB rates for all government employees (including MP's) on meal rates for example
    If you go over that said amount you pay out of pocket. End of story.
    Took me about 20 seconds to find it.

  10. That's our money, bub, not yours. You owe us an account of how you're spending it.
    Act like a conservative for crying out loud.

  11. I do find it very funny and telling how they have gone after even their own appointees as partisan hacks the minute they don't tow the party line. Kevin Page is the most obvious example, but the Privacy Commissioner, the head of Elections Canada, the head of the MPCC (I think), the former head of Rights and Democracy (Beauregard), etc.

  12. "No way. No way. All we're doing is opening it up, giving the media an opportunity to find fault."

    Finally a politician understands the purpose of the media. Too bad he completely misses the point.

  13. Amazing how they changed their tune. I remember Rahim Jaffer attacking daily, the cost of pizza lunches of Volpe. He even went as far as taking a plane with some buddies to Toronto (taxpayer expense) to try to prove he could buy a pizza lunch for less.

  14. "an establishment more rarified than Kelseys"

    Since I can hardly ever afford to dine at Kelseys or any similar place, I want my MP to take me out for dinner there. Could that be a legitimate expense on behalf of a constitutent? :)

    • I'd have thumbed-up you, but I know who your MP is, and you and I are friends. I wouldn't wish that upon you.

  15. I liked Peter Stoffer's reaction, which was basically (paraphrasing) "I'm going to check and see if there's anything preventing me from posting my expenses myself, and if not, I'll turn them over to the Chronicle-Herald". Even if for some reason the House can't get itself together and make such posting mandatory, if it can be done voluntarily and, say, every opposition Member of Parliament voluntarily posted his or her expenses, we could perhaps get where we'd like to be notwithstanding the government's seeming opposition.

    That said, I think I'll wait 48 hours before taking Keddy's comments as being indicative of anything whatsoever. Sure, he says "No. No way. No way." today, but with this government by Wednesday that could be subtly tweaked to "Yes. Yes way. Absolutely".

  16. Yes, and I've noticed that a lot of companies have "limit" or allowance amounts on their meal compensation (such as $15 for lunch, $30 for dinner, or somesuch), and a mileage allowance for transportation, at about 40 cents/km.

    If it's within prescribed limits like that, there's less of an issue. If the prescribed limits are off the charts, I have less of a problem with the individuals expensing the stuff than I do with the folks who made the limits in the first place. If people are expensing more than the allowable limits, make 'em pay.

  17. Public Sector Meal Entitlements (including Members of Parliament)
    Appendix C – Allowances –

    Effective Date: October 1, 2009

    Allowances – Canadian $ (taxes included) Canada & USA Yukon & Alaska N.W.T. Nunavut
    1. Canada
    1.2 Meal allowances
    Breakfast – 100% 14.45 * 15.15 20.80 19.70
    breakfast – 75% (31st day onward) 10.85 * 11.35 15.60 14.80
    lunch – 100% 13.45 * 16.70 18.00 26.90
    lunch – 75% (31st day onward) 10.10 * 12.55 13.50 20.20
    dinner – 100% 38.35 * 48.35 47.75 59.30
    dinner – 75% (31st day onward) 28.75 * 36.25 35.80 44.45
    Meal allowance total – 100% 66.25 * 80.20 86.55 105.90
    Meal allowance total – 75% (31st day onward) 49.70 * 60.15 64.90 79.45


  18. I would be willing to bet the farm that if we opened these books, the public would discover Conservative MPs as "entitled to their entitlements" as former Liberal Ministers were, in terms of what they expensed. How many do you think take a limo to the airport instead of a cab?