House can compel NDP to repay cost of mailouts, MPs told

MPs looking into the alleged misuse of parliamentary resources by New Democrat MPs got a crash course on how, exactly, the House may be able to recover some of that money from the NDP on Wednesday night, courtesy of three senior Commons officials. Kady O'Malley has more.

A trio of senior Commons officials appeared at House affairs committee on Wednesday evening

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair along with 25 other NDP MPs have been asked to repay $1.17 million for ineligible mass mailouts. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

MPs looking into the alleged misuse of parliamentary resources by New Democrat MPs got a crash course on Wednesday night on how the House may be able to recover $36,000 in expenses related to mass mailings by the party.

A trio of senior House officials — deputy clerk Marc Bosc, deputy law clerk Richard Denis and Commons chief financial officer Mark Watters — were on hand to field questions during a testy two-hour evening session convened at the behest of the Conservative majority.

They confirmed that the 23 New Democrat MPs who signed off on the mail-outs, which have been deemed inappropriate by the House of Commons' Board of Internal Economy, are ultimately responsible for paying back their portion of the total amount the board of has determined is owed to the House. 

If they fail to do so within 90 days of receiving written notice of the debt, the House could, in theory, begin withholding funds, including sessional allowances and expense reimbursement, and could even put a freeze on their office budgets.

As for the $1.17 million in costs related to the use of postage-free envelopes, that's up to Canada Post to handle, as far as the House is concerned. 

Conservative MP Tom Lukiwski, however, hinted that the committee may want to call in witnesses from Transport Canada to find out how, exactly, the corporation intends to ensure every last one of those taxpayer dollars is ultimately repaid.

The committee broke without setting a date for their next meeting, which likely won't take place before July at the earliest, when House of Commons Clerk Audrey O'Brien is slated to return from medical leave. 

She's expected to be invited to appear before the committee to respond to the NDP's assertion that House administrators were fully aware of both the mailings and the party's so-called outreach offices in Quebec and Toronto.

Read a recap of the meeting here: