A secretive House committee has announced changes to how MPs report their expenses.
The board of internal economy for the House of Commons says new disclosure rules will come into force April 1, 2014.
The board is in charge of members' budgets and other administration matters of the House.
MPs currently report some expenses, but under broad headings. Under the new rules, MPs will have to:
- Separate service contracts from employees' salaries in the reported costs.
- Separate accommodation expenses from their per diems, or daily allowances.
- Sub-divide the hospitality category by events, gifts and meetings.
There will also be changes to how travel points are disclosed. Parliamentarians get a set number of travel points to cover the cost of flights they or their designated spouses or staff take for work throughout the year. The new reporting rules will require MPs to disclose:
- The traveller.
- The destination.
- The dates of return and departure.
- A description of the purpose of travel.
- The total transportation cost.
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation welcomed the changes in a statement.
“These reforms are a step in the right direction, but there’s no excuse in 2013 for MPs not to provide receipts and contracts fully documenting their spending.”
But the CTF pointed out receipts for travel expenses will still not be required under the proposed changes.
NDP MPs told justification must be clear
NDP MPs were told Wednesday to be prepared to better track and document their expenses.
Caucus chair Peter Julian advised MPs during their weekly caucus meeting that the party will put in place a process for transparent disclosure of expenses. Julian suggested MPs may need to change the way their offices are run in order to track expenses and is offering training for staff to make sure they understand how to do it.
New Democrats will have to make sure the justification behind their reimbursements is clear. Specifically, laying out who they met with at a particular meeting, the meal, the transportation and other information.
They have also been told that every travel and hospitality receipts must be well organized.
Report must be 'meaningful'
On Parliament Hill Wednesday, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair told reporters all parties agree the public has a right to know how public money is spent, but he said his party wants MPs to move to a more meaningful, transparent system.
"I put emphasis on meaningful. Self-reporting is meaningless unless verified.”
That comment was a direct criticism of the way both the Conservatives and the Liberals have chosen to move forward on the expense issue.
Just last week the Conservatives confirmed MP and senators would be voluntarily disclosing their travel and hospitality expenses.
Liberal MPs and senators were the first to move towards publicly posting their expenses online.
The NDP says it is trying to go even further and is calling for the expenses to be managed by an outside, independent body.