NDP, Liberals trade accusations over taxpayer-funded offices, advertising
All-party board of internal economy to alert Elections Canada to mailings during Bourassa byelection
The New Democrats found themselves under fire from both sides of the House on Monday over recent media reports on taxpayer-funded party outreach offices in Montreal and Quebec City.
In addition to the Quebec offices, the party website recently posted a job listing for a Saskatoon-based "outreach" officer who would provide assistance to MPs outside the capital, despite the fact that the New Democrats haven't elected an MP in the province since 2000.
In a letter to Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer, Liberal ethics critic Scott Andrews called on the shadowy all-party Board of Internal Economy to investigate what he described as "a disturbing pattern of possible use of Parliamentary resources for party activities."
Conservative MP Blake Richards went even further, issuing a press release that claimed the NDP had been "caught red-handed misusing taxpayer dollars," and urging the board to "recover the inappropriately used taxpayer money from the NDP."
The NDP, for its part, have steadfastly denied any wrongdoing.
On Monday afternoon, Government Whip and Board spokesman John Duncan convened a press conference to announce that the Board has agreed to send a letter to Elections Canada on the NDP's use of bulk mailings outside NDP ridings, in order to "ensure that Elections Canada is aware of any costs that could be attributable to election spending."
Earlier this month, the Liberals lodged a formal complaint with the electoral agency over letters sent to voters in Bourassa last November, which they say arrived after the byelection was called, and should count as an election expense for the NDP candidate, Stephane Moraille, who was ultimately defeated by Liberal MP Emmanuel Dubourg.
The New Democrats, however, don't appear to be particularly daunted by the tag-team attacks.
Just after question period wrapped up, New Democrat MP Isabelle Morin rose in the House to accuse Montreal-area Liberal MP Marc Garneau of breaking House rules and potentially violating her privilege as a member by running ads in a Westmount newspaper inviting people outside his riding — including, she noted, those in her riding of Notre-Dame-de-Grace — to "join him for a coffee."
Under Commons administration rules, she argued, MPs can only fund advertisements out of their office budgets in order to communicate with their constituents.
Scheer took her complaint under advisement, and Garneau is expected to rise in his own defence later this week.
Meanwhile, it will be up to the Board of Internal Economy to decide what, if any, action to take in response to the requests from Andrews and Richards to look into the NDP's out-of-town outposts.
Read the letter sent to Elections Canada by the Board of Internal Economiy here: