The Speaker of the House of Commons is requesting 68 NDP MPs to reimburse the House more than $2.7 million in ineligible expenses related to so-called satellite offices.
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In a statement, Andrew Scheer, who also acts as the chair of the Commons' Board of Internal Economy, the
all-party committee making the request, said the NDP MPs "inappropriately used parliamentary resources for certain employment, telecommunication and travel expenses."
The NDP had been told a dollar figure would follow an August ruling by the board that said using parliamentary resources to pay for parliamentary employees at offices outside of Ottawa was an inappropriate use of taxpayer money.
The NDP House leader, Peter Julian, said in a statement that NDP parliamentary staff only do parliamentary work, and it is for this reason the NDP has taken the entire matter to court.
"We are confident that these rights and freedoms will be upheld over the decision of a kangaroo court," Julian said.
In her own statement Tuesday night, NDP MP Nycole Turmel, who is a spokeswoman for the board, said none of the MPs or their staff had been heard by the Board of Internal Economy and that "multiple errors" have been identified in expenses cited by the board.
Turmel added that the "consensus" of the board is that lawyers for both sides can reach an out-of-court settlement.
This is the NDP’s second run-in with the secretive committee.
The board also told the Official Opposition back in June it had wrongly used its mailing privileges by sending out partisan material. At the time, the board ordered the NDP to pay back more than a $1 million, most of which was to be reimbursed to Canada Post.
The minister responsible for Canada Post, Lisa Raitt, spoke to the CEO of the corporation about the situation, but to date no action has been taken.
The NDP is also fighting that matter in court.
The difference in the ruling this time is that invoices will be sent to individual MPs who the board deems have broken the rules. Sources say the MPs will have 90 days to respond.
Text of a statement from the Board of Internal Economy:
STATEMENT: Use of House of Commons Resources for Political Offices – Remedies
Ottawa – February 3, 2015 – The Honourable Andrew Scheer, Speaker of the House of Commons and Chair of the Board of Internal Economy, has confirmed that the Board has determined the remedies it will be seeking further to its August 12, 2014 finding that some New Democratic Party (NDP) Members inappropriately used parliamentary resources for certain employment, telecommunication and travel expenses.
Since individual Members’ Office Budgets were used to supplement the NDP Research Office Budget, the Board will be directing that each participating Member personally reimburse the salary costs under question. As such,
- Each participating Member or House Officer will be directed to reimburse, as a personal expense, all salary costs incurred from May 2, 2011 to December 31, 2014. There were 68 Members, including House Officers and one former Member, who participated in this shared employment arrangement on behalf of the Research Office.
- The total amount to be reimbursed is $2,749,362.
As per the Board’s By-laws and policies, Members are the employers of their employees and have full discretion in the direction and control of the work performed on their behalf by their employees. Since Members are responsible for the use of House resources, they bear sole responsibility for any inappropriate use.
Full text of a statement by Nycole Turmel, the NDP's representative on the BOIE:
STATEMENT BY NYCOLE TURMEL
SPOKESPERSON OF THE BOARD OF INTERNAL ECONOMY
OTTAWA – As spokesperson of the Board of Internal Economy, Nycole Turmel is authorized to make public the following decision:
"The Board of Internal Economy decided today to send statements of account to several MPs regarding the satellite offices issue.
None of the MPs has been heard by the Board of Internal Economy. Nor have any of the employees responsible for this parliamentary work been heard. It is also important to note that multiple errors have been identified in the amounts cited.
The goal of today’s decision is to create leverage against the MPs cited by the Board of Internal Economy – whether they be New Democrats, Forces et Démocratie, Bloc Québécois or independent.
The Board of Internal Economy acknowledges that the NDP MPs will pursue their Federal court case. The consensus of the Board of Internal Economy, however, is that the lawyers of both parties continue their negotiations in order to arrive at an out-of-court settlement.
The Board of Internal Economy asked the House Administration to release a statement today.
No other decision regarding this issue has been taken by the Board of Internal Economy."
The motion adopted today is attached herewith:
The Board accepts the table prepared by the House Administration which indicates the amounts spent to date by each member for satellite offices, which the Board determined at its meeting of August 12, 2014 was an inappropriate use of parliamentary resources; and The Board directs the House Administration to send to each Member listed in the table a statement of account indicating the amount they must reimburse; The Board authorizes spokespersons to communicate this decision to the public; and The Board directs the House Administration to issue a communiqué outlining this decision today.