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What an MP costs

Last Updated: February 27, 2012

Introduction

Members of Parliament are among those bracing themselves for spending cuts in the 2012 federal budget. The government has said it wants to reduce the $441-million House of Commons budget that funds MPs' operating expenses by five per cent and make changes to the generous MP pension plan.

At the same time, it passed a law late last year that will see the number of MPs in the House increase by 30 after 2015. The Fair Distribution Act will allot three more seats to Quebec, 15 to Ontario and six each to Alberta and British Columbia, at a total cost of $18 million a year and an additional $11.5 million for each election.

We break down the costs involved in keeping a member of Parliament in office. Explore the interactive to learn more.

Annual cost of a backbench MP

$590,668.90

This figure is the sum of an MP's salary and expenditures. The salary used for the estimate is $157,731, the base salary of an MP who doesn't hold any other position in the House of Commons (salaries of ministers and MPs performing certain functions are higher); expenditures are the average of the total annual expenditures of 308 sitting MPs for fiscal year 2010-11.

Expenditures include constituency and Parliament office operating expenses, employee salaries, travel and accommodation. For a breakdown of each MP's expenses, click here.

The annual cost doesn't include future costs to the taxpayer such as pension benefits for retired MPs or election expenses of MPs running for re-election, both of which are discussed elsewhere on this page.

How an MP's expenses* break down

Use the navigation on the left to read about how MP expenses break down.

*All figures based on MP expenditure reports for the 2010-11 fiscal year unless otherwise stated.

Salary

$157,731

The base salary is the same for all MPs, but those who are cabinet ministers or perform other functions such as speaker, party whip, Opposition leader etc., get a top-up.

The prime minister gets double the usual salary plus a car allowance of $2,112. A cabinet minister and the leader of the Opposition each get an additional $75,526 and a $2,122 car allowance.

Ministers of state and secretaries of state each get a bump of $56,637

An MP who serves as the chair of a standing committee gets $11,165 on top of his or her salary. For a full breakdown of salaries, click here.

Office budget

$284,700

This budget is used for employee salaries, service contracts, constituency office leases, office operating costs (including the acquisition of furniture and other equipment, telecommunications) and travel within the MP's riding and province. It also includes some travel by employees and dependents that is not taken out of the MP's annual travel-point allocation.

Up to three per cent of this budget can be spent on events and hospitality expenses, such as meals and gifts. Up to 10 per cent can go toward advertising (to communicate an MP's office location, for example, or advertise services provided to constituents). The office budget includes $1,000 in petty cash and a $5,000 "constituency office furniture and equipment improvement fund." The base budget amount is the same for all MPs, but those representing certain types of constituencies get a top-up:

  • Elector supplement: $8,700-$52,140 for MPs from densely populated constituencies of 70,000 electors or more.
  • Geographic supplement: $4,810-$52,900 for MPs from constituencies of 500 square kilometers or more.
  • Schedule 3 supplement: $16,830 or $20,200 (for Nunavut and N.W.T.) for MPs from remote communities listed in Schedule 3 of the Elections Act.

Accommodation and per diem expenses

$25,850

This includes expenses incurred while traveling on parliamentary business and those related to maintaining a secondary residence in Ottawa (including things like rent, utilities, meals, parking, internet service and hotel costs). MPs must submit receipts, and the total for all these expenses cannot exceed $25,850.

These expenses do not include flight and other transportation costs, which come out of MPs' office and House of Commons budgets. Every MP is allocated 64 travel points each fiscal year, with one point equivalent to one return trip. Up to 25 of the 64 points may be used for travel anywhere within Canada, and out of those 25, four can be used for travel to Washington, D.C., on parliamentary business. Travel points can be transferred to a designated traveller (up to 64 points), dependants (up to 30 points) and employees (up to 21 points). All travel must be the most economical and practical means of transportation and the most direct route available.

House of Commons costs

$118,098.64 on average (but highly variable by MP)

This is the cost of the goods and services provided by the House of Commons to an MP in the course of helping them do their job. This includes everything from printing to phone service to furniture but also travel to and from Ottawa by the MP and staff. The amount spent in this section varies widely by MP based on the size and location of their constituency and their specific office needs. For example, in 2010-11, some MPs spent $30,000 to $50,000 on printed material sent to constituents informing them of parliamentary activities, known as householders and ten percenters; others spent only a few thousand dollars. Travel expenses ranged from $13,000 to more than $200,000.

Pension

$54,693 per year (current MP who serves until 2015)

$64,985 per year (current MP who serves until 2019)

Pension benefits vary depending on a particular MP's salary and length of service. The above figures are averages based on the salaries and years of service of all MPs currently sitting, as calculated by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. MPs must serve at least six years to receive a pension, which they can start collecting at age 55. As of age 60, it is indexed to the cost of living. MPs also get a one-time severance payment of at least $78,800 if they are not yet 55 when they stop serving or if they have served less than six years and are not eligible for a pension.

MPs contribute seven per cent of their annual salary to the MPs' Retirement Allowances Account and the Compensation Arrangements Account, but the Canadian Taxpayers Federation estimates that for every $1 they contribute, the government contributes $23.30. The government says its contribution to the retirement account is about $3.90 to $4.30 for every $1 paid in by an MP, but the Taxpayers Federation says that does not take into account the interest the pension account accrues. Government contributions to the account exist only on the books and are not actually set aside in a real fund that is invested in the stock market, but the account nevertheless earns interest of 2.5 per cent per quarter. That rate of return is established by cabinet, not the market, and must de facto be funded by taxpayers once benefits begin to be paid out.

Election expenses: $383,333.33 per MP per election

This figure is based on the government's estimate that it will cost an additional $11.5 million per election to accommodate 30 new MPs. The government figure is based on February 2009 estimates from Elections Canada, adjusted for inflation based on the 2011 general election. It includes compensation for polling officials, training, offices, equipment, travel, postage, printing and reimbursement to candidates.

Other budgets

Cabinet ministers and MPs who hold positions in the House have separate budgets for those offices on top of their regular MP and House budgets. The Speaker, for example, had a budget of $1,062,801 in 2010-11. The budget for the office of the leader of the official Opposition was $3,213,462, with an additional $160,380 for Stornoway, the Opposition leader's official residence. The government whip's budget was $677,431.

These budgets are calculated in part based on the number of seats held by parties in the House. For example, the House leader for the Bloc Québécois, which in the 2010-11 fiscal year was the third-largest party in the House, had $319,707 to spend while the House leader for the NDP, the fourth-largest party at the time, had a budget of $254,130. To see all budgets for fiscal year 2010-11, view the Board of Internal Economy's financial provisions bylaw (PDF). (Office budgets for cabinet ministers come out of the government budget, rather than the House of Commons budget, and are not included in this document.)



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