MPs, AG should meet on expenses: Ignatieff

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff says he wants the federal auditor general to meet with a parliamentary board that recently blocked her request to look over the expenses of parliamentarians.

Liberal leader hedges when asked about Fraser's call to open books

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff says he wants the federal auditor general to meet with a parliamentary board that blocked her request to look over the expenses of parliamentarians.

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff says his party supports transparency and accountability, but there is some accountability "that is in itself a waste of public money."
But when asked by reporters in Calgary on Wednesday, Ignatieff wouldn't commit to supporting Sheila Fraser's efforts to get a closer look at the House and Senate's $533 million in annual spending, saying Canadians "don't want us to go through receipts of this meal and that meal."

"I'm talking to my caucus about this, but I understand what Canadians are saying: they want accountability," Ignatieff said.

When asked why Canadians wouldn't want officials to go over receipts, Ignatieff replied that "there's accountability that is in itself a waste of public money."

"What I mean is, it's important Canadians know the money we spent is honestly accounted for, and that's the kind of solution that we need to look for," he said.

Last week, the House of Commons' Board of Internal Economy, which oversees Parliament spending, rejected a request Fraser made almost a year ago to open the books.

The board, which includes MPs from all four parties, ruled a performance audit was beyond the scope of her mandate and stated there are already sufficient "control mechanisms" in place. But an increasing number of MPs have called for the decision to be reversed, citing an outcry from constituents.   

N.S. audit triggered RCMP probe

On Tuesday, Fraser's provincial counterpart in Nova Scotia announced the RCMP has been called in to probe the constituency expense claims of four former MLAs and one current member following a forensic audit.

A similar audit of MPs' expenses in Britain last year triggered a scandal after dozens of politicians were caught billing taxpayers for everything from cleaning a moat around an estate to building a house for ducks. 

In Canada, it's mandatory for all MPs, commissioners and government officials to publish their travel and hospitality expenses. Chiefs of staff, press secretaries and policy advisers are also bound by the same rules.

In fiscal 2008-09, federal MPs claimed $125 million in expenses but the details are never made public. Liberal backbencher Michelle Simson recently posted in detail her office budget and expenses on her website, making her the first federal MP to do so.

But Canada's auditor general, whose mandate is to prevent waste of public money, has not examined parliamentarians' spending since 1991, when only a sample of expenditures faced the watchdog's scrutiny.

With files from The Canadian Press