NDP barred from spending House money on regional outposts

The New Democratic Party may have to start picking up the tab for those controversial out-of-town "satellite" offices in Quebec and Saskatchewan. Kady O'Malley has the details.

New rule will bar staff paid from parliamentary budget from working out of party-controlled offices

NDP House Leader Peter Julian accused the Conservatives and Liberals of changing the rules for partisan reasons. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

The New Democratic Party may have to start picking up the tab for those controversial out-of-town "satellite" offices in Quebec and Saskatchewan.

According to a bulletin issued by the shadowy all-party Board of Internal Economy on Tuesday, as of next week, "no employee of a Member or House Officer may have as their regular place of work any space in premises owned, leased or under the effective control of a political party."

Here's the full text of the notice (mobile users can read the document here):

Via the Members' bylaws, here's a complete list of what activities are explicitly considered not parliamentary functions:

(a) activities related to the private interests of a Member or a Member’s immediate family;

(b) activities related to the administration, organization and internal communications of a political party, including participation in a party leadership campaign or convention, solicitations of contributions and solicitations of membership to a political party;

(c) activities related to a Member’s re-election;

(d) activities designed, in the context of a federal, provincial, or municipal election, or any other local election, to support or oppose a political party or an individual candidate; and

(e) activities that are related to a meeting of an electoral district association, as defined in the Canada Elections Act, and that are carried out for nomination, electoral or sponsorship purposes or that relate to soliciting contributions or membership.

Interestingly, the notice also confirms that the board will continue its investigation into allegations related to the "improper use of House funds," which could also include the NDP's taxpayer-funded mass mail drop on the eve of last winter's byelections.

Tories, Liberals push investigation of flyers

Although Elections Canada has initially cleared the party of any expense-related wrongdoing, Canadian Press reported Monday night that the Board also decided — almost certainly against the objections of the two New Democrat members — to send the agency more details on the content of the flyers in question, which allegedly arrived just after the writs had dropped.

Not surprisingly, it didn't take long for the New Democrats to fire back with an angry — and not remotely apologetic — response, in which House Leader Peter Julian claimed that the board had actually "absolved the NDP," and accusing the other parties of "changing the rules, behind closed doors, for partisan reasons":

The Board of Internal Economy has absolved the NDP of all blame regarding our regional offices and confirmed that our Parliamentary work in the regions has been completely legal and legitimate. The Conservatives and Liberals could have just admitted their mistake and moved on, but instead they decided to change the rules, behind the closed doors, for partisan reasons.Conservatives and Liberals believe that Parliamentary work involves speaking with lobbyists in Ottawa. New Democrats believe it’s better to go and speak with Canadians in their communities. The Board of Internal Economy's partisan decision can only be interpreted as an attempt to impede the NDP in its role as Official Opposition. The Conservatives used their majority at the Board of Internal Economy and whatever tacit Liberal support they could muster, to push through hurried changes that serve only their interests. It's the same approach they're taking to their electoral reform.What happened at the Board of Internal Economy is not an isolated case. In addition to gagging in-House debates more than any previous government, the Conservatives have forced committees to meet behind closed doors, while they pile on further partisan actions, undermining the work of Parliamentary institutions.We’ve long been saying that we must remove the Board of Internal Economy’s powers and create an independent body to investigate MPs’ expenses. Let’s end this masquerade once and for all. The Board of Internal Economy has to be accountable to the public and we will continue fighting for that.This is a new low for the Conservatives. It's yet another proof that they are no longer worthy of leading the country. The NDP stands up for Canadians who are tired of this culture of secrecy and privilege. We will continue fighting to win the confidence of Canadians for a victory in 2015.


Kady O'Malley covered Parliament Hill for CBC News until June, 2015.