Trudeau and Liberals start posting expenses online

Canadians can now go online to read how much Liberal MPs and senators spent on individual airline tickets, what they charged for hotels and meals, and how much each one shelled out for a category called "hospitality."

Liberal MPs, senators start posting airfares and hotel costs online

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau proposed in June that Liberal MPs and senators start posting their expenses online by mid-October. (The Canadian Press)

Canadians can now go online to read how much Liberal MPs and senators spent on individual airline tickets, what they charged for hotels and meals, and how much each one shelled out for a category called "hospitality."

But anyone scouring through the tallies will see only a few weeks worth of spending. Liberal politicians only started compiling their expenses and collating the information in mid-September so they could be ready to post en masse by mid-October.

A spokesperson for the Liberal Party says the public can access expense details, starting Tuesday, via a link on each member's personal page on www.liberal.ca/‎. A line entitled "proactive disclosure" at the end of the member's or senator's biography links to the expenses.

The Liberals plan to use the same template for posting that cabinet ministers employ. Ministers post quarterly, but there is no detail of, for instance, what hotel was chosen, or, if hospitality money was spent, what exactly was purchased. Cabinet ministers do not scan and post receipts.

Currently, MPs' expenses are posted on a parliamentary website, but only in lump sums describing the totals of money spent in broad categories such as travel or office expenses, with no detail about the destinations of trips, or what event resulted in hospitality charges.

The Liberals are the only political party in the House of Commons that posts more detailed expenses online.

Scott Brison, the Liberal finance critic, started posting his expenses online Tuesday, revealing he spent over $5,000 during a two-week period in September. Sean Kilpatrick/ (The Canadian Press)

Take a look at Nova Scotia MP Scott Brison's expenses, from approximately the middle to the end of September. Like most Liberals, one trip he took was to attend a national Liberal caucus meeting in Ottawa.

A spokesperson from Brison's office told CBC News he flew economy class between Ottawa and Halifax, which explains the return airfare of $444.94. A charge of $96.69 was for gas mileage between the Halifax International Airport and Brison's home in Cheverie, N.S, about a 90-minute drive. This amount also covered a taxi, at the other end, between the Ottawa airport and Parliament Hill.

Brison also took two trips that don't fall into the category of travel between Ottawa and his constituency. One trip, totalling $2,454.73 for airfare, taxis, hotel and meals, was so Brison could attend the Banff Forum annual general meeting.

According to the Banff Forum's website, the meeting brought together "emerging leaders from across Canada and leading thinkers from around the world to discuss topics of national importance."

Brison also spent $1,205.23 to attend a "stakeholder meeting" in Toronto, but his proactive disclosure posting gives no other details. Brison's office said he met with people from United Way Toronto about "income inequality and opportunity," and with individuals from the Canada-India Foundation. A spokesperson said it isn't the practice to disclose details of private meetings.

Brison's office contacted CBC News to add that he also met with a bank economist and representatives of the banking sector on that trip. Brison is the Liberal Party's finance critic.

Trudeau took one trip, charging just for airfare

Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau's posting shows no trips between Ottawa and his Montreal riding because he moved to Ottawa's Rockcliffe neighbourhood in the summer.

Trudeau took just one trip to Toronto, charging taxpayers for two return airfares worth $661.77 apiece for himself and his assistant. The trip was for a "Gilad Schalit event."  Schalit, an Israeli soldier kidnapped and held by the extremist group Hamas for more than five years, was the keynote speaker at a Jewish National Fund event Trudeau attended.

Although Trudeau has been travelling almost non-stop, mostly for appearances with Liberal candidates in byelections in Toronto, Montreal and Manitoba, those trips were paid for by the Liberal Party.

Senator Jim Munson, who lives in Ottawa, billed $103.09 for a lunch at Ottawa's Metropolitan restaurant for two people, but gave no details about the meeting. It was his sole hospitality charge. He also charged $1,681.54 for two days of airfare, hotel and meals to attend a conference on autism in Fredericton where he gave a speech.

Trudeau motion labelled a 'stunt'

In June, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau proposed a motion in the House of Commons suggesting all MPs' detailed expenses be put up online by the board of internal economy, the secretive all-party body of MPs that self-monitors members' expenses. Trudeau didn't win the unanimous consent of other MPs for his motion.

But the NDP did manage to have a motion passed mandating a parliamentary committee begin a study about how to replace the board of internal economy with an oversight body that would be more accountable. The NDP labelled Trudeau's motion "a stunt."

After Tuesday, Canadians won't see any more detail on Liberals' spending until the next quarter begins on January 1.

The only other MP who posts detailed expenses on her website, including scanned receipts for the cost of an office cleaner, is Green Party Leader Elizabeth May.


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