Clarify the rules and inform public

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The federal NDP might indeed have broken some rules regarding spending of public money, but if so, the public should get to follow the story unimpeded.

With the current system, that won’t happen. But as MPs from the Conservatives and Liberals sit in judgment on the board of internal economy, the NDP wants to see the findings made public – and anyone wishing to know the truth would agree with that.

The Official Opposition in Ottawa faces allegations the party had improperly placed parliamentary staff outside the capital, in offices in Quebec. As many will remember, the party did well in that province in the last election – much of the reason it placed second.

In its defence, the NDP counters that the employees in question work for MPs in Montreal and Quebec City. In fact, they claim, locating them in Quebec saves taxpayers money since it cuts down on travel back and forth to Ottawa.

That is a credible explanation. But the public might never get to hear how it washes. That’s because the majority of those on the board of internal economy are Liberals and Conservatives and the NDP expects them to rule against them.

To avoid this debate about taxpayer money being simply a partisan exercise, the NDP planned to table a motion at the meeting Tuesday to make it public.

But ultimately, the party would also like to see the secretive board abolished and replaced by an independent body.

Sounds like a good idea. Canadians have seen too many instances of politicians breaking rules regarding expenses. Consider, for example, that Senator Mike Duffy when first facing allegations made reference to the overly complex expense claims system.

If there is somehow room for misinterpretation of the rules for claims by parties and politicians, it shouldn’t be rocket science to clarify them. In addition, the public – whose money it is – should absolutely be filled in about how the rules work, who took unfair advantage and how a finding of wrongdoing is reached.

Organizations: NDP, Conservatives

Geographic location: Quebec City, Ottawa, Montreal

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