Politicians getting the message about public accountability

Local MP supports Trudeau's plan for more transparency

The public’s appetite for more accountability is growing and politicians are seeing the writing on the wall.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau wants both MPs and Senators to regularly publish (every three months) their travel and hospitality expenses so they’re easily accessed from the Parliament of Canada website.

Trudeau’s not getting any argument from the local Conservative MP.

Randy Kamp said he and many on Parliament Hill support the idea.

Cabinet ministers and parliamentary secretaries already publish their travel and hospitality expenses, Kamp said Wednesday from Ottawa.

“Applying these same kind of rules to MPs – I’d be OK with that.

“From what I’ve heard from my colleagues, we’d clearly support that.”

Kamp, though, wants that direction to come from the Board of Internal Economy, which sets the rules for MPs.

All parties are represented in that group, so any could suggest such changes.

Kamp said expense claims for Senators have largely been done on the honour system. However, since the scandal involving former Conservative Senator Mike Duffy, those rules are now being tightened, such as requiring senators to keep receipts and mileage logs.

“They’ve never had to do that before.”

MPs already have to account for their expenditures, which are monitored by House of Commons staff.

“They’re pretty rigourous in going over whatever we submit.”

The Senate scandal is driving the changes, Kamp said.

“Times are changing. People want to know that their tax dollars being spent responsibly.”

In B.C., newly elected Green party MLA  Andrew Weaver has said he’ll do the same thing by publishing his expenses on the Green party website.

Weaver is also challenging Liberal and New Democrat MLAs to do the same.

Rookie Liberal MLA Doug Bing (Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows), though, has his doubts.

It sounds like a bit of grandstanding by a newcomer to the process from the Green party, Bing added.

“He’s obviously throwing out a challenge to everybody else.”

Does the public want that information, Bing asked.

“It makes us all a bunch of bookkeepers.”

He thinks it might get tiresome to keep track of coffee cup charges or paper clips.

“On the other hand, the public has a right to know what people are spending their money on.”

He said the auditor general is supposed to be monitoring MLA expenses.

Many MLA expenses are already published after changes in the last few years, said Liberal Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Marc Dalton.

“I don’t get reimbursed unless there’s a receipt. Everything is receipted.”

Dalton said B.C.’s system is more stringent than in Ottawa, adding that MLAs have a fixed budget of about $119,000 yearly for staff and office.

“It’s a pretty tight budget.”

MLA’s expenses (travel, per diem and constituency allowance) have been public for the past year and a half, broken into categories, though not individually itemized, while new software in the next year will allow publicizing of MLA office expenses.

“This is all new. This is all in the past two years that we’ve taken a couple measures … as far as accountability and public disclosure.”

Cabinet ministers expenses are already public.

“It’s taxpayer’s money and I think that needs to be seen as being handled well. It’s important.”