No more free massages for MPs
Published Thursday, August 16, 2012 11:43AM EDT
Pity the stressed-out Member of Parliament when they return to Ottawa next month. Their free massages have come to an unhappy ending.
A little-known, but widely-used, perk of political office are the weekly therapeutic massages they can receive in the MPs’ private gym on the eighth floor of a Parliament Hill building.
For reasons which were never entirely clear, even an MP’s designated spouse, partner, girl or boyfriend could partake in weekly tension relief -- and it’s all free with the $100 annual gym membership.
But Speaker Andrew Scheer eliminated the perk in an email to MPs this week, calling it part of the plan to cut $30 million from the House of Commons budget.
“Within the context of the House of Commons’ Strategic and Operating Review and as approved by the Board of Internal Economy, the House Administration will no longer be in a position to offer massage therapy services to clients of the members’ gym,” Sheer wrote. “Please be advised that this change is effective immediately.”
Two staff therapists were let go when the program was eliminated.
MPs will now have to claim for a limited amount of massage expenses like everybody else on the federal government payroll – through their health benefits program.
For a public service suffering a rubdown from thousands of pink slips, the news was welcome.
“I had no idea they received free massages, but we’re just as stressed as they are, if not more, so let them loosen up like everybody else,” confided one Hill employee.
Surprisingly, at least one MP agrees.
“I never used it and frankly I'm not comfortable with the expenditure,” says the Prime Minister’s parliamentary secretary Dean Del Mastro.
“Everyday taxpayers in my riding have no such benefits, so why should their federal representatives? If MPs want or need these services then we should pay for them the same as everyone else,” he said.
So far, my efforts to find an MP who will defend the program have proven futile.
Perhaps ending their free massage program is a sign MPs are stiffening their resolve to cut spending -- even where it hurts.