Unresolved issue surrounding satellite offices could cost defeated NDP incumbents
Parliament Hill is seen in Ottawa on October 31, 2013. (Sean Kilpatrick / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press
Published Friday, October 16, 2015 5:13AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, October 16, 2015 5:14AM EDT
OTTAWA -- If some New Democrat incumbents go down to defeat Monday, they stand to lose more than their seats.
They could also lose some or all of the generous severance payments to which defeated MPs are normally entitled.
That's because more than five dozen New Democrats have been ordered to repay the House of Commons a total of $2.75 million for improperly using their parliamentary office budgets to pay the salaries of staff in satellite party offices in Montreal, Quebec City and Toronto.
On average, the incumbents owe about $30,000 each but four of them are on the hook for more than $100,000.
The New Democrats have so far refused to pay, claiming they've done nothing wrong and are the victims of a partisan smear by Conservative and Liberal members of the board of internal economy, the secretive, multi-party body that polices Commons spending.
Nevertheless, as of July 1, Commons administrators were under instructions to begin collecting the money by refusing to reimburse the expense claims of the 68 MPs involved in the satellite office scheme.
The amount recovered thus far would be trivial, since Parliament was not sitting in July and no expenses could be claimed in any event after the election was called on Aug. 2.
However, if any of those MPs are defeated on Monday, they could find their final pay-outs from the Commons -- severance and reimbursement of pension contributions -- docked for the full amount of what they still owe.
Every defeated MP receives a lump-sum severance payment of half a year's salary -- $83,700.
And those who've been MPs for fewer than six years also receive lump sum reimbursement of their pension contributions, which would amount to roughly another half year's salary.
Four NDP incumbents could wind up losing most or all their final payments, should they be defeated.
Dan Harris, who faces a stiff challenge from Liberal contender and former Toronto police chief Bill Blair in Scarborough-Southwest, owes $141,467 for his share in the satellite office scheme.
Quebec incumbents Isabelle Morin, Alexandre Boulerice and Jean Rousseau owe $169,117, $122,122 and $142,548 respectively.
The party leader's office also owes $408,573 (racked up under both current leader Tom Mulcair and former interim leader Nycole Turmel) and the party House leader's office owes $189,714.
The NDP launched a court challenge a year ago after the board ordered reimbursement of the $2.7 million, as well as another $1.2 million for improper use of parliamentary mailing privileges. Most of the latter was supposedly owed to Canada Post, which has made no known move to collect.
The court case has languished ever since, with no attempt by the NDP or the board of internal economy to move it along. There was a brief attempt to negotiate a settlement which went nowhere.
The board will be reconstituted after the election and the new membership could decide to let the matter drop. However, both the Liberals and Conservatives have argued it's a matter of principle to ensure that taxpayer-funded resources are used to help MPs carry out their parliamentary duties, not to advance their political parties.