Monday, October 12, 2009

Maybe Canada needs its own expenses row

The row over MPs expense accounts in the UK has reached even the sitting Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. With this week the deadline for MPs to pay back "innappropriate" expenses before the matter is turned over to the cops, Brown agreed to pay back over £12,400 (about USD 20,000) for "cleaning and gardening" even though such expenses were actually legal at the time they were billed to the taxpayers of Britain and Northern Ireland. Conservative leader David Cameron is apparently still asking for clarification about how much he owes as I write this, while Liberal Democratic leader Nick Clegg will pay back £910 for "gardening."

Obviously, as is the case in Canada, MPs from outside the capital region do need to have a second home and to pay for upkeep so it's reasonable to have one at taxpayer's expense -- provided it is in fact reasonable. The stories we heard from the UK this year, about one MP who expensed a moat and another who refinanced a mortgage but still billed for the higher interest payments are the most egregious examples.
I wouldn't begrudge a hair cut or a perm every once in a while, but there's a difference between a $20 snipping or a $50 setting and a $500 extravaganza. I don't mind a downtown apartment, but a luxury hotel I would. Trimming the hedges of a townhouse is fine, building a moat is of course ridiculous.
Here in Canada, every MP gets a base salary of $155,400 -- fully taxable and which is expected to cover living expenses. However, last time I checked, MPs can still get 64 round trips per year on scheduled airline flights (and they don't all have to be back home) plus free or heavily discounted travel on Via Rail. If there is an expense account, we need to know what it is -- after all these are the people who should be leading us and they need to set an example. Given our pride in the "British system" here as opposed to the American one I can't help but wonder if there's a lot of schenangians going on here too, and it would be a disgrace no matter the stripe of the MP in question if their expenses were anything but "reasonable."
Maybe the only thing that will shake things up here, and force real reforms to our electoral system, is if we had an expenses scandal in Canada. I just don't trust that things are that much different here.

Vote for this post at Progressive Bloggers.

1 comment:

The Red Fox said...

After watching QP the few times that the house is sitting, I wonder what the heck we are paying the vast majority of MP's for.But then after watching QP I am still waiting for those qualified people that 156 K were supposed to attract.