Liberal MPs and senators hope to begin publishing certain expense claims next month, a move the party hopes will trigger broader disclosure of parliamentarians’ spending patterns.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau had said the party would finalize the plan last week and “will start posting [expenses] immediately,” but the first batch remains a few weeks away. It will include all Liberal MPs’ and senators’ travel and hospitality expenses between Sept. 16 and Sept. 30, and is expected to be released around Thanksgiving. The expenses will then be released quarterly, and the batch including October, November and December is expected online by the end of January next year, Liberal House Leader Dominic LeBlanc said in an interview.
Essentially, the party is holding all its MPs and senators to the same standard as cabinet ministers. The Liberals also continue to call on the House of Commons staff to take over the task of disclosure, saying the same standard should be applied widely.
“We’re prepared to look at common sense ways to go further. But in order to ensure that it is without technical problems, we do need the House of Commons administration to participate. That’s the best way to ensure you’re comparing apples to apples and that you have a very high level of reliability,” Mr. LeBlanc said.
Liberal Senate Leader James Cowan welcomes the move and said he doesn’t expect it will change senators’ behaviour.
“I assume people will be careful, but one would assume they’ve been careful for some time,” he said, adding the move is popular in caucus at a time when questions continue to swirl about the expenses of senators Patrick Brazeau, Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin, as well as those of former senator Mac Harb. “I think it’s been very positive. I think it’s been well-received,” Mr. Cowan said.
The rules around what is considered “Senate business” – an expense category – continue to be murky, but Mr. Cowan said it’s up to each senator to make claims, which are then reviewed by Senate administration. “There are judgment calls. Life is full of judgment calls,” Mr. Cowan said.
Both Mr. Cowan and Mr. LeBlanc said the party is open to changes, including broader disclosure. “We hope the other parties will follow, and then that it might become, institutionalized, if you like. But in the meantime, we’re going ahead and doing it ourselves,” Mr. Cowan said.
Conservative Senator Doug Black already posts all his expenses online. Another Conservative senator, Bob Runciman, pledged earlier this month to release his own. Those expenses are now expected to be posted online by Oct. 1, his office said.