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Sheila Fraser, the Auditor-General of Canada, tables her fall 2009 report in Ottawa on Tuesday, November 3, 2009. (Sean Kilpatrick)
Sheila Fraser, the Auditor-General of Canada, tables her fall 2009 report in Ottawa on Tuesday, November 3, 2009. (Sean Kilpatrick)

NDP faces growing pressure to let Auditor vet parliamentary expenses Add to ...

NDP leader Jack Layton is facing growing pressure from within his caucus to let the Auditor-General go through Parliament's books.

Should these voices win out, the NDP's support would tip the scales in favour of Auditor-General Sheila Fraser and leave the governing Conservatives as the only party opposed to the idea.

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The flood of newspaper editorials and letters to the editor uniformly denouncing last week's decision by the all-party House of Commons Board of Internal Economy to reject Ms. Fraser's request to allow an audit is clearly resonating with some MPs.

Timmins-James Bay NDP MP Charlie Angus said the issue is becoming a "distraction" that needs to be dealt with. "I think we need to work something out with the Auditor-General," he said.

Winnipeg NDP MP Pat Martin, often the first to criticize governments for lacking transparency, said the House of Commons decision is indefensible.

"It goes against everything I stand for," he said. "We're getting the shit kicked out of us all across the country."

The Bloc Québécois was the only party in favour of the idea last week, but in light of public reaction, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said Wednesday his party is open to further talks with Ms. Fraser about an audit. That means either the NDP or the Conservatives can be the deciding factor as to whether the request gets the green light.

Nova Scotia MP Peter Stoffer says he expects there will be an internal NDP debate in Ottawa next week that he hopes will lead his party to reconsider. He said Thursday he hopes Mr. Ignatieff's comments trigger a larger change.

"Obviously now with the media attention to this and people across the country talking about this, I would encourage not just my own leader, but the party and everyone else for that matter - all members of Parliament - to re-think this and work toward a satisfactory conclusion," he said Thursday. "It's the right thing to do."

At least one other NDP MP, Burnaby-New Westminster's Peter Julian, is also on record saying he would support opening up the House's books to further auditing.

Yet in spite of these comments from within, the NDP leadership insists nothing has changed. "Our position remains the same," said Mr. Layton's spokesman, Karl Belanger, who said the leader will not speak with the media until next week.

NDP Whip Yvon Godin provided a hostile response to the CBC this week when asked for his position. "Who is she to tell me the value of the money that I will spend?" he is quoted as saying. Neither Mr. Godin, nor NDP House leader Libby Davies returned phone calls Thursday.

Conservative House leader Jay Hill is one of two official spokesmen for the board, but has yet to speak publicly since the board issued its position in a news release late last Thursday. Political talk shows on CBC and CTV - which normally have no problem landing MPs - have had a hard time filling panels once MPs learn they will be asked about the auditor- general issue.

Conservative Senator David Tkachuk, who chairs the Senate internal economy committee, said the Senate has yet to respond to a similar request from Ms. Fraser. He criticized Mr. Ignatieff for going against a position taken by his caucus.

"I just think that's a horrible thing for a leader to do to his members," he said.

Editor's note: NDP MP Yvon Godin is not a member of the Board of Internal Economy. Incorrect information appeared in an earlier version of this story.

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