Back in 2014, a couple Canadian MPs got into trouble for misusing their expense sheets to claim reimbursement for payments on their homes in Ottawa. By law, the government reimburses the costs of owning a secondary residence for MPs, but these two were living in Ottawa full-time, meaning their district homes had that secondary distinction. It may have been a misunderstanding on their part, but it was a misunderstanding that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
In the wake of that and other scandals, MPs are now required to publish their expense sheet every six months to let people know what their taxes are paying for. Some of the numbers are surprisingly high: Rona Ambrose, the opposition leader, spent far more than any other member of parliament, with an expense bill of nearly $320,000. Roughly a third of that was travel expenses, since she wanted to visit every part of Canada to begin her leadership role. However, not everyone thinks the taxpayer should have to pay for partisan glad-handing.
Meanwhile, Iqra Khalid and Chandra Arya spent right around $20,000 each on electronic equipment, or around five times the average amount. However, this number doesn’t explain that the two MPs represent new riders, which means they don’t get to inherit the equipment and office supplies left by the previous MP. The expenses were to outfit a new office, not to replace old equipment.
On the other hand, other stand-out expenses don’t come with obvious explanations. According to the report, Nick Whalen of St. John’s East spent $50,120 on six months of his lease but zero on furniture or equipment. Considering that the average lease cost among MPs was less than $20,000, people are questioning where the extra money went and why.
Because the MP spending habits still hold a lot of gaps and mysteries, people are now calling for more details in addition to the parliamentary expense sheet. A lot of these strange numbers would become much clearer if we could see exactly what’s causing them, after all.
This issue can also serve as a lesson for private citizens. While you may be tempted to lump together all the times you paid for gas, car repairs, and mass transit tickets into the “travel” column of your expense sheet without any explanation, chances are good you’ll only run into trouble later when someone tries to double-check your work.