The NDP's Expense Hypocrisy
If you haven’t heard of the Mike Duffy senate expense scandal by now, you’ve been living under a rock for the past two years. Outlets such as CBC, CTV and Global broadcast updates on the scandal every single day. On CBC News Network, Duffy is mentioned every hour. It’s almost as if the mainstream media has nothing else to talk about. NDP leader Thomas Mulcair has accused Prime Minister Stephen Harper of being responsible for the entire Duffy scandal and of then trying to cover it up, going as far as to state, "What we now realize is that Stephen Harper was protecting, of course, Stephen Harper.”
Here’s a quick summary of what we know:
In 2012, Mike Duffy was one of four senators accused of falsely claiming residency outside of Ottawa in order to receive living expenses for his time spent working in Ottawa. In February of 2013, Duffy (along with Patrick Brazeau, Pamela Wallin and Mac Harb) became the subject of a forensic audit to determine whether or not his expenses were appropriate. Nigel Wright, then chief of staff for the Prime Minister’s Office, wrote Duffy a “gift” cheque for $90,172, and Duffy used that cheque to repay the inappropriate expenses. The Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner of Canada decided to investigate Wright’s “gift” to Duffy, and Duffy resigned from the Conservative caucus on May 16, 2013. On November 5, 2013, the senate made the decision to suspend Mike Duffy without pay for a span of two years. In May 2014, Mike Duffy was charged with fraud, breach of trust and bribery, amongst a variety of other charges. In addition to the original $90,000, Duffy is being charged for another $110,000 in inappropriate expenses related to travel for both personal and partisan reasons, as well as public funds used for consulting contracts. The PMO has denied any involvement in Duffy’s expenses and knowledge of Wright’s “gift” cheque. The trial against Duffy is currently in progress.
No doubt, these are very serious offenses and Canadians should be outraged over Duffy’s actions. As the leader of the official opposition, Thomas Mulcair owes it to Canadians to stand up against Duffy’s abuse of taxpayer funds. The problem with all of this is the simple fact that Mulcair is a hypocrite whose own party has also been misusing taxpayer dollars, and Mulcair himself has been ordered to repay over $400,000 in inappropriate expenses. NDP opposition whip Nycole Turmel (who served as the party’s interim leader after the death of Jack Layton) owes taxpayers nearly $200,000. In total, 68 NDP MP’s (an astounding 71.6% of the NDP caucus) have been ordered to repay a total of roughly $2.75 million. This includes Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine MP Isabelle Morin, who owes $169,117, Scarborough Southwest MP Dan Harris, who owes $141,467 and Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie MP Alexandre Boulerice, who owes $122,122.
Last year, 23 NDP MP’s were ordered to repay over $1.17 million in inappropriate expenses used for partisan mail-outs. This group also included Thomas Mulcair and Alexandre Boulerice. The complete and utter ignorance of the NDP was front and centre on this issue, as Burnaby—New Westminster MP, Peter Julian, referred to the Board of Internal Economy as a “kangaroo court”, and Mulcair made every attempt to dodge any responsibility on the matter.
For a party that owes roughly $4 million in inappropriate expenses to continuously harp on the Conservatives over Mike Duffy’s expenses, which were minuscule in comparison, is not only laughable, but also insulting to all Canadians. Futhermore, the NDP does not seem to believe that their inappropriate expenses are a big deal. The party offered to pay back only 10% of the expenses, but this was quickly rejected by the Board of Internal Economy. Thomas Mulcair has accused the Conservatives and Liberals of “ganging up” on him, stating, “This is just a political game being played.” Liberal leader Justin Trudeau responded to Mulcair’s accusations saying, “House of Commons administration found that the New Democratic Party misused parliamentary funds and needs to repay them. It’s a very serious and independent finding,” while Conservative Treasury Board President Tony Clement stated, “That’s the argument of a group of caucus people, the NDP, who don’t want to pay back the money they owe the taxpayers.” Clement furthermore suggested to the NDP, “I would just say to Mr. Mulcair and his caucus colleagues: pay back the money you owe. It’s money that is owed to the taxpayer. You broke the rules. You were found to break the rules. That wasn’t just Liberals or Conservatives. That was the Speaker of the House of Commons and his research that came to the same conclusion.”
During the May 27 question period in the House of Commons, Timmins—James Bay MP, Charlie Angus, responded to calls for the NDP to repay the inappropriate expenses by saying, “This is a joke.” Angus’ retort speaks to the true nature of the NDP. They’ll attack Duffy over and over again, but they think that their own inappropriate expenses are funny. Sorry, Charlie, but the only joke here is your party’s complete lack of ethics. Despite the NDP’s recent surge in the polls, this information gives both the Conservatives and the Liberals excellent ammunition to use against the NDP once parliament is dissolved in preparation for the fall election. As Mulcair looks to Alberta’s recently elected NDP provincial majority for a boost to his federal numbers, he would be wise to remember the fact that former Alberta Premier Allison Redford’s inappropriate expenses were what ultimately led to her downfall and to the eventual election of the NDP in protest to Redford’s former party. The best thing that Mulcair can do at this point is to admit his faults and pay back the money that he and his party owe to Canadian taxpayers, but who am I kidding? This is the NDP, and they only criticize inappropriate expenses if they’re done by anyone but themselves.