OTTAWA—The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is criticizing the federal government for quietly approving a hefty increase to MPs’ office budgets.
Spokesman Aaron Wudrick said it is questionable whether MPs should get $25 million more to spend on expenses when the government is facing a large deficit.
“I think that given the environment we are in fiscally, it will leave a bad taste in the mouth of a lot of Canadians that MPs are voting for a 20 per cent hike in their office budgets at a time that we’re going to be running possibly a $30 billion deficit,” he said.
The parliamentary committee that makes administrative and financial decisions for the House of Commons approved a 20 per cent increase to the office budgets on Dec. 10, pointing out they have been frozen since 2010.
In a memo released Friday, the committee also announced a five per cent increase to the travel expense account.
Wudrick said the decision should have been announced at the time it was taken.
“It’s about transparency,” he said. “If MPs had a genuine argument as to why they needed this money they should have made this public and tried to justify it,” he said.
Each member’s office budget, currently set at $288,450, will increase by just under $58,000 after the changes take effect in April.
House officers and presiding officers will also see their budgets rise by 20 per cent.
The total cost of the increase is just under $25.4 million.
According to the government’s website, the office budget pays for employee salaries, service contracts, wireless devices, some operating and travel costs, and other expenses.
Wudrick said the onus should be on the federal government to justify the spending increase.
“Were Canadians being so terribly underserved up until this point that this money was needed? I think that’s what they need to explain,” he said.
Dan Albas, a Conservative MP from British Columbia, said he shares Wudrick’s concerns over transparency.
“I think the taxpayers’ federation raises a legitimate point that these kinds of decisions should be made out in the open,” he said.
He called for the decision-making committee’s meetings to be made public when fiscal matters are being discussed.
“Having more openness on matters of fiscal spending would be a good thing for the public to build faith,” he said.
Albas said that by staying frugal, he has always managed to stay within current MP budget and expense limits.
“From my own experience as a member of Parliament, especially flying from British Columbia, I always found we had the money to do what we needed to do,” he said.