NDP only party against transparency measures

Julian Wolfe
June 13th, 2013

The party that wanted to position itself as Canada’s “ethical alternative” to the Liberals and Conservatives has shocked Canadians Tuesday with their outright dismissal of Liberal leader Justin Trudeau’s motion to make MP finances public. The NDP has further surprised taxpayers yesterday when the party refused to publish their finances online and refused to comment on their stance.

The NDP have introduced a double-standard in their bid to make Canada more transparent and accountable. When it comes to getting Liberals and Conservatives to shape up, Canadians can always count on the NDP to be at the front lines, but when it comes time for the NDP to join suit, they back out. Refusing to publish their MP expenses online has led to a very interesting question for New Democrats: Why? What do you have to hide? If the Liberals and Conservatives are bold enough to make websites to post their expenses on, why don’t the NDP lead by actions and not by, clearly ungrounded, words?

+The Canadian Political Scene first reported the NDP’s dismissal of Trudeau’s transparency measures Tuesday and it was met with strong reaction. The NDP, who faced a lot of scrutiny for their sudden flip-flop, have responded and held consistent to their response. NDP House Leader Nathan Cullen, who accused the Liberals of playing a “political stunt” defended his stance on his Facebook page.

“Ok folks – let’s clear up what happened yesterday and today. The Liberals asked for unanimous consent and didn’t show us what they wanted until the very last minute. Today, Elizabeth May asked for the same thing but tried to work with us and we agreed with her. She doesn’t sit on the BOIE so this is good. Liberals have a seat there but haven’t said boo for more than a year while we worked on improving transparency. We’re willing to work with all parties but let’s actually work together to get things opened up.”

Nathan Cullen, June 12, 2013

However, despite claims of not knowing about the motion, no one could have missed Trudeau’s candid pitch of the new measures a week prior. It is also worth noting the embattled Conservatives sided with Trudeau.

The Liberals have passed all of the NDP’s recent accountability measures, including one Cullen admitted was a political attack against Trudeau – to investigate MP travel allowances and see if they’re linked to speaking engagements.

Cullen said the Liberals went against procedure, however, given the purpose of the motions and the announcement over a week ago, it is clear Cullen used this as an excuse to dodge having to support it. The irony remains that Cullen says the Liberals said nothing while the NDP have been trying to build transparency behind closed doors.

“The normal procedure is if you’re serious about getting unanimous consent from the House, you talk to the other parties,” Cullen told reporters yesterday. “You don’t surprise them. Because asking for someone to agree to something they haven’t heard about on the fly, especially something important, is more of a stunt than serious work.”

Please, provide a list of Canadians who were surprised that Trudeau introduced these measures, especially when he introduced them to the public so candidly which Cullen claims was but a mere “stunt.”

Cullen furthered his political attack, claiming the Liberals only care about transparency when they need to.

“It seems to be a newfound interest,” Cullen said. “As soon as Liberal senators started getting in trouble, now the Liberals are suddenly interested in transparency.”

However, when CTV tried to ask NDP MPs to comment on Cullen’s position, they kept walking and refused to speak.

Presently, every MP is allowed to charge $10,000 in hospitality every year with no required receipts. During parliamentary business, MPs are allowed to charge up to $90 per day for food. Each of their $284,700 office budgets can also be kept private. These expenses are tracked by an all-party committee that keeps the information behind closed doors.

The Liberal Party promised to post their expenses online by the fall and the Conservatives followed suit. The NDP, however have opted not to follow suit and are instead fighting the idea. For such luxurious expense claims most Canadians won’t even use in a week, why is it such an issue for NDP MPs to post their expenses online?

If the embattled Conservatives, who have several MPs and former senators implicated in spending abuses, can do so, why not the NDP? What do the NDP have to hide? Why are the NDP so quick to pounce on the Conservatives and Liberals if they cannot accept the same standards for themselves?

“We are absolutely in favour of transparency,” Treasury Board President Tony Clement said. “We have always been looking for ways to do so with MP expenses.”

Many NDP supporters have dismissed the topic as partisan rhetoric but the real issue lies with the NDP’s ability to act on its principles, rather than just preach them. Canadians counted on the NDP to lead by example, but have instead shown the mission to fix Ottawa was riddled from the start with petty politics and cynical motives.

What is even more telling is this is but a pattern, not just a flop. The only difference this time, is Canadians are watching and Canadians are ready to call out anyone who goes back on their principles and the NDP, unfortunately, have a track record.

When Canadians were outraged about the 23:1 pension plan MPs get last year, it was the NDP that came out to defend it.

NDP MP Ryan Cleary said in April 2012, “I work my butt off. Would I deserve a pension of $28,000 after six years? Probably not. It should be more than that.”

When Canadians wanted answers into Dean Del Mastro’s involvement with the Robocall Scandal and irregular campaign expenses, it was the NDP chair of the committee looking into the matter that shut it down and then attacked the Liberals.

When Canadians watched in shock at the fact that the Chief Electoral Officer sent a letter to the Speaker to suspend two Conservative MPs from the House of Commons over issues with election expenses, it was the NDP who suggested they stay in the House of Commons and defended them.

The NDP chose to commit these actions, all the while telling Canadians they stood for ethical standards and integrity. No one forced the NDP to commit any of these acts. It is puzzling and mind-boggling, and even more so the Conservative-style response. Not to mention, Cullen wanted to be the NDP leader on the basis of cooperation with the Liberals.

There is no doubting the NDP will continue to push for accountability and transparency, but it is disturbing that when the spotlight shines on them, rather than act on their words, they withdraw and attack. Considering  NDP leader Thomas Mulcair is the leader of the Official Opposition and is head of a perceived government in waiting, Canadians, who care very much about the integrity of their system, will be taking a close look. If this is the image the NDP want Canadians to see, then the backlash they’re getting is well-deserved.

Yesterday, the Conservatives rejected an NDP motion to give the Parliamentary Budget Officer more powers to make Canadian finances more transparent. The NDP were quick to pounce but still refused to post their expenses online.

So what do the NDP have to hide? Why can the Liberals and Conservatives open the doors and not the NDP? Has the recent events changed your view of the NDP?

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