OTTAWA — The NDP is blaming a “kangaroo court” of Conservatives and Liberals for finding that New Democrat MPs improperly used parliamentary resources to post almost 2 million pieces of partisan mail.
But an “information note” compiled by the House of Commons administration and obtained by The Canadian Press suggests the Conservatives and Liberals acted on the advice of neutral officials.
“Together these documents demonstrate an activity orchestrated on behalf of a political party for which House resources (envelopes and frank) were used,” says an analysis of NDP mass mailings prepared for the secretive, all-party board of internal economy, which oversees Commons spending.
“In short, it would appear that the mailings were not messages from the individual members as members, but rather were prepared by and for the benefit of the NDP as a political party and to advance electoral purposes.”
Administrative officials came to that conclusion after reviewing samples of 1.8 million pieces of mail sent by 23 New Democrat MPs, including NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, into 26 ridings currently held by other parties. They all used Commons envelopes and free parliamentary mailing privileges, known as franking.
Some of the mass mailings were sent into four ridings just prior to byelections being called late last year.
The board has asked Commons administration to take a closer look at other NDP mailouts to determine whether they also were against the rules.
The New Democrats maintain they cleared the mailings with administrators and Speaker Andrew Scheer, who chairs the board of internal economy.
In a statement late Monday, the NDP said essentially that it has lost confidence in Scheer’s ability to protect all MPs’ rights.
“The Official Opposition now believes the integrity of the Speaker’s chair —and the democracy it protects — is at risk.”
On Tuesday, New Democrat MP Paul Dewar called on the board, which meets secretly and keeps its deliberations close, to be more transparent.
“Open this up,” Dewar said.
“I mean this is a kangaroo court, what we’ve seen here with Liberals and Conservatives playing the judge and jury. Does anyone really believe that there’s not politics involved here?”
Not so, said John Duncan, Conservative whip and a member of the board of internal economy. He described the board’s findings as “very fair.”
“They should be accepting responsibility instead of impugning everybody else, including the Speaker,” he said.
“I do believe at this point they should be apologizing to the Speaker, who they know darn well is in no position to defend himself. That would demean his office.”
The NDP could find its budgets cut if it refuses to reimburse the Commons for the mailings, Duncan added.
Scheer said in a statement earlier Tuesday that Commons administrators have been asked to suggest appropriate remedies for the infraction.
There’s been no infraction, Dewar insisted. “We follow the rules.”
If the NDP has to pay for the mailings, it could run into the millions of dollars. Duncan refused to speculate on the final bill, but he said there are ways to recoup the money if the NDP were to balk at repayment.
“In any of the situations where they would be asked by the board for a remedy, if they didn’t respond to the request for remedy there would obviously be ways to enforce it,” he said.
“Members of Parliament receive budgets, the NDP as a party would receive a research budget, they receive salaries; there are obviously mechanisms to recover monies and they should be paying the monies back.”