The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Mulcair defends use of parliamentary funds to pay staff in party offices

  • Print
Federal NDP leader Thomas Mulcair


Federal NDP leader Thomas Mulcair

OTTAWA - Tom Mulcair insisted Tuesday that the NDP followed all the rules when it used parliamentary resources to pay staff working in a satellite party office in Montreal.

The NDP leader stood by his claim that the arrangement was approved by House of Commons administration, despite documents that suggest administrators had no idea the staffers were working outside Ottawa.

"The NDP has respected the rules every single step of the way," Mulcair said.

"We've been completely transparent with the House authorities ... The NDP couldn't have been more open about this."

But documents provided by administrators to a Commons committee — which is scheduled to grill Mulcair on the matter on Thursday — suggest otherwise.

They show that administrators were dubious about the arrangement when the NDP set up its first satellite office in Montreal in the fall of 2011, ostensibly to help the raft of rookie New Democrat MPs elected in Quebec with their constituency work.

Since then, the NDP has set up other satellite offices in Quebec City and Toronto. It was in the process of setting up another in Saskatchewan, where it has no MPs, when the all-party board of internal economy, which oversees administration of the Commons, issued a new rule last month explicitly forbidding the use of parliamentary resources to pay staff working out of offices owned or leased by a party.

According to the documents, Commons officials met in October 2011 with Jess Turk-Browne, deputy chief of staff to then interim NDP leader Nycole Turmel.

"Two officials (from Finance Services and Human Resources Services) specifically asked where the employees were working since the Employment Forms indicated Ottawa and yet the residences of the employees were in the Montreal area," says a summary of the matter sent to the committee by Commons clerk Audrey O'Brien.

"Ms. Turk-Browne confirmed the employees would be working in Ottawa ... At no point was the House Administration informed that the employees would be located in Montreal or that their work would be carried out in co-location with a political party's offices."

The committee has also been provided with the minutes of the meeting with Turk-Browne.

Asked to confirm whether the employees would be working in Ottawa, although they all lived in Montreal, the minutes show Turk-Browne answered: "In Ottawa."

Samples of the employment forms the NDP filled out for the nine employees hired for its Montreal office show the party ticked a box declaring that the appointments were "within the Ottawa area."

The documents triggered a testy, lengthy exchange between Mulcair and reporters on Tuesday, with the leader at various points denying the contents or even the existence of the documents.

He insisted that Commons administrators were well aware the employees were working in Montreal.

"The BlackBerries (issued to the staffers) all had Montreal addresses on them. The media were invited to the opening of this office, okay, and they have Montreal phone numbers. Their addresses were all in Montreal," he said.

Mulcair stressed that the staffers were working "under Ottawa" — as opposed to "in Ottawa." They were helping MPs with their parliamentary duties and did not engage in partisan activity, he said.

As proof of the latter, he pointed to the fact that parliamentary employees for the NDP belong to a different union than those who work for the party.

And he pointed to a letter to O'Brien, written by then-NDP House leader Joe Comartin in December 2011, as proof that the party had been up front with administrators about the arrangement.

In the letter, Comartin says the arrangement "was reviewed, discussed extensively and approved by House of Commons Pay and Benefits and Financial Services," in consultation with legal services. He provides more detail but at no point mentions that the staffers are working outside Ottawa.

Mulcair's office later supplied a November 2011 email from its human resources co-ordinator to an official in the Commons pay and benefits service, asking that the paycheque for one of the employees be sent to the party's Montreal office.

However, Mulcair said the definitive proof that the NDP acted within the rules is the fact that Conservatives and Liberals on the board of internal economy last month had to change the rules to forbid the arrangement. He accused the two rival parties of playing partisan games.


Follow @jmbryden on Twitter

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Drew Willy says team couldn't get anything going

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • PHIL.HOSSACK@FREEPRESS.MB.CA 101130-Winnipeg Free Press Columns of light reach skyward to the stars above Sanford Mb Tuesday night. The effect is produced by streetlights refracting through ice crystals suspended in the air on humid winter nights. Stand Up.....
  • Challenges of Life- Goose Goslings jump over railway tracks to catch up to their parents at the Canadian Pacific Railway terminalon Keewatin St in Winnipeg Thursday morning. The young goslings seem to normally hatch in the truck yard a few weeks before others in town- Standup photo- ( Day 4 of Bryksa’s 30 day goose project) - Apr 30, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos


What's your take on a report that shows violent crime is decreasing in Winnipeg?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google