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Haircuts and cupcakes

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House of Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer is mulling over a point of privilege calling on him to let the House of Commons decide whether Manitoba MPs Shelly Glover and James Bezan should be allowed to sit and vote in the House until their dispute with Elections Canada over their 2011 election expenses is settled.

Both MPs are going to court to challenge Elections Canada's interpretation of how certain advertisements they bought as MPs had to be claimed during the 2011 writ period. Glover's case is set to be heard next week (June 21) and Bezan's in September.

The point is almost becoming moot since the House of Commons is sitting for a maximum of nine more days before rising for summer recess.

But it seems the two Manitobans are not the only MPs still under the microscope for their 2011 campaign expenses. Mississauga, Ont. Tory MP Eve Adams is defending herself today after it was revealed she claimed nearly $3,000 in personal expenses such as hair styling, a traffic ticket, manicures and expensive post-campaign victory dinners. Some claims seemed quite petty, like a less than $3 bill for a cupcake several weeks after the campaign was over.

Elections Canada allows candidates to claim $200 in personal expenses that they wouldn't otherwise have incurred if there wasn't an election. After the 2008 election there were numerous stories about MPs who had tried to claim hair cuts, new clothes and parking tickets. Most would have had 60 per cent of those costs reimbursed by the taxpayer, but Elections Canada was pretty careful about denying most of the claims.

Candidates have to submit all their receipts along with their expenses. When I browsed through those documents for the 2008 election for Manitoba MPs several years ago I found a litany of interesting claims for everything from a $2 pack of gum claimed by Vic Toews' campaign to nearly $600 in clothes claimed by Judy Wasylycia-Leis. (Elections Canada only allowed $200 of that for her).
All this is interesting mainly because if Justin Trudeau's motion passes to make what MPs claim once they're in office far more transparent, it could uncover even more of these, let's say, interesting, expense claims.

If MPs are willing to try and get away with trying to get reimbursed for cupcakes and champagne during an election when they mostly know they have to submit receipts which can be easily viewed by the media, one can only surmise what they try to claim as MPs when the details of those expenses are kept tightly under wraps.

That's not to say that every pack of gum or champagne dinner should be ineligible. There are probably times when they are appropriate.

But few in the private sector would have sympathy for claims for manicures and hair styling, and an MP who makes six figures trying to get taxpayers to foot 60 per cent of the bill for a $2.63 cupcake is never going to go over well.

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About Mia Rabson

Mia Rabson is a born and bred Winnipegger whose interest in politics seemed clear when she dressed up as Prime Minister Brian Mulroney for Halloween in the 7th grade.

Her interest in writing was no surprise to her parents, who learned early in Mia’s life that no piece of blank paper — or wall, for that matter — was safe in her hands.

She holds an honours BA in English from Queen’s University, a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Western Ontario, and has completed a political journalism fellowship in Washington, D.C. with the Washington Centre for Politics and Journalism.

Prior to working for the Winnipeg Free Press, Mia briefly worked for the Detroit News in the paper’s Washington bureau.

Mia joined the Free Press team in February 2001, and in April 2001 was appointed to the Manitoba legislature bureau. In December 2004, she was appointed bureau chief at the legislature. She became the newspaper’s parliamentary bureau chief/national reporter in Ottawa in January 2008.

In 2008 she was nominated for a Michener Award with a team of reporters from the Free Press for its coverage of the province’s child welfare system.

She counts reliving the invasion at Dieppe, France, with veterans of the failed Second World War expedition and overcoming her fear of heights to touch the Golden Boy statue atop the Legislative Building among her favourite experiences as a reporter.


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