Federal appeals court says it can’t hear NDP case on satellite-office expenses

The decision is a blow to the NDP, which is struggling financially

The NDP cannot turn to the courts to overturn a five-year-old order by a parliamentary committee to repay as much as $2.7 million in expenses the committee said were improperly claimed.

The committee that handles internal House of Commons administration said the money funded NDP offices in three cities outside Ottawa, which isn’t a legitimate use of MPs’ budgets for their parliamentary duties.

The decision is a blow to the NDP, which is struggling financially and would have loved to have the money for its next election campaign.

The Federal Court of Appeal said Wednesday the decision by the board of economy, a committee of MPs that oversees financial administration of the House of Commons, is protected by parliamentary privilege and therefore the courts cannot get involved.

READ MORE: B.C. business groups worry about looming economic decline in wake of NDP budget

The NDP was seeking judicial review of the committee decision. The House of Commons sought to have the cases thrown out on grounds that it impeded on the Commons’ basic right to govern itself but a Federal Court judge rejected that argument.

Wednesday’s decision overturned that ruling and at the same time threw out the requests for judicial review and ordered the NDP to pay legal costs for the case.

“I would strike the four consolidated applications for judicial review on the basis that the Court does not have the jurisdiction to hear them,” wrote Judge Marc Noel, the chief justice of the Federal Court of Appeal.

NDP MP Alexandre Boulerice, who was ordered to repay more than $122,000, said Wednesday the party is “disappointed” in the ruling.

“We expected a different outcome,” he said.

“We are still saying it was a political decision to hurt the NDP, the NDP caucus,” he said. “But we will look at all our options right now. No decisions have been taken about the possibility of going on to appeal that decision.”

Boulerice said most of the money has already been repaid but the party was hoping it would be reimbursed those funds if it won the case.

READ MORE: ‘Airing’ needed on SNC-Lavalin affair: Trudeau

The case involves a decision by the NDP in 2011 to pool parliamentary resources for MPs in Montreal, Quebec City and Toronto. The shared staff were considered employees of Parliament but worked in offices in those cities that were shared with the NDP’s own partisan staff. In 2014, when the Conservatives were in government, the board of economy ruled that plan was using parliamentary funds for party purposes, which is not allowed.

The original order affected 68 MPs but at least one, former NDP MP Dan Harris, was able to use documents to prove the staff member in his case was a legitimate parliamentary employee. His $140,000 bill was reduced to $0 in 2016.

The NDP has not yet responded to requests for information about how much was repaid or whether any other MPs also had their bills reduced or eliminated.

Since the last election, the NDP has struggled to raise money and in 2017, the most recent year full information is available, its liabilities exceeded its assets by more than $3 million. It also ran a $1.4-million operating deficit in 2017. Last year the party mortgaged its office building in downtown Ottawa for $12 million to help its cash situation.

After the 2015 election, when a majority of the 68 NDP MPs named in the case were defeated, the NDP sought an out-of-court settlement that would have seen the NDP’s parliamentary research budget reduced in lieu of having the MPs repay the expenses.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau nixed that deal, saying it would condone an improper use of taxpayer money.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Brucejack mine fatality identified

Patrick Critch was from Newfoundland

Friendship Centre optimistic MMIWG mural will be painted this year

Following trauma-informed healing workshops, project is now in the design phase

Smithers Skate Park expansion gains momentum

Project ready for Phase 2: Detailed design and construction documentation

Pretivm Resources reports fatality at Brucejack mine

The isolated incident occurred last Friday, and the employee passed away on Sunday in hospital

Smithers man leaves $1 million to children’s hospital

Jim Bolster wanted to help out children with health problems like his own

B.C. doctors, dentists call on province for mandatory mask rule

Open letter says masks should be worn in indoor public spaces, public transportation or in crowds

Dwindling B.C. bamboo supply leaves Calgary Zoo biologists worried about pandas

Zoo has been trying to send pandas back to China since May

Facebook launches its new TikTok clone, Instagram Reels

Facebook has a long tradition of cloning competitive services

B.C. Appeal Court prevents Victoria woman from using the term ‘death midwife’ in her job

Pashta MaryMoon claimed she had been providing “death-care services” for more than 40 years

‘We all have anxieties’: B.C.’s top doctor addresses return-to-school fears amid COVID-19

Dr. Bonnie Henry promises school restart plan safe for B.C. kids

Abbotsford mom worried about her two kids in Beirut following explosion

Shelley Beyak’s children were abducted by their dad in 2018

Young Canadians, hospitality workers bear the brunt of mental strain in 2020: report

A study by Morneau Shepell points to economic uncertainty in the pandemic as the cause for angst

Health Canada recalling more than 50 hand sanitizers in evolving list

Organization says to stop using products listed, and to consult a health-care professional

Most Read