Taxpayer group blasts MP office budget hike

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OTTAWA – The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is criticizing the federal government for quietly approving a hefty increase to MPs’ office budgets.

Spokesman Aaron Wudrick said it is questionable whether MPs should get $25 million more to spend on expenses when the government is facing a large deficit.

“I think that given the environment we are in fiscally, it will leave a bad taste in the mouth of a lot of Canadians that MPs are voting for a 20 per cent hike in their office budgets at a time that we’re going to be running possibly a $30 billion deficit,” he said.

The parliamentary committee that makes administrative and financial decisions for the House of Commons approved a 20 per cent increase to the office budgets on Dec. 10, pointing out they have been frozen since 2010.

In a memo released Friday, the committee also announced a five per cent increase to the travel expense account.

Wudrick accused the government of secrecy, and said the decision should have been announced at the time it was taken.

“It’s about transparency,” he said. “If MPs had a genuine argument as to why they needed this money they should have made this public and tried to justify it,” he said.

The member’s office budget, currently set at $288,450, will increase by just under $58,000 after the changes.

House officers and presiding officers will also see their budgets rise by 20 per cent.

According to the government’s website, the office budget pays for employee salaries, service contracts, wireless devices, some operating and travel costs, and other expenses.

The changes to the budgets take effect in April.