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Conservative MP Liepert plans to donate part of his $6,000 House Finance Committee salary to charity, says it hasn’t met, but Grit MP Easter calls it ‘playing politics’

By Rachel Aiello      

With nothing on the agenda this month, Conservative MP Ron Liepert says he shouldn't be paid extra for work, but House Finance chair Wayne Easter says there's plenty of work to do away from the committee table, and calls the donation idea a ‘political manoeuvre.’

Conservative members of the House Finance Committee Dan Albas, left, and Rob Liepert. The Hill Times photograph by Jake Wright

Conservative MP Ron Liepert says he plans to donate part of the extra $6,000 salary he earns as vice chair of the House Finance Committee to a charity in his Calgary riding because the committee has only met once this month.

Mr. Liepert (Calgary Signal Hill, Alta.) said three study pitches he made to the House Finance Committee along with Conservative MP Dan Albas (Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola, B.C.), his party’s deputy finance critic, were spiked down by the Liberal majority members on the House Finance Committee, adding that the remaining two meetings this month will also likely  be cancelled. As a result, he said he doesn’t think he should be paid for this committee work.

But the House has only sat one week so far in March and is scheduled to only sit one other week this month, this coming week March 20-24. Last Wednesday’s meeting was cancelled, and it’s expected this coming Monday’s will be cancelled as well. With next Wednesday being the release of the federal budget, it’s unlikely they’ll meet.

“I’m going to prorate what I was supposed to be paid and I’m going to donate it to charity in my riding,” Mr. Liepert told The Hill Times, adding that if the committee continues to be stalled, he will continue donating the extra salary, but hasn’t yet decided which charity he will donate it to.

Vice-chairs of House of Commons committees earn an additional $6,000 a year on top of their MP salary of $170,400 for holding this extra position. Mr. Liepert said he expects the amount that he will be donating will be around $350-$400 which is just under the extra $500 he gets paid each month for the position. NDP MP Pierre-Luc Dusseault (Sherbooke, Que.) is the other vice-chair.

“When we’re sitting and we’re supposed to be meeting, and we have no work on the agenda, I just think it’s inappropriate to take that extra stipend,” Mr. Liepert said.

At a House Finance Committee meeting on March 6, Mr. Liepert pitched that the committee study the Alberta Jobs Task Force Report and report on actions the Government of Canada could take to boost economic growth in the province. There were 10 Conservative MPs from Alberta and Saskatchewan at the committee meeting. After two hours of debate, the motion was defeated five to four. The five Liberal MPs on the committee voted against it and Mr. Dusseault voted with the Conservative members. The other Liberals on the committee are Greg Fergus (Hull-Aylmer, Que.), Raj Grewal (Brampton East, Ont.), Jennifer O’Connell (Pickering-Uxbridge, Ont.), Robert-Falcon Ouellette (Winnipeg Centre, Man.), and Francesco Sorbara (Vaughan-Woodbridge, Ont.). Conservative MP Gérard Deltell (Louis-Saint-Laurent, Ont.) is another member of the committee.

At the committee’s meeting on Feb. 22, Mr. Albas requested that the committee study the Department of Finance’s report “Update of Long-Term Economic and Fiscal Projections” and suggested the committee study the potential implications of proposed changes by the Canadian Securities Administrators. Both were defeated five to four by the Liberal committee members.

“The job of the Finance Committee, or any committee for that matter, is to look at various studies in some depth and there might be things in there that the government might like, or things they might not like but it would be up to committee members, and they have the majority … to determine whether or not what is being suggested makes any sense, rather than just throwing it in the trash and doing nothing with it,” said Mr. Liepert.

But Liberal MP Wayne Easter (Malpeque, P.E.I.), who earns an extra $11,900 annual salary as chair of the House Finance Committee, said his colleague is “strictly playing politics with an issue.” Mr. Easter said according to his estimate, the House Finance Committee meets around three times as often as other Commons committees, especially during its pre-budget consultations.

It met six times in February, sometimes twice a week. In September, it met eight times; in October, 13 times; in November, 11 times; in December, three times; and in January, it met once.

“I’m really pleased that they think the committee should be doing more work. It’ll be great, because I won’t be expecting complaints from them when we start back to meeting—like we often tend to have to do on Finance—meeting four days a week on extended hours,” said Mr. Easter, pointing out that on the last round of pre-budget consultations, the committee heard from just under 300 witnesses and received more than 400 written submissions.

“Have they read all those submissions yet? I’m probably the only one who has,” Mr. Easter said of his Conservative colleagues.

After shutting down the Conservatives’ proposed studies, no Liberal committee members offered alternatives, but Mr. Easter said it was because “there just didn’t seem to be anything screaming at us to meet, and we do know there is a lot of other work coming up.”

While he admitted that it’s unlikely the committee will meet again this month, there is some non-intensive work being planned for April—another month in which the House is only sitting for two weeks, April 3-13. After that, the House Finance Committee is expected to study the 2017 budget implementation bill once it passes second reading in the House, likely in May.

In April, the committee is looking at meetings with the territorial premiers because they weren’t able to hear from them during the pre-budget consultations. As well, it’s planning to hear from the Governor of the Bank of Canada Stephen Poloz, following his latest monetary policy report. Moreover, the Library of Parliament is working on a draft report on the committee’s earlier study of the Canadian real estate market and home ownership.

Mr. Liepert acknowledged that his plan to donate part of his salary to charity “sounds like a stunt,” but said the idea spawned from a political scandal in his previous job as an Alberta MLA in 2012 when the Canadian Taxpayers Federation revealed that the provincial standing Committee on Privileges and Elections, Standing Orders and Printing hadn’t met in three years and its members were still receiving $1,000 each month.

Mr. Liepert, who was not on that committee, said it became known as the “No-Meet Committee” and reporters kept tabs on who had and hadn’t paid back the money they earned while the committee didn’t meet.

“I think someone like the chair has to look at the same kind of criticism that he might be subject to,” he said.

But Mr. Easter told The Hill Times that he had a handful of finance-related reports he was currently reading, adding that he’s spending the time away from the House Finance Committee to catch up on committee-related reading.

“I’ve got the summary of the corporate business plan of the Canada Revenue Agency. I’ve got the parliamentary budget officer’s analysis of the government’s expenditure plan. I’ve got the government’s expenditure plan and main estimates and I’ve got the Department of Finance’s ‘Your Tax Dollars, Where They Were Spent and Where They Came From,’” he said.

“So yeah, that’s just a political manoeuvre and I’m not going to pay a lot of attention to that.”

The Hill Times 

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