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House approves funding hike for parliamentary associations

By Marco Vigliotti      

An increase pushes total funding to $4.5-million, and costs will be split unevenly between the House and Senate.

The secretive House Board of Internal Economy has approved a funding increase for interparliamentary associations. The Hill Times photograph by Jake Wright
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The secretive body that handles internal House business has approved a $1-million increase in funding for parliamentary associations.

The House Board of Internal Economy (BOIE) rendered the decision during its Nov. 25 meeting, pushing the total funding envelope for the 12 parliamentary associations to $4.5-million, according to Heather Bradley, director of communications for the Speaker of the House. 

The BOIE is responsible for handling internal chamber business, including setting member budgets, and employee grievances. It’s known for its highly secretive nature, with all of its meetings closed to the public and media.

The minutes for its meetings, the only information provided to the public about what occurs, are often not released until months later. The Liberal government has pledged to open up BOIE meetings to the public.

The funding proposal was also approved by the board’s Senate counterpart, the Internal Economy, Budgets, and Administration Committee, at its Nov. 17 meeting.

The cost of the permanent funding hike, to go into effect in the 2017-18 fiscal year, will be split between the House and Senate under the traditional sharing formula. The House will kick in 70 per cent of the increase, while the Senate will cover the remaining 30 per cent, Ms. Bradley told The Hill Times.

Collectively, there are 12 recognized parliamentary associations and four inter-parliamentary groups, including the Canada-Europe Parliamentary Association, the Canadian Branch of the Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie, the Canada-China Legislative Association, and the Canada-Italy Interparliamentary Group.

The groups work to promote Canada’s interests abroad on a continuing basis, and are composed of members of the Senate and of the House, according to information provided on the parliamentary website.

Interparliamentary groups receive minimal administrative assistance from Parliament, which is generally limited to administrative and procedural support for annual general meetings, maintaining the group’s constitution, and the collection of related membership fees.

There are also several other so-called international friendship groups composed of Parliamentarians that receive no administrative support or funding from Parliament.

The Joint Interparliamentary Council (JIC), which is made up of Senators and MPs, is empowered by both chambers’ internal economy committees to decide on budgets for parliamentary associations.

Conservative MP Bruce Stanton (Simcoe North, Ont.), a co-chair of the JIC and its subcommittee on reviewing Parliament’s involvement with associations and recognized interparliamentary groups, said the funding hike is largely motivated by increases in the cost of membership in parliamentary associations, greater interest in participation from Parliamentarians, and the expansion in size of the House, which went from 308 members to 338 in the 2015 election.

The increase, he added, would bring the budget back to where it stood prior to 2012, when it was slashed as part of broad budget-cutting measures to trim federal finances following recession-spurred stimulus spending.

Membership fees constitute about one-third of the overall budget for these groups, while the other two-thirds is eaten up by activities, such as transportation, accommodation, and hospitality, according to the 2014-15 annual report of the JIC, the most recent one available.

NDP MP Irene Mathyssen (London-Fanshawe, Ont.), a member of the JIC and the subcommittee on parliamentary associations, said parliamentary associations “perform an important role in terms of Canada’s role in the world.”

“In formal and informal ways, Canadian Parliamentarians are able to meet with their national counterparts or global counterparts and promote Canada, [and] promote our interests, whether they are diplomatic relations or business interests,” she explained.

mvigliotti@hilltimes.com

The Hill Times 

Associations and interparliamentary groups

Multilateral Associations
Canada-Africa Parliamentary Association
Canada-Europe Parliamentary Association
– Canadian Delegation to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA)
Canadian Branch of the Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie (APF)
Canadian Branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA)
Canadian Group of the Interparliamentary Union (IPU)
Canadian NATO Parliamentary Association (NATO PA)
Canadian Section of ParlAmericas

Bilateral Associations
Canada-China Legislative Association
Canada-France Interparliamentary Association
Canada-Japan Interparliamentary Group
Canada-United Kingdom Interparliamentary Association
Canada-United States Interparliamentary Group

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